Thursday, September 24, 2009

Halloween Costumes

I'm sure this is a blogging faux pas but i'd really like to resurrect a Halloween post i had up last year. If for no other reason than to give parents, and women, ideas for empowering costumes rather than resorting to the same old (sexist, sexualized, and objectified) standard options.

Halloween, if nothing else, allows children to play dress-up and use their imagination to be anything they want to be. Or in the case of the mainstream costume industry, gives kids the chance to further perpetuate gender roles, reinforce stereotypes, and dress little girls in hyper-sexualized outfits.


I was at a party store last weekend and spotted a wall of "featured costumes." I managed to snap a couple photos with my phone before the salesperson asked me what i was doing. "I am documenting the lack of options for little girls when it comes to Halloween costumes" I responded, "so that i can blog about how this parallels girls' and young women's lack of options in the real world." ("DUH!" i thought sarcastically...) I apologize for the quality of the photos, it was the best i could do with a phone on the fly :)



Of course there ARE options... for example, take page 1 from an online search for girls' Halloween costumes, letters A through H: Aurora, Barbie Anneliese, Barbie Cheerleader, Barbie Rapunzel, Blissful Bride, Bratz Jade, Bratz Sasha, Bratz Staurday Night Style, Cinderella, Devilicious Child, Fanciful Fairy.



Is all the pink making you a bit pukey? Sorry about that...


The store where i snapped the photos of those three costumes had several more options. For example, there were Power Ranger costumes, doctor costumes, and handyman costumes for the boys. For the girls? More of the same. I thought the whole girl = nurse/boy = doctor thing was so last decade?? Guess not. Not to say there is anything wrong with being a nurse, because there isn't. But to lead girls to believe that they don't have the option to be a doctor and boys to believe that they cannot be a nurse is outdated and damaging. The Tycoon costume cracked D and me up the most. I guess the female equivalent to "Tycoon" in Halloween costume talk was the MegaStar?? Because clearly all that girls have to offer is their looks and bodies. The model in the photo on the costume can't possibly be older than 10. No 10 year old should be wearing that much (or LITTLE) pleather... And i doubt many 10 year olds are that developed... So, moral of the story for your 10 year old girl who wants to be "successful" when she grows up? Boys use their brains to make money by becoming Tycoons. Girls use their appearance to make money by wearing very little clothes or by attracting Tycoonish boys.


Obviously it only gets worse as the target audience gets older. Check out the changes in costumes from toddler to girl to tween to teen to adult. The only thing that changes is the amount of fabric that goes in to making the costume. For example, even seemingly empowering costumes, like superwoman (which they call "supergirl") or warrior princes (who then becomes a "Geisha"), become hypersexualized as the target consumer gets a bit (read: no more than a couple of years) older. These attempts at options fall even shorter as girls grow up.



I get it. Some people (read: freshmen college girls who are experiencing their first taste of sexual freedom) see Halloween as an excuse to make any outfit into a sexy costume. Want to be a pirate? Ok! Sexy Pirate it is! Sexy Cat Woman, Sexy Nurse, Sexy Witch, Sexy Bunny, Sexy Schoolgirl, Sexy Anna Rexia (get it? sexy anorexia... riiiiight) and my all time favorite, the Sexy Detective (my freshman year 1st college Halloween party costume...) P.S. You should absolutely click through those links to the photos of those costumes but they are definitely not appropriate for work so careful.


Because i couldn't possibly write about Baby High Heels in any other post than the Halloween ridiculous costumes post, i wanted to include a bit about the new "infant trend..." If the topic of girls' Halloween costumes doesn't bother you enough check out baby high heels (designed for babies 0-6 months)!!!! I can't wait for a friend or family member to have a baby girl so that i can buy these for her!


/sarcasm...





So that we don't end on a negative note, what are some empowering costumes your kids (or kids you know) will be wearing this Halloween?


32 comments:

Kandee said...

