Halloween Isn’t Supposed to Be Scary Like This

Halloween is a holiday that I enjoy a lot more in the abstract (costumes, silliness, chocolate!) than the specific (lack of sewing skills/glue gun, complete lack of imagination as to what to be, candy of dubious quality and people who give you raisins). Aside from my one true costume victory (when I went as the Feminine Mystique in law school by wearing a vintage dress, ruffled apron, pearls, heels, and carrying a martini glass and a pill bottle), I am largely content to let other people come up with really clever costumes and demonstrate their superior crafting skills while I hand out candy to the trick or treaters who come by our house. (For you crafty types who aren’t into sexy Halloween and are looking for inspiration, check out Take Back Halloween. They even link to places that sell the costume components.)

However, this year, my daughter is three and a half and invested in the idea of Halloween. When she was 18 months old, we acquired an ice cream cone costume on clearance from Pottery Barn Kids the day before Halloween. (By the way, kudos to BPK for having totally cute kid-appropriate costumes. I just wish they weren’t so damn expensive.) Last year, my husband located a Jessie (from Toy Story) costume online. We’ve not bought anything for her this year, in part because we’re trying to come up with a couple of options for her to choose from which meet all of our criteria (no shedding glitter, no princesses, nothing hazardous) and her request that it involve purple. What I did not anticipate was that our criteria needed to be revised to include “not a sexy costume”. Because, well, she’s THREE.

In an effort to at least get some ideas, T (my husband) and I stopped at one of those pop up Halloween stores while the kiddo was at preschool. (The kind that appears randomly in a shopping center for six weeks a year.) When we first walked in, we were really glad we had not brought the kiddo because the displays were loud and scary: giant spiders, zombies, things like that. (Also, inexplicably, an entire small display of dead, dismembered, and zombie babies. It felt like a pro-life house of horrors.) By the time we were done, we were really glad we hadn’t brought the kiddo because of the selection of costumes for kids.

I was absolutely prepared for the collection of “sexy” adult costumes. When we first walked in, my husband took a picture of me holding a sexy Army costume.

Sexy Army Costume

(In case you were wondering, I totally wore something like this every day in Afghanistan!)

I have laughed uncontrollably at fucknosexisthalloweencostumes Tumblr. [Note: the Tumblr features notes from trolls, some of which use some pretty hateful language. Also, there’s at least one picture of a “sexy mental patient” costume (because this wasn’t enough of a WTF before), so heads up on that, too.] I am making side bets as to whether or not I actually see someone dressed as a sexy clownfish* or a sexy watermelon. I am utterly baffled by the sexy skunk getup (which makes you look you were mugged by the reject boots from an Ugg factory), but hey. To each their own.

*This is a Finding Nemo ripoff, which is made even more disturbing by the fact that the female clownfish, Coral, doesn’t even survive the first three minutes of the movie.

But the kids costumes, dear readers, the kids costumes. Every photo below was taken in the kids section. Every single one is sized for kids. (At three and a half, my daughter is much too tall for most toddler kids clothes, so we’re looking a size or two up from what you’d expect for her age. She’s a size 5. Most of these are marked size 7-8, so she’ll likely fit into them by next Halloween, at the ripe old age of four and a half.) In addition to the costumes, check out how the girls are posed: hip thrust out, chest forward, lots of makeup, come hither look. I’m not awesome with guessing ages, but most of them look 11ish.

Delinquent Devil

Exhibit 1: “Delinquent Devil” aka a really twisted sexy schoolgirl fantasy gone wrong. (Description: A 11 to 13-year-old white girl with long brown hair wearing a fedora with little devil horns sticking out the sides, a skintight red shirt with cap sleeves, a little black vest, a black and red plaid tie, red wings, a black and red plaid miniskirt, knee high red socks with black stripes around the top, and black low rise Converse style sneakers. She has one hand on her hip and is pouting at the camera. The costume is labeled “Girls Size Costume”.)

Asian Princess

Exhibit 2: “Asian Princess,” for a side of racist appropriation along with bizarre sexualization. (Description: a 9 to 13-year-old girl with dark hair wearing a pink patterned robe with long, drapey sleeves and a wide dark pink sash, i.e., the sort of thing that many Americans would label geisha-style without really considering the implications of that phrasing or its casual racism. Her hair is up and she’s wearing some sort of headpiece which is included in the costume. She’s looking demurely at the ground and not at the camera.)

