7 Halloween Costumes That Subvert the Heteronormative Patriarchy

You might have noticed this post is a bit of a twist on my fashion series, What I Wore: Navigating the Heteronormative Patriarchy. Or you didn’t notice, because you don’t read that series, in which case, how dare you? No, kidding. But also please do go back and read every single one of them.

What I Wore explores fashion within traditionally heteronormative and patriarchal spaces, and attempts to expose and disrupt the rigid way in which they approach things like sexuality, gender identity, and gender roles. Depending on the environment, I curate outfits meant to empower, to unsettle, to have a centering effect, or to provide anonymity. Some people might call this a costume! And with Halloween right around the corner, I invite you to join me in this journey! Here are seven costume ideas to get the ball rolling.

Breaking Through The Glass Ceiling

Watch out, 2016! Hillary’s on the rise and so are you – straight through some glass! This one’s fun because it’s got action. It’s got flare! Plus all this costume takes is a hat you’re okay with destroying, some plexiglass thin enough that you can snap into pieces, and super glue.

Fragile Masculinity

Special delivery! “What’s in the box?” people will wonder to themselves and possibly out loud to you. It’s masculinity! But remember: be very gentle. For this costume just fasten a large cardboard box marked with “FRAGILE” around you, and you can attempt to emotionally manipulate those around you into thinking they’re the problem for calling out your bad behavior!

The Wage Gap

What’s standing between you and a full wage? You, silly! Simply cut out lettering made out of cardboard and attach them to your sides.

Naughty Fratboy

Grab some khakis or jeans and a button up and you’re set! This costume has no visual tells that this fratboy is promiscuous other than the knowledge that your fratboy persona has had sexual intercourse before. It doesn’t really matter how many times, because once is enough! That’s right, the roles have been reversed. (Is it endearing that I keep explaining the joke for every one of these or is my refusal to let your intellect breathe grating? Let me know in the comments!)

Leaning In

“What are you?” “Leaning In.” Gorgeous.

Therese Belivet & Carol Aird

Grab your best gal or your best gal pal and suit up. Complete the costumes’ intended effect by placing yourselves on opposite ends of the room and just stare at each other the entire night.

The Gender Binary

I’ve saved this for last, because it’ll be the easiest one to pull off. Just simply dress as you normally do, because this costume doesn’t exist.

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Los Angeles based writer. Let's keep it clean out there!

Erin has written 208 articles for us.


  1. You subvert a mean heteronormative patriarchy.

    This year I am going in my standard costume: sexy tampon. I improve it every year (last year didn’t show enough skin and the blood wasn’t clumpy and clotted enough). Looking forward to having more inane conversations with mediocre straight men about what it REALLY means to be disgusting.

    • Didn’t those things come back in style for like four minutes so that we could all wonder first-hand what the point of them was, not only from our grandmother’s photos?

  2. A friend and I went as the gender binary a few years ago. She wore a blue onesie with 1’s all over it with a blue mask and a mustache, and I wore a pink onesie with 0’s all over it with a pink hairbow and a pink mask.

  3. The Mansplainer: Wear a fake mustache, go around and explain people’s own costumes to themselves and everyone else within earshot.

    • Don’t just explain the costumes to them, explain them incorrectly and with total confidence.

      “This may look like a Luigi and Mario costume set to the undiscerning eye, but it is CLEARLY Pete from finance and Derek from marketing. Because Pete has a mustache and a red tie and Derek drinks green tea. HAHAHAHA. You buy that Pete and Derek costume or is it homemade?” (Walk away without waiting for an answer)

    • I like this idea a lot, but general desire to always be in make-up make it a bit awkward and hard to pull off? Unless, the costume is queer mansplaner?

    • And then at the party when someone asks you where you got your water you can say “a well, actually”

      Note: I originally heard this joke in a different iteration on NPR and laughed out loud on the bus.

  4. I bet these stock photo models never even dreamed their hard work would eventually be part of one of the most important articles of all time.

    • I am over here buying coveralls, lining tape, and ghost busters patches…though I’ll probably pull off Erin Gilbert more than Holtzmann

  5. I like to go as a giant coffee mug with “male tears” on the side. At least I would if I wasn’t afraid the fragile men would beat me into submission. :P

  6. I’m dressing up as Ferris Bueller. I special ordered a sweater and everything. I’m really hoping it is smash any lingering doubts of my queerness.

  7. Thanks to this article, I will now assume that anyone not in costume on Halloween is dressed up as the-gender-binary-that-doesn’t-exist.

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