It’s that time of year again.
The leaves have already begun to change colour and fall, the temperature has been dropping steadily (maybe even a little too much – could you give it a rest, winter?!?), and mid-term season has hit many of us like a tonne of bricks. However, most importantly, we will all very soon be dressing up to celebrate Halloween – a day that is, for many university students, one of the best days of the year.
I mean, what’s not to like about Halloween? There’s sugary food, pumpkin carving, horror movie marathons, parties, and, of course, costumes.
Now, I love Halloween as much as the next person. But there’s one thing that I don’t like about it, and it has to do primarily with last thing I mentioned in the previous sentence: Costumes.
Let me explain. It’s not that I don’t like the dressing up part of Halloween – I think it’s great! People can get super creative with their costumes (especially ), and I think that’s all part of the magic of the holiday.
However, what I don’t like is how mainstream, ready-made costumes – like the ones sold at your local Party City, Value Village, et cetera – perpetuate problematic beliefs about what it means to be male and female, and how we should act as a man or a woman.
In this post, which will function as the first in a two-part series, I will examine costumes that are marketed towards women and girls. In part two, which will be published shortly after, I we shift my attention to costumes marketed towards men and boys.
So let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you are a woman who wants to dress up as a firefighter for Halloween. If you look under the women’s section in your local costume store’s flyer or catalogue, what do you think you will see?
Probably something like this:
Still with me? Okay, now let’s say that you are going to be doing a joint costume with a male friend, and he is also looking to dress up like a firefighter. If he looks under the men’s section in the same store’s flyer, he is most likely to see something like this:
Now, I know some of you may be thinking: what’s the problem?
Well, let me ask you: which one seems more realistic? Have you ever met any firefighter, male or female, who wears skin-tight shorts, knee-high stiletto boots, and a low-cut shirt while they’re at work?
I highly doubt it.
For me, and for many other feminist writers, the over-sexualization of women that manifests through the costume industry is the problem. The costumes that are marketed towards women often have little (or nothing) to do with what they are aiming to portray. In the example above, other than the colour red and the hat, what does the woman’s costume have to do with being a firefighter?
This is not an isolated example. and this led to her making some of the same observations that I have made above.
is labelled “sexy police officer.” Do the same for women and girls, so that they may choose what they want to wear, rather than telling them that they have to wear a costume that is overly sexualized. And if they choose to wear something ‘sexy,’ that’s their choice, and their right.
Oh, and whether it’s a male, female, transgender, or otherwise gender-queer person wearing a ‘sexy’ costume, let me remind everyone that ‘sexy’ does not equal consent.
What about costumes marketed for men and boys, you ask? Stay tuned for part two!