Fire Chief

Exhibit 3: “Fire Chief,” for a reminder that all badass skills are best accomplished in a skirt and knee high boots. (Description: a 6 to 8-year-old white girl with wavy long brown hair wearing a black baseball hat, form fitting black dress with what looks like a reflective safety belt for trim on the short sleeves and as a belt. There’s also what looks like a piece of reflective belt as a *collar*. The skirt’s well above the knee and she’s wearing high heeled, knee high black boots with the outfit. The smallest size this costume comes in is 4-6, so it’s meant for ages 4 to 6.)

Circus Clown

Exhibit 4: “Circus Clown,” because clowns weren’t creepy enough before. (Description: a 7 to 10-year-old white girl wearing a big bow on top of her head, a small red clown nose, a ruffled collar and cuffs (not attached to any shirt), a red spaghetti strap polka dot leotard with yellow, blue, and green polka dots, a very short red and orange tutu, sheer red tights, and rainbow striped legwarmers. Again, the smallest size this costume comes in is 4-6, so it’s meant for ages 4 to 6.)

Shipmate Cutie

Exhibit 5: “Shipmate Cutie,” to remind you that there was something a little creepy about Shirley Temple, too. (Description: a 4 to 6-year-old white girl with long blond hair wearing a white sailor hat, little blue sailor dress (skirt well above the knee) white knee socks, and black mary janes. She’s wearing a lot of makeup, has one hand on her hip, and is saluting. Size 4-6.)

Radical Red Crayon

Exhibit 6: “Radical Red Crayon,” although there isn’t anything radical about sexualizing kids. (Description: an approximately 12-year-old white girl with long blond hair wearing a “tank dress”: a sleeveless red minidress meant to look like a Crayola crayon wrapper. The dress is very short, worn with black tights and (although you can’t see this in the photo), black heels. She has what looks like a little pointed party hat on her head meant to be the tip of the crayon.)

This is only a sampling of the pictures I took. I’ve posted a complete set here. When all was said and done (due to the funky lighting in the store and the fact that I was taking them with my cell phone), I pulled photos of 19 different costumes. The other titles include Edgy Vamp, (seriously, WTF?), Fallen Angel, Dark Angel, Cheerless Leader (sort of a zombie cheerleader) Gothic Rag Doll, two different Monster Brides, Clawdeen Wolf (a character from something called Monster High who’s described as a fashionista), Midnight Vampira, Harujuku Cutie (which I assume is related to Harajuku, but I couldn’t say for sure), Dreamy Genie, Little Black Dress (yes, it’s just a little black dress for the preschool set), and Flapper.

I’m still having a hard time getting over how many of these costumes there were. This was a big place, with a lot of selection. After we ruled out sexy costumes and Disney princesses, pretty much the only thing left was an Olivia costume that looked okay but was made pretty cheaply. We considered a pair of butterfly wings and a headband with antenna, but were unenthused by the idea, so we left to go pick up the kiddo from preschool.

One of the things that T and I have struggled with with the kiddo is the increasing pinkification of childhood (read: girlhood). I don’t think I’d call it Cinderella Ate My Daughter, but it’s certainly a familiar enough concept. Girl stuff is glittery, pink, and pouty. It’s sexualized, but more than anything, it’s normalized. What was most distressing about the costume buying adventure was just the absolute ubiquity of the sexy costumes.

Kids (especially ones as young as my daughter) have no real concept of how they’re being perceived and the image that they’re projecting. They can’t. Age and lack of experience preclude it: they just don’t have context. This isn’t a knock on kids: it’s a knock on adults. Adults who should know better. Adults who should not be encouraging kindegarteners to vamp it up in bikinis while dancing to Single Ladies. Or buying them “Edgy Vamp” costumes when they really don’t have the skills and wherewithal to either pull it off or handle the reactions of others. Adult women have the capacity to manipulate their own image and to choose costumes they like. (They also have the capacity to deal with people who are jackasses in response.) Teenagers are sometimes able to handle that. The under-8 set certainly can’t. Pitching costumes to them like they could is disturbing.

My daughter is three. If she wants to be a sexy clownfish when she’s in college as a throwback to her childhood obsession with Finding Nemo, I can manage that, but I’d at least like her to be old enough to know what irony is first.