Wasn't I just having a conversation with my teen sister about this type of stuff yesterday. My whole point is that if women and men are soooo different from each other, intellectually, functionally, socially, then why do they have to remind us again and again? Is society afraid that if they don't send us reminders (in movies, music, and clothing) of our place as second best in the world, that we'll forget and make the mistake of thinking we're equal? What would the world come to if that happened?

Amy said...

There's no imagination left in Halloween costumes. Sigh. Where are the classic, homemade frocks? As a kid in the 80s, I was a mime, a cat, an indian (so not PC), Wonder Woman (with tights), a princess, Minnie Mouse, Cleopatra, a cheerleader (using my Boys Club uniform), a 50s girl... In college I dressed up a few times, once as Dorothy Gale (not Sexy Dororthy, just plain Dorothy) and later as a pregnant bride (again, not PC but funny). I'm mostly bored by the "Sexy _____" trend favored by college girls. Halloween is just an excuse to wear your bra on the outside of your clothing. My sister-in-law was in a sorority and one of my favorite memories is her showing up to a party wearing, yes, a bra - but on her head. Paired with a black t-shirt and wings, she was a Supa Fly (a la Missy Elliot) and I loved that she deviated from the sea of Sexy Nurses, Lawyers, and Farmers.

But the packaged costumes for little girls (not to mention the hideous baby heels) are disturbing and only getting more so. Who are these mothers that put their children in pleather??

To quote the maitre'd from Ferris Buehler, "I weep for the future."

Elena said...

My nearly three-year-old daughter is still debating between a Jedi, a dragon, a cow (not sure how she thinks we'll pull that one off, Cardcaptor Sakura and Peter Pan, although peter Pan is winning.

phd in yogurtry said...

This is the first I've heard of high heels for babies -- grrrrrrrrr. How maddening!

My one daughter said she wants to be a balloon (?) but a week ago she and her sis wanted to be football players. So no uber-pink girls in my house.

Julia said...

Every year around this time, I start to think about what I will be for Halloween, and every year, even I, deal with: "I could be sexy____!"
And, thankfully, every year I go with something a little less traditional, a little less exposed, and a lot more creative and fun!
The sad thing is that I view this to be the single-girl's dilemma. Why do women feel they have to be nearly naked to attract a mate? One thing I always keep in mind during this annual costume search is that the person for me isn't attracted by a sexy costume, so why would I need one? Besides, its usually too cold to be that exposed! I won't ever worry about dressing as the "sexy ______" again!
Love you, G!

Renee said...

When I look at the Halloween costumes I more often than not get a rise of bile. If it is not overt sexualization of young girls is is racial appropriation. Why does using your imagination to express yourself have to mean some form of othering?

As for the shoes for toddler...YUCK. I cannot believe that these are selling so well. What exactly are we teaching our daughters by purchasing these items?

UnFit said...

Did I miss something, or weren't Halloween costumes supposed to be scary?

I mean, these are kind of scary, but in all the wrong ways.

frau sally benz said...

My guy and I just had a whole discussion about this. His cousins (in high school) are going to a Halloween party dressed as "sexy nurses" and he was shocked and angry. I was not at all surprised and told him "what do you expect? that's all they sell and it's what everyone wants to be, why would your cousins be any different?"

I've been telling him for years that the days of normal costumes for women have been long gone. Costumes cover less and less every year, and the ages for these costumes also gets younger.

It's sometimes expensive and impractical, but I think we all need to stick to making our own costumes.

jordan said...

In fourth grade I went as a mad scientist for Halloween. To date, it is still the best costume that I've ever had.

Anonymous said...

I always went for 'scary' costumes as a child. Who wants to be a princess when you can be a witch/vampire/alien/zombie?

Last year I made an 'emotional baggage' costume, which was fun but tiring to explain in school all day. Most people at my school (a highschool) don't even bother to dress up at all, actually. And costumes have to follow the dress code, so it doesn't get too bad.

I suppose that making my own costumes is worth it if these are the choices for store-bought, though. >.> More people should raid Value Village instead; it's way more fun.

professor what if said...

Great post! Love the point about adding “sexy” to the title of the ‘teen’ costumes.

