November 2, 2012

Feminist Friday: Halloween Costumes

Dolls and guys, indulge me for a minute, if you will. I know I've focused only on classic country with these Feminist Friday posts until now, but since the empowerment of women and girls is a subject near and dear to my heart, I'm thinking of expanding the focus a bit to cover, well, pretty much anything relating to women's issues that I damn well feel like writing about. So pack that in yer pipe and smoke it! Anyway, I know Halloween is old news and we are on the downward slide to all things Christmas, but something has been on my mind: Halloween costumes, specifically the pervasive sexualization of costumes for women and girls over the last several years.

I'm certainly not the only one who's thinking about this. The Huffington Post recently ran an article with a photo slideshow showing the evolution of girls' costumes over the last couple of decades toward ever sexier outfits featuring super short skirts, bare midriffs, and corset styling. I have seen with my own two eyes costumes for very young girls that appear to be miniature versions of club and fetish wear. Clicking on the "Top Girls' Costumes" tab on a popular costume retailer's site turns up a staggering array of inexplicably sexual costumes. Sexy Oscar The Grouch and Elmo? Are you even for real right now? Now, just let me say right here and right now, I have no problem with a grown adult woman choosing to express her sexuality in any way she likes, at Halloween or on any other day of the year. If dressing as sexy Mrs. Potato Head floats your boat, more power to you, ladies. I myself wore a few sexy Halloween costumes back in my pre childbearing days. What bothers me and a lot of others who advocate for a childhood free of sexualization, is that young girls are incapable of understanding the kind of messages costumes like these send, and are incapable of making choices like these in an informed way. What bothers me more are parents buying these costumes for their daughters and either choosing to ignore that nagging voice that says, "something feels a little off here", or worse, parents not having that nagging voice at all because the sexualization of Halloween, childhood, and indeed everything in this country's sordid culture has erased boundaries that existed just a few short years ago.

Helen Keller Costume

When my six year old was having a hard time coming up with a costume idea a couple of weeks ago, inspired by this awesome little girl, I suggested that she choose a historical figure that she admired. Her immediate response was, "I want to be Helen Keller!" She had just read a book about her and was fascinated with her story. So, we pulled out a Victorian-esque sailor dress I had found at the thrift store earlier this summer, and I covered an old book with paper and wrote "Helen Keller" in Braille with embossing ink and powder to simulate the look of Braille type. Of course, we had to explain her costume to every single person we encountered, but it didn't faze her, and I was proud of my thoughtful little girl. Speaking of thoughtful costumes for little girls, have you heard about the amazing new resource that is A Mighty Girl? Take a look at the Halloween photo set on their Facebook page for some wonderful examples. And for thoughtful women, check out Take Back Halloween. I know it has gotten my gears turning for next year.

So, friends, what do you think? Have you noticed this alarming trend of skimpy, adult-looking costumes for little girls? What did you or your little ones (if you have them) dress as on Wednesday?


Nick Conner said...

When I read the sexy Oscar and Elmo I first thought it was a joke. Then I followed the links and died a little inside.

Briana Shepley said...

Amen! I don't even like them on adults but that's just me :) Your little lady is one to admire!

Beth said...

Nice post, Holly. I hate the slutty Halloween epidemic. Luckily, I don't have to deal with that for a few years with Zoey! I have to make her wear the adorable furry animal suits a while longer. ;)