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123 comments for “Halloween Isn’t Supposed to Be Scary Like This

  1. Karak
    October 12, 2012 at 1:33 am

    I’ve been a clown, Death, black cat, pippi long stocking, candy korn, grapes, a ski masked escapes prisoner axe murderer, and Wednesday Adam. None of them were sexy. At 26 I’m going as Barbie. That is sexy.

    And the harajuku costume pisses me off. It’s a shirty mash up of Fruits and Decora. I love j-fashion and this is just sad.

    And goddamn, it snows on Halloween here in Illinois. Those poor girls are going to be freezing. Legitimately dangerous.

    • jillian
      October 12, 2012 at 9:04 am

      i know! i grew up in the south suburbs of chicago. it didnt matter what costume you wore because you had a hat and gloves and coat over it!

    • BHuesca
      October 12, 2012 at 11:58 am

      I’m from the Midwest, and our costumes always had to be sized to fit over a winter coat/snowsuit.

    • ARB
      October 12, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      Halloween in Detroit is always freezing (and raining). My costume always had a cape that went over my coat.

    • evil fizz
      October 12, 2012 at 4:07 pm

      Yeah, really cold Halloweens were a feature of my childhood, so we tended to pick things that were warmer as a practical matter. One Halloween when I was in college, it was 80 degrees (highly unusual for Philadelphia). The costumes changed *radically* that year.

      • robotile
        October 17, 2012 at 12:13 am

        My high point will always be the year I went as the food pyramid.

  2. igglanova
    October 12, 2012 at 1:41 am

    So mysterious, how the nationwide hysteria over pedophilia has not produced a taboo against sexualized girlhood.

    • EG
      October 12, 2012 at 4:10 am

      Quite the reverse. We have to be hysterical about pedophilia in order to assure ourselves that relentlessly sexualizing little girls has nothing to do with exploiting children, no sir, that’s something those other horrible people do, not us.

      • moviemaedchen
        October 12, 2012 at 11:14 am

        Yep. Also it is attacks on little (esp. white) boys that are seen as the most heinous. Attacks on little girls – especially little girls who are not white – rarely draw the same public outrage. And genderqueer kids? They barely seem to exist in the public imagination. (By which I mean, not that the harm done to boys doesn’t deserve the outrage – it does, because it IS heinous. Rather, I just wish that people would consistently treat the harm done to girls, and to genderqueer kids, with the same outrage instead of ignoring it or downplaying it. And I really wish that in the few cases where a little girl is the focus, it wasn’t always the stereotypically perfect, innocent white girl. How many children of color are assaulted, killed or go missing each year without registering as even a blip in the media? *rage*)

      • David
        October 14, 2012 at 10:09 am

        Also it is attacks on little (esp. white) boys that are seen as the most heinous.


      • yes
        October 15, 2012 at 3:12 pm

        Yes, I mean think of cases where an adult woman sleeps with an underage boy. Everyone is horrified and calling for her execution. But the second it’s an older man with a young girl, women are wondering where teachers like that were when they were in school, right?

  3. librarygoose
    October 12, 2012 at 4:09 am

    As I went through the local Halloween costume mailer thing and scrawled “racist” across some of them I saw Sassy Skeleton*, the skunk one, and Disney princess costumes that just got more and more horrifying as they aged upward. All I could think is a mother, her tween, and her toddler could all be the same princess and they could all be disturbing on so many levels.

    *This one stuck in my brain because the best answer for its existence I got was it was a girl skeleton. WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT? They’re bones. How can your skeleton be sexy?

    • Bagelsan
      October 12, 2012 at 12:01 pm

      “Ooh, that’s right, my os coxa bone is slighter wider and shallower than a boys usually is! Seeeexy!”

  4. Annaleigh
    October 12, 2012 at 4:39 am

    Let’s see, over the years I’ve been an angel, Minnie Mouse, a fairy, the Statue of Liberty, vampires and witches several times, and a bloody Cleopatra. This year I’m just going to wear a cute mini witches’ hat I picked up while grocery shopping.

    It’s sad that highly sexualized, racist, sexist costumes for children (and adults) are still so common. When I was a teenager I used to help younger children here put together interesting costumes with whatever we could find. I was in the Drama Club at high school so I had a lot of tools to help with it but the kids had things too and we tried to be creative.

    • abra
      October 13, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      Just a mini witch’s hat?!? That takes it to a whole other level… but it will make an impression.