My daughter is going to be Laura Ingalls. Last year she was Pippi Longstockings.

Anonymous said...

Close talker- best halloween costume ever!

~Mc

bluestareyed said...

The only thing that changes is the amount of fabric that goes in to making the costume.

I would actually argue that the amount of fabric stays the same, just the girl wearing it gets bigger XP

Aubree said...

Halloween is great about bring out the child in everyone, which is one of its holiday charms.

Smirking Cat said...

Halloween, like pretty much everything else, has become "What do most men want to see women dressed up as?" No surprise that is a vapid, mindless, non-challenging, non-intellectual sexual object. So sad that women play along and force their daughters into the game.

Last year my stepdaughter was Wonder Woman, and I have the best picture of her posed with her fist high in the air, ready to defend the world!

crankosaur said...

This is a source of constant annoyance for me. Not only are these costumes sexist, but they're so impractical! It's freaking 40 degrees out and I'm supposed to run around with my midriff exposed and no pants?
But, to be fair, the character whose costume is being marketed with different amounts of fabric to both girls and teens is called Supergirl, and the teen costume is a pretty accurate depiction of her costume. What it says about the comic book industry that a teenaged girl is depicted in a midriff-bearing top and belt-sized mini skirt, well... That's another story altogether.

caity Cagle said...

I'm actually researching this topic for a college paper due soon. I stumbled across the "Sexy Anna Rexia" costume too and could find little else to do but laugh. Are we really so far away from equality through the sexes that we feel the need to belittle a serious disease caused by the very thing thats belittling it, THE MEDIA???
Post-feminism doesn't exist ladies, take a close look. Tycoon boys and high heeled baby girls? We have a long way to go.

Indignant Fop said...

ugh I'm so sick of what Halloween is becoming. I hope more people continue to become aware of the madness!

http://wastetimethinking.blogspot.com/2008/10/sad-day-for-women-everywhere.html

Anonymous said...

Ha! When I was a kid, my Mom dressed me up as Boy George, a fat man in flannel with a bloody stick (don't ask), and the blob-ghost thing from Ghostbusters. All handmade.

I'm a stripper, so when I see all the "sexy" costumes, I just think of work clothes, ugh. Sexy gets boring after awhile.

While I find it just annoying that all the adult costumes are defaulted at "sexy" (and it's always that word, never hot, or racy, or anything else), it's much more disturbing that the trend is moving down the age ranks. You can see it in dolls, pop culture icons- Hannah Montana wears more makeup and extensions than me and most my coworkers! Early girlhood is supposed to be that happy age when we forget exactly what gender we are, and are allowed to be just, us.

Anonymous said...

Well, all I know is that the College Fair for my school last year, I think, was on Halloween. And I saw more playboy bunnies there than I ever have out trick or treating. I couldn't help but wonder if that was really the impression they wanted to make to all the different colleges....It seems pretty stupid to me. I've always made my own costume, although sometimes I have been known to buy a "sexy (fill in the blank)" and alter it. Add a little blood, some tights, whatever, but in the end it is most definetly NOT sexy.

Jamie said...

Hi. Iw ant to say that even as a grown up, I don;t like sexy costumes. Even though I live in California where it can be somewhat warm well into October, I'm very reluctant to try wearing one of those things. I almost always make my own. Last year I was the Seven Deadly Sins, and there was a little sexiness-after all, one of the sins is Lust, and Lust was represented by fishnets and lacy garters. And some bloodiness representing Wrath: a white glove stained with fake blood. Green makeup and a green hair piece was Envy; a tiara with a black skull was Pride; dog toys shaped like food tied around the waist was Gluttony; my bright-pink bathrobe was Sloth and a boa made of fake money was Greed. Now why can't others get creative like this?

Anonymous said...

You know there is a difference between SEXY and SLUTTY which is what the halloween costumes now days are, slutty. For kids, teens and adults. So pathetic and sad.

indianhomemaker said...

First time here!!! Loved your post. Nothing more to add, just agree with you. I find such stereotyping harmful too.

laura said...

