Today, I was delivered evidence for the need for the feminist cause in the form of a Halloween costume catalogue (Spirit Halloween‘s catalogue to be exact). It came just like all the other mail, smashed between a lot of junk mail, but its content had a lot more to say than my junk mail–whether the company that sent it knew it or not. Halloween catalogues used to bring me that anticipation and excitement akin only to Christmas when I would scan the ads for potential gifts. Halloween was different though; while I did pine for a massive collection of candy, I also looked forward to playing a character, being literally anything or anyone I wanted to be. I could be a bag of jelly beans if I wanted to!
Unfortunately, big Halloween costume companies aren’t always the best at providing such variety and in the past few years they’ve been giving me more of a stomach-ache than usual. Boys/men are offered manly costumes like bulked-up superheroes, scary chainsaw serial killers, as well as various historical costumes. Girls/women on the other hand can be pretty. A girl can be a pretty princess or a pretty pirate–even the scary costumes have been morphed into a gothic fairy tale full of dead cheerleaders and zombie prom queens! Vampires are always presented as seductive and it’s not uncommon for witches to be more like Glinda than the Wicked Witch of the West, but who ever heard of a stylish mummy? Other options include a punk-fashion Frankenstein, a ballerina-like skeleton, and tons of mischievously cute devils. Because, you know, girls/women don’t want to be scary. (Mummies are dead, right? Like, ew!) The women’s scary costumes shown in the catalogue are all sexy.
In fact, the scariest thing I typically see in the girls/women section of costumes is just how overtly sexy it all is. Yes, even the girls costumes. I have a problem with virtually all of the women’s costumes being sexy, but it’s really sick to be doing this to girls, too. Starting with the designated “tween” section, girls can get a taste for the sexy costumes their older sisters and moms can wear. Take a look at this tween costume below:(Note the handcuffs. Reminiscent of a profession other than a police officer?) The seller, Spirit places this costume called “Convict Cutie” under the age range of tween. According to Dictionary.com, a tween is “a youngster between 10 and 12 years of age, considered too old to be a child and too young to be a teenager.” Obviously, this model isn’t 10, but apparently that’s who Spirit is selling it to. I also love Spirit’s version of a teen girl costume of a police officer, firefighter, and other government jobs women have that pop culture feels compelled to sexualize. Hey, it matches Convict Cutie though! Now your pre-teen and teen can can parade as a pair as Convict Cutie and Officer Bombshell.
Of course, it’s no surprise that the women’s version of these uniforms are that much worse (in terms of cut anyway; the pre-teens and teens win as far as the creepiness factor). Everything is about sex, sex, sex! Perhaps it’s nothing new, but do the companies have to flaunt it in our faces just how lopsided the costume standards are? Parts of the adult section in the catalogue feature both women’s and men’s costumes together so, in some places the male costume is placed directly beside the female equivalent. While a select few were ok, most depicted a woman showing lots of skin, fishnets, and come-and-take-me faces next to normal grinning guys in good costumes. It makes me think, “Um, can I have his costume?”
Let me stop here for a moment to say I’m not saying I have a problem with a woman choosing one of these costumes. Honestly, it’s not my business if someone wants to put one of these on. What I do have a problem with is the lack of choices. Why must all of the costumes for females aged 10 and up be sexy? And why must tweens be sexy at all?
Which brings me to my next problem: it seems companies like Spirit Halloween are grooming girls into sexier and sexier costumes. Many of the tween/teen costumes that lean toward the sexy side have adult counterparts. Check out this Miss Muffet costume morph from tween to adult to really adult.
It just strikes me as odd. In the end, I can’t say whether big costume companies like Spirit Halloween excel at quality, but they certainly excel at offering a sexist variety of costumes, feeding into social stereotypes.