      • Bagelsan
        October 14, 2012 at 9:13 pm


  5. Annaleigh
    October 12, 2012 at 4:48 am

    Also, this post reminds me an editorial in a local paper last Halloween. One editorial writer caused controversy when she said she didn’t like the gory, scary, and adult aspects of Halloween and that it should more or less stop and/or take a backseat to the cutsey G-rated version of Halloween for little children. I’m not suggesting you agree with this person, but it reminds me of that. I do believe that little children shouldn’t be exposed to the aspects of Halloween that they aren’t ready for, but I disagree with that writer that the adult aspects need to go away. Some of the things you described aren’t to my taste, but as a grown woman there are things I enjoy about Halloween and would like to continue to enjoy (although little ones shouldn’t be exposed to it).

    Another late night post, better stop and go to bed now. Hopefully I am coherent!

    • Karak
      October 12, 2012 at 10:08 am

      The problem isn’t that there’s adult parts, it’s that there are no kid parts for little girls. It’s nearly impossible to find a non-sexy costume for a little girl during one I’d the coldest parts of the year. That’s fucking stupid. Hell, I’m 26 and I’d like to be something other than freezing and “sexy”. But I don’t really have options.

      • Annaleigh
        October 12, 2012 at 4:28 pm

        Very true, I certainly don’t disagree. The sexualization of little girls’ Halloween costumes is the problem.

  6. Meaghan
    October 12, 2012 at 7:28 am

    Considering that there’s often snow on the ground by Halloween where I live, most of my childhood costumes involved several bulky layers under a box (dice, robots, etc). Those costumes ick me out.

    Your daughter could be a bunch of grapes! Just have her wear purple clothes, and then safety pin a bunch of purple balloons to her sweater (assuming that that’s a safe idea for a 3 yr old… I’m fairly ignorant about kids at this point in my life). Then just cut out a little leaf hat from some green felt, et voilà!

    • October 12, 2012 at 10:36 am

      That many balloons is actually pretty dangerous. If one pops and goes down the kid’s throat, it can’t be pushed out with the Heimlich maneuver. How abut painted Styrofoam balls instead?

    • Sheila
      October 12, 2012 at 4:12 pm

      Or she could pull a Little Mosque on the Prairie and be a purple Fig! That costume would definately keep your daughter warm.

  7. rain
    October 12, 2012 at 7:28 am

    Heh, I just got my 12 year old daughter the sexified Crayola costume. There is another version which looks more like a crayon, but we ruled it out. I had to order online and suspected the fabric was not the foam-like material that the photos make it look like, but was instead very flimsy material that wouldn’t stand stiffly.

    Side note: check out this banana we came across when looking for costumes.

    Anyway, this is the first time in years that we went the store-bought route. Past costumes were computers (cardboard box, paint), dice (cardboard box, paint), happy face (cardboard, paint), the jack of spades (cardboard, paint), and my daughter’s favourite, a wedge of cheese (styrofoam, paint). While I can paint well, my construction skills are poor. The wedge of cheese, in particular, was awfully done and falling apart, but hey, it only has to last a few hours and mostly in the dark, and well, see the part about it being her favourite costume.

    • Stump Beefgnaw
      October 12, 2012 at 9:33 am

      …did you read this article at all? Did any of it sink in?

      Would you mind explaining WHY you thought it was appropriate to buy a “sexy” costume for a child?

      • Esti
        October 12, 2012 at 12:44 pm

        I’m guessing the answer is “because it’s my child and none of your damn business.”

        For what it’s worth, I didn’t think that the crayon costume was bad, especially since it seems to be aimed at the 10-12 year old range. I grew up somewhere where it would have been too cold to wear that on Halloween, but if you’re in warmer climates/wearing it for indoor events, it’s just a dress. I wore a lot of knee-length sleeveless dresses at that age, and not because they were sexy. Bulky costumes are fun, too, but the well-made ones are usually more expensive than clothing-based costumes and if you need to be able to sit in them they’re often not very practical.

      • rain
        October 12, 2012 at 2:51 pm

        I grew up somewhere where it would have been too cold to wear that on Halloween

        Yeah, I’m in eastern Canada, so at the very least, she’ll wear thick tights and a turtleneck underneath. But I wouldn’t be surprised if she wore it in warmer months just as a dress (someone pass Stump the smelling salts). Although she’ll still have to wear something underneath as the fabric is disappointingly see-through.