I have noticed the lack of appropriate costumes for women, so now I always make my costumes. And "making a costume" doesn't have to involve any sewing or hard work! I would definitely suggest shopping for halloween costume clothes at a thrift store. Last year my boyfriend and I went as Jack & Jill (after falling down the hill). I just wore a long skirt, tights, a sweater, a sign that said "Jill" and I carried a "pail of water" that was actually full of candy! We also added some fake gashes and stuff using wax & latex! Then we went to a party full of "sexy ___" and everyone was so jealous of my costume! Especially the fake wounds! And the fact that I wasn't freezing my butt off!!! This year we are going as Rachel Maddow & Keith Olbermann from msnbc.

faith said...

I plan on poking fun at this whole "sexy whatever" trend and being Babraham Lincoln! mwahaha

SquashlingChaotic said...

Last year, I went as John McCain dressed up like a fairy princess. My friends and I had a theme of John McCain dressed up as a ______. This year, we're going as an angry peasant mob.

CCV said...

my freshman year in college i dressed up as our school mascot - a blue bird whose name happens to be the male version of my name. i was wearing a blue sweatsuit with a home-made "jersey" on top of it, the hood up and a big beak covering most of my face. it was decidedly un-sexy and against the norm, but hey, our halloween party was outside and even in california, i appreciated the layers. i had a great time at the party.

Ash said...

I went on the site for Heelarious and they are now selling "Baby's First Credit Card Teether"
What is this world coming to?

Ms. Christine said...

Good points! Halloween really should be about scary, not "sexy." It's true that the vast majority of costumes perpetuate gender sterotypes. The only costumes I can think of that cover women up are Scarlett O Hara (who I was for many years, actually, because she's one of my favorite fictional heroines) and gypsy costumes (which are racist, actually).

But I do admit that I fall into the "sexy" mindset at Halloween. :-P It's one of those times when I become less feminist. Hey, I can admit my contradictions!

This year I'm a bellydancer, but I actually take bellydance and it's an actual costume for stage, not some I Dream of Jeanie harem thing from the store. I dress conservatively and am a prude the rest of the year, so I use Halloween as the time to be something I'm not. Although my "hoochie" costumes are still not the trashiest ones at parties!

Anna said...

I actually thought about the meaning of "sexy" recently and how much this meaning has changed over time. Geisha in Japan painted their whole faces (except parts of the neck) with white paint and had elaborate hair-dos to show off the "sexiest" part of their body... the back of the neck. Women in medieval and Renaissance Europe simply had to accidentally show a hint of ankle to be thought sexy, no matter how plunging their neckline. These days "sexy" seems to mean show as much skin as possible using the least fabric possible. There is nothing left to the imagination anymore.

la femme artiste said...

As a once, full-time, ON-DUTY, single mom_ as a small child, my daughter was in love with Peter Pan & later with Robin Hood_ these made easy options for Halloween for a few years. She also did her "princess" stage as well!
Then it was being a leopard the same year that she and another little 11 yr-old girl-friend went into the backyard one day, and painted their faces while decorating themselves with live bamboo, and making themselves a hut in the jungle! Wild, natural creatures both of them!!
She is now a college graduate with a great imagination and a spirit, as a human being first, that is still very much intact!

Nancy K said...

I was looking for halloween costumes that AREN'T overly sexy (was actually thinking of a bloody nurse, but I didn't find one that wasn't also a sexy nurse so I guess some ketchup and some real scrubs from the dollar store will do ;) hehe) and I found this entry. I find it a pity that most of your pictures to your examples are no longer functioning URLs but I really have always felt this about costumes, though we never did halloween when I was a kid, we would do dress up parties and such and my mother would always have us pick out things here and there and stuff because none of the packaged costumes covered us up at all. I believe it was good for our thinking processes too to be pushed to think of a costume or at least what it would take to look like _____ rather than say "I want to be superman" and buy a superman costume. Our costumes were pretty gender oriented, but at least they didn't sexualize us as little girls. The most sexualized we got was sparkly 1 inch heels and a feather boa.