What I remember about Halloween as a kid is the task of finding an awesome costume made from stuff around the house, trick-or-treating with my little brothers, and then coming home to watch our dad eat our chocolate bars while he “looked for pins and razor blades”. I would then inventory the rest of my candy and twitch in my bed while the sugar wore off and sleep set in.
But I don’t remember ever buying a Halloween costume, and I certainly don’t remember asking my mom to sex it up a bit. I don’t think I really put together the whole concept of sexy until 10th grade or so.
Now I am raising my own daughter, there is simply NO WAY that I am letting her traipse around my neighborhood in something that sexualizes her and sends the message to those who view her that very young girls can be seen as sexy. In fact, I find that an extremely dangerous thing to do.
My daughter isn’t sexy. She’s five.
Last week she wanted to be Superhero Kitty Litter, this week she wants to be the Headless Horseman. She has no concept of “sexy”, and I am proud of the fact that she is five going on six, not five going on sixteen. Whatever costume we settle on, we will be sexy-free as we walk around the neighborhood begging for candy from the neighbors.
Follow the formula — short poofy skirt, tight bodice, leg wear that accentuates bare thigh. You’d have to be intentionally obtuse to not notice your kindergartner is dressed like a Halloween French maid.
Because how the hell is this a lion?? Or a leopard? Female Halloween costumes don’t look like the thing they are, they just look sexy. Or, baby sexy. And I hate a small part of myself for typing that, but what else do we call this phenomenon of parents thinking it is adorable to sex up their small children?
Let’s take a look at how much things have changed from when I was a girl to now:
Remember this – Halloween costumes generally run quite small, so older children are buying teen costumes and and teens are buying women’s costumes.
None of the above costumes on the right are overly terrible, especially when the child’s short skirt is paired with leggings. At least, I personally think it is fun to have our private parts covered while in public. The costumes on the right just kind of hint at and dabble in being sexy. They are but aren’t sexy. But they are for children. And children don’t need to be and aren’t supposed to be dabbling in sexy. On a holiday that celebrates being scary.
What do the teen versions of these three themes look like?
And the adult versions that teens would actually fit into?
Here’s why this matters, and it isn’t just the overly simplistic “Well just don’t buy it!” that solves the problem. Let us also be clear, it isn’t an issue if adult women want to express their sexuality, they have every right to do so. But when nearly every costume for females of any age hints at sex, we must start questioning who is determining what is sexy for us and why in the world are we buying into it?
This matters because what girlhood looks like on the marketplace has changed drastically, and it is doing damage to our girls. It matters when girls’ Halloween costumes follow the track to sexy costumes instead of looking like the actual thing they are supposed to be. We need to examine why and how the sexy Halloween kids costume became the norm.
Girls are getting messages from every source that being sexy and hot should be their main focus because that is what gives them value. See the big picture: It is the Halloween costume + the song on the radio + the commercials on tv + magazine cover + the image on the billboard + the pop up on their phone + the character on the tv show + the starlet in Instagram, plus plus plus plus plus plus. It never really ends for our girls.
Our marketplace is a litmus test for our culture, and right now the message is that no age is too young to be sexy when it comes to our girls. Girls aren’t the problem, parents who buy these costumes that fit into the sexy formula because they think they are cute – those people are the problem. As well as the manufacturers of these costumes and the retailers who order and stock them. As the consumer we have the control to make healthier choices for our children.
Our girls are getting the message that “sexy” is what society wants and expects from them, at ages when they are developmentally too young to understand it. But I promise you they memorize the look, the body language and posturing, the voice, the pout, etc. They mimic someone else’s definition of sexy well before they are emotionally able to understand what they are doing. This mimicry shifts the way people react to them, either by returning sexually charged messages or slut-shaming girls who still believe in Santa Claus.
The Halloween costume industry offering little but sexy costumes to females of any age also sends the message to boys girls are just eye candy, and nothing more than sexual play things. By the by, it is also sending that same message to the group of teenage boys or adult male watching your little Lolita bounce down the sidewalk in her Sassy Sexy Sacagawea costume.
It is Halloween after all, and that last thought ought to scare the hell out of you.