        Oh, and to add to previous costumes, we’ve also done scissors (cardboard, paint) and Powerpuff girls (my mom can sew).

      • Chataya
        October 12, 2012 at 1:19 pm

        I personally don’t see what’s so bad about the crayon or the clown costumes. Yeah, they’re short, but a pair of opaque tights will fix that up. The heels are obnoxious though.

      • evil fizz
        October 12, 2012 at 4:11 pm

        I think they’re less bad, but I included them because even the less bad options were still kind of ridiculous. Why is the crayon outfit a minidress? What clown wears a little tutu?

      • Chataya
        October 12, 2012 at 7:03 pm

        Honestly, the tutu is the main reason I like the clown costume. Even if it is really odd on a clown. :P

        The crayon costumes I remember from childhood were cardboard tubes that hit the knees. I agree the dress doesn’t need to be that short, especially if it is sheer like someone downthread said.

  8. doberman
    October 12, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Hmm so we’ve discovered that women like to look sexy and men like to look at sexy things? Welcome to planet Earth…

    • evil fizz
      October 12, 2012 at 9:23 am

      Way to read the post, dude. These are kids costumes. You know, GIRLS, not women.

    • Past my expiration date
      October 12, 2012 at 9:24 am

      Please try harder. This is a third-rate effort.

    • EG
      October 12, 2012 at 9:26 am

      1) Try to spend some time today learning the difference between little girls and women.

      2) I’m intrigued by your suggestion that men like to look at sexy “things.” It seems that you can not only not tell the difference between little girls and women, but also between women and things.

      Given these limitations on your abilities, I doubt whether you’re going to be able to keep up with the conversation. Please come back after you’ve found an appropriate tutor.

      • October 14, 2012 at 12:58 am

        What? You never seen a sexy robot? You’re missing out.

      • scrumby
        October 14, 2012 at 1:52 am

        But Number 5 is alive!

    • doberman
      October 12, 2012 at 9:42 am

      Well, girls are younger versions of women so they’re likely to have fairly similar interests and also be influenced by what they see women doing. But yes I agree that we shouldn’t sexualize young girls.

      What I was mostly responding to was the Twittr page that was linked to in the article where they compare mens and womens halloween costumes in a naive ‘waah, this is so sexist!!’ kind of way. Sounds like a young woman who’s just discovered the concept of feminism but doesn’t really have a proper understanding of the world.

      • EG
        October 12, 2012 at 9:53 am

        Well, girls are younger versions of women so they’re likely to have fairly similar interests

        No. No, they’re not. Girls are female children. They have no reason to have fairly similar interests at all.

        Sounds like a young woman who’s just discovered the concept of feminism but doesn’t really have a proper understanding of the world.

        Again, you are mistaken. Sounds like a woman who has an entirely accurate understanding of the world. I know this is going to be radical for you, but try to understand–straight women like to look at sexy men. And yet there isn’t an industry-wide pressure cooker on men to show off their biceps and thighs during Halloween. The reason for that is indeed sexism, and your hypothetical young woman is completely correct to be pissed about it.

      • doberman
        October 12, 2012 at 10:23 am

        No. No, they’re not. Girls are female children. They have no reason to have fairly similar interests at all.

        You underestimate how much children emulate their elders. Young boys can imitate men and it’s seen as perfectly healthy and natural. But when young girls imitate women, it causes a big panic. There’s something interesting to be examined there, don’t you think?

        I know this is going to be radical for you, but try to understand–straight women like to look at sexy men.

        Yes yes, I’ve heard this many times. But women only find extremely sexy guys like Ryan Gosling to be sexy. I mean even guys can appreciate a guy like that. But men on the other hand can find most young (don’t even have to be that young) and reasonably fit women to be sexy, which is why it’s the women in the sexy costumes. If the men were in sexy costumes, women would only find a small number of them actually sexy, and the rest would look like a bunch of twits.

      • Li
        October 12, 2012 at 10:28 am

        Please continue to explain women’s attraction to men to women who are attracted to men. It’s not like they could know what they are talking about or anything.

      • Li
        October 12, 2012 at 10:32 am

        But women only find extremely sexy guys like Ryan Gosling to be sexy.

        I can’t get over the ridiculousness of this line. Do you realise that when you type these words on feminist site actually honest-to-goodness women will read them? Women who may have some small idea of who and what they find attractive?

