When it comes to Ariel Winter’s Halloween costumes fans are very, very divided.

Welcome to the debate that has long split women down the middle: Is taking your clothes off empowering, or is it a sign of oppression?

That’s exactly what Ariel Winter‘s fans are discussing in the comments sections of her Halloween-themed Instagram photos, where the 18-year-old peeks coyly over her shoulder as a sexed-up ‘bunny’, and later as the protagonist from Emma Stone’s ‘Easy A’.

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A photo posted by ARIEL WINTER (@arielwinter) on Oct 28, 2016 at 4:05pm PDT

Regardless of your opinion on Ariel’s outfits, we can all agree on one thing: they are revealing.

“You’re honestly so beautiful and such an inspiration to me,” reads one comment on the Modern Family star’s photo, another: “Where’s your self-respect???”

It’s a conundrum. On one hand, telling a woman to ‘cover up’ renders the female body inherently sexual and scandalous. On the other, inextricably linking exposed flesh with empowerment is counterproductive – a woman is liberated through her mind and spirit, not her tits and ass…

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… Right?

We rarely – if ever – see men’s Halloween costumes reveal their dangly bits. The very concept of men dressing ‘sexily’ for women stops at a crisp shirt and chinos – intentionally exposing his testicle for the benefit of women is bordering on absurd.

So why are women wearing less, and we, in turn, proclaiming this makes them worth more?

A photo posted by ARIEL WINTER (@arielwinter) on Oct 29, 2016 at 12:44pm PDT

Of course, as the commenters have said themselves, a woman’s sexuality shouldn’t be repressed, and neither should her autonomy to wear whatever she bloody hell wants to.

But if a young teenager is sourcing her self-worth from the size of her waist, we run into troublesome territory.

“Over the years, I’ve struggled with body confidence issues,” Ariel told Elite Daily earlier this month. “It’s really important nowadays to empower young women — and young men… to feel really good about themselves.”

Later in the interview, the A-lister admits she posts sexed-up selfies for a reason: “I like the way I look, I posted it for a purpose. If you don’t like the way I look, then I’m sorry.”

A photo posted by ARIEL WINTER (@arielwinter) on Oct 30, 2016 at 12:55pm PDT

A woman liking the way she looks is absolutely rare, and something to celebrate, as long as that woman doesn’t feel like her worth is solely determined by her level of sex appeal.

Further, embracing your curves and tailoring them to meet the male gaze are two very different things.

Unfortunately, making that distinction is increasingly difficult, as the lines between expression, emancipation, and subjugation are blurred by raunch culture.

A photo posted by ARIEL WINTER (@arielwinter) on Oct 14, 2016 at 12:08pm PDT

Meanwhile, comments on the three photos the teen uploaded on the weekend are flooding in.

“Nice tits.”

“You’re a beautiful young lady and great actress. You don’t need to do this.”

“WOW! You look fabulous!”

“OMG you are so hot I hate myself.”

“There is literally not a clean thought in my head right now.”

Perhaps Ariel would read all this and laugh, brandishing that ‘A’ on her left breast is a hat-tip to Hester from A Scarlet Letter, making it clear Ariel is no stranger to this sort of debate.

I can’t arrive at a neat, easy conclusion in my head – probably because there isn’t one. What I do know is that closing down discussions on what women wear is counterproductive and foolish.

We can discuss this calmly without descending into a shit fight.

That said, let us know in the comments: Do you find Ariel Winter’s outfits to be empowering or oppressive?

For more from Michelle Andrews, follow her on Facebook here.

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