      • EG
        October 12, 2012 at 10:36 am

        It’s funny, here I thought I’d really enjoyed watching my boyfriend and a few other men in my past. I’d been under the impression that looking at them really turned me on. I didn’t realize that it was only Ryan Gosling (who doesn’t do it for me, but whatever). That must be why male rock musicians–not stars, mind you, just regular musicians–for example, never dress up or pose or anything like that. And why women and girls never gawk at them.

        You underestimate how much children emulate their elders. Young boys can imitate men and it’s seen as perfectly healthy and natural. But when young girls imitate women, it causes a big panic.

        Again, you are mistaken. How many times is this now?

        Imitating adults is indeed what children do. But there’s no reason for this to break down by gender, and further, when young boys imitate adult behavior that is wildly inappropriate for them, I see it as appalling.

        I’m curious, though. If this is all just the “natural” result of children imitating their elders, how come there weren’t sexy costumes for little girls when I was a kid? How come the little girls I knew were dressed as Ewoks or Pippi Longstocking or the Wicked Witch of the West? Did grown women only start dressing sexily ten years ago?

      • EG
        October 12, 2012 at 10:38 am

        Women who may have some small idea of who and what they find attractive?

        Don’t be silly, Li. We ladies couldn’t possibly know what we want with our tiny lady brains. It’s a good thing a man is here to tell us.

      • Li
        October 12, 2012 at 10:42 am

        But women only find extremely sexy guys like Ryan Gosling to be sexy.

        I can’t get over the ridiculousness of this line. Do you realise that when you type these words on a feminist site actual women will read them? Women who may have some small idea of who and what they find attractive? That you are not in fact receiving responses from the computer itself?

      • samanthab
        October 12, 2012 at 11:13 am

        Yes, I’m a hetero woman who never has sex because I only find Ryan Gosling sexy. My boyfriend is great company, but he lies next to me in bed patiently while I jerk off to a Ryan Gosling poster.

        Do you really believe what you’re saying- or are you just trying that hard to make a non-argument work? Either way, you’re in odd territory.

      • petpluto
        October 12, 2012 at 11:32 am

        But women only find extremely sexy guys like Ryan Gosling to be sexy.

        Wow. I guess I was just imagining my attraction to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bob Villa, Tim Curry (and not just Dr. Frank N Furter Tim Curry), and Jeff Goldblum – along with many, many others. Including my fiance, who, it should be noted, looks nothing like Ryan Gosling or anyone I mentioned. Good thing you cleared that right up.

      • Katniss
        October 12, 2012 at 11:43 am

        Doberman, I’m going to ask you a question about why you comment on articles here:

        What do you want? What are you looking for? Because you seem to have some really sexist/gender essentialist ideas about life, and then you seem shocked that we disagree with you when you post your opinions. What are you looking for when you post this stuff here?

      • doberman
        October 12, 2012 at 1:46 pm

        you seem shocked that we disagree with you when you post your opinions. What are you looking for when you post this stuff here?

        I’m not expecting people to agree with me. I’m a libertarian and a rationalist. I look to at things from all possible angles and try to question the dominant ideology in order to get at the truth. So yeah sometimes that means asking some hard questions and challenging some ideas held as sacrosanct here.

        I do believe in the principles of feminism, that women should be treated with as much respect as men, and have reproductive freedom and all that, I just disagree with modern feminist dogma on the finer points, like how male and female sexuality will impact gender relations.

      • doberman
        October 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm

        In response to the jokes, I wasn’t saying that women are literally only attracted to Ryan Gosling, but that women have a higher standard for what they consider sexy than men. I’m not admonishing women for that or saying it’s wrong or bad, I’m just pointing out that logically this will probably result in the dynamic we’re seeing here, of women dressing sexy and men being the viewers of the sexiness.

        [There was a study to do with rating a bunch of faces of the opposite gender in terms of attractiveness that proved this. Men voted the faces on average quite attractive and women voted the faces on average quite unattractive.]

      • October 12, 2012 at 4:45 pm

        How were the pictures chosen? What was the methodology? Were the women wearing make up? ha their hair done? Women do a lot on an everyday basis to look appealing to men, but men are not expected to do the same thing on an everyday basis for women.

      • doberman
        October 12, 2012 at 6:36 pm

        As far as I can remember, the pictures were chosen as randomly as possible, just random people off the street and also students. The faces were presented in the standard “study” way — i.e. no makeup, hair pulled back, face angled so hair barely visible, etc. Like the kind they normally show you in studies. So all the factors you mention were accounted for.

        You also raise an interesting point about makeup. Women have the ability to increase their attractiveness to guys even more by using it, while guys have no analogue. If guys were to wear makeup it would make them even less attractive to women. And I can’t think of any male equivalent they could do to make themselves more attractive to women.

      • Li
        October 12, 2012 at 7:38 pm

        You also raise an interesting point about makeup. Women have the ability to increase their attractiveness to guys even more by using it, while guys have no analogue. If guys were to wear makeup it would make them even less attractive to women. And I can’t think of any male equivalent they could do to make themselves more attractive to women.

        One, many women (and men, and people of all other genders) find men wearing makeup attractive. You should probably stop telling the women here what they do and do not find attractive. It is gross and foolish.

        Two, if you can’t think of any analogue men might engage in then that does not mean that those practices do not exist, it means that you need to sit down with every season of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy until you finally make the realisation that men are just as capable as engaging in beauty practices orientated towards making them more attractive to potential sexual/romantic partners as women are.

      • October 12, 2012 at 7:49 pm

        You do realize that makeup is cultural right? There are plenty of cultures and times when men wore makeup to appear more attractive to women. Also, if you think the guys on TV like Ryan Gossling aren’t wearing makeup, I don’t know what to do with you. And until the Victorian era, in the West, women were thought to be the more lustful sex.

        Plus, self reporting levels of attractiveness tends to run into major problems with culturally conditioned responses. In this culture, most of us ladies have been subtly told from birth that judging the attractiveness men based on their appearance is bad, and also that we are less lustful/visual then men. Whereas boys are taught from birth that finding girls attractive is necessary to be a man, and if they don’t, they are less then men. You can’t really control for this.

        But don’t try to bring in a study you don’t remember to a bunch of people who have been picking apart gender essentialism and the arguments of evolutionary psychologists for much longer than you have been buying into them.

      • Li
        October 12, 2012 at 8:08 pm

        Also, if you think the guys on TV like Ryan Gossling aren’t wearing makeup, I don’t know what to do with you.

        What a furphy. Next you’ll be claiming that photographers use lighting other than that of the sun and/or incidentally present bioluminescent deep sea creatures.

      • librarygoose
        October 12, 2012 at 8:49 pm

        . If guys were to wear makeup it would make them even less attractive to women.

        Johnny Depp


      • EG
        October 12, 2012 at 10:25 pm

        You also raise an interesting point about makeup. Women have the ability to increase their attractiveness to guys even more by using it, while guys have no analogue. If guys were to wear makeup it would make them even less attractive to women.

        Mick Jagger. David Bowie. As librarygoose notes, Johnny Depp. I’m given to understand they’ve been around the block with a lady or two. Or two hundred.

        Here’s what men who are not comfortable being as all-out sexy as Jagger, Bowie, and Depp can do: condition their hair; style and/or color their hair; get manicures; use moisturizer; use sunscreen; shave regularly and/or have interesting facial hair; trim/pluck their eyebrows; see the dentist regularly; use lip balm regularly.

      • October 12, 2012 at 10:33 pm

        EG makes a wonderful point. Even when we take off our makeup, a lot of us women can’t remove all of the signs of our beauty regimens for a photograph without spending three days without a bath, or a few weeks for our eyebrow hair to grow in, or a week or so for the acne or wrinkle treatment to fade. The Western world expects less of men as far as grooming goes, and is more forgiving of men not living up to those basic standards, so anything looking at female attractiveness would somehow have to account for the difference in grooming standards for men and women even before makeup is added to the picture.

      • October 14, 2012 at 5:54 am

        But women only find extremely sexy guys like Ryan Gosling to be sexy.

        These are clearly women who have never seen me at karaoke singing Hot N Cold by Katy Perry.

      • FashionablyEvil
        October 12, 2012 at 10:42 am

        And because young girls look up to their elders and want to emulate them, we should let them do so with no question? Without considering if it’s age appropriate?

        My mother said no to stuff like that ALL the time–“This is for grown ups,” “That dress is too mature for you,” etc etc.

      • Li
        October 12, 2012 at 10:45 am

        Comment system, why do you not tell me when you post my comment before when I was still editing it?

      • Lyanna
        October 12, 2012 at 12:53 pm

        I like it when people like you post here. It makes it very obvious what a lot of ordinary sexist men think: that women love being treated like their first function in life is to be sexy. And that girls are really just baby-whores who, while we technically shouldn’t perv on them, are just mini-women who have no real humanity or childhood. They just want to be sexy at all times. Little girls don’t want to be firefighters or astronauts or superheroes–they just want to be SEXY. Because they’re not kids, just little sex toys.

      • Partial Human
        October 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm

        You win a chocolate internets.

        Of course, due to your fluffy pink ladybrainz, I’ll have to make it a sexy chocolate sexy internetz. That way you can sexily parade it to catch men for sexy sex!

      • Past my expiration date
        October 12, 2012 at 1:53 pm

        I do believe in the principles of feminism, that women should be treated with as much respect as men, and have reproductive freedom and all that,

        Huh. I don’t think that my definition of feminism is

        1. Women should be treated with as much respect as men.
        2. Women should have reproductive freedom.
        3. And all that.

        But maybe that is one of the hard questions you are asking.

      • evil fizz
        October 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm

        Well, girls are younger versions of women so they’re likely to have fairly similar interests and also be influenced by what they see women doing.

        No. It’s hard for me to express how breathtakingly wrong this is. Just because kids imitate adults does not mean that all adult behaviors are appropriate for kids or that they have similar interests.

        The onus is on adults to help kids filter those behaviors and and contextualize them. And if the kids are too young to do that, to put some boundaries in place and say, “No, you are six. You are not dressing up as Lady Gaga for Halloween.” I am growing ever more convinced that you’ve not bothered to read the post or engage in good faith. Further derails like this will be deleted.

      • October 14, 2012 at 5:57 am

        And if the kids are too young to do that, to put some boundaries in place and say, “No, you are six. You are not dressing up as Lady Gaga for Halloween.”

        I’m 43. Is it ok for me?

      • wembley
        October 14, 2012 at 8:03 pm

        Yes, I’m a hetero woman who never has sex because I only find Ryan Gosling sexy. My boyfriend is great company, but he lies next to me in bed patiently while I jerk off to a Ryan Gosling poster.

        samanthab, I think you won the thread. brb, loling forevs

    • Chataya
      October 12, 2012 at 11:35 am

      I think all we’ve discovered is that you think all men are pedophiles. Thinking little girls are sexy is wrong.

  9. E.
    October 12, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Hey, forget about worrying about whether your kid’s costume is sexy enough. You should be more concerned with whether your dog’s costume is sexy enough.

    There is a lovely Snooki costume you can purchase for your pup, equipped with creepy fake cleavage.

    Your dog won’t have to worry about having too small bosoms with the new Madonna dog costume (cone bra included).

    Thank goodness we can have sexy tots and sexy hounds!

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

    • DonnaL
      October 12, 2012 at 10:09 am

      Those costumes are fine, as long as you’re careful not to put them on a boy dog — that would make you a pervert.

      • Bagelsan
        October 12, 2012 at 12:42 pm

        Yes, just think of the psychological damage you could do to your dog by crossdressing it! :D

      • Alexandra
        October 12, 2012 at 6:24 pm

        Lord. I was watching a youtube video of a silly dog doing silly things, and it was a male dog wearing pink, and of course I noticed that and it bugged me and I had to mentally sit myself down and say that if it doesn’t bother me when little boys or grown men wear pink, why on earth would it bother me if a dog – who doesn’t care at all – wears pink? I mean, dogs can’t even see pink that well because they see blue light much better than red light.

        So much of this nonsense is so deeply ingrained in us by the time we become adults. I spent most of my childhood refusing to wear pink because it was a “girl color” and I didn’t like girls because they were “wimpy and boring.” And so I didn’t let myself make friends with lots of other girls as a kid for dumb dumb reasons.

    • Bagelsan
      October 12, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      Bitches love sexy costumes!

      • October 12, 2012 at 9:33 pm

        I don’t care to admit just how long it took me to get this.

  10. John
    October 12, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Say no to the sexualisation of children!

    We don’t do Halloween in the UK like the US, it tends to be witches and ghosts, itself a US import, as when I was a child we didn’t really mark it at all. Even now, it’s hardly major.

    But what we have had over the last year or two is wholly innappropriate sexualised clothing marketed by major chain stores for 7 year olds, Future Porn Star and bunny girl logos, etc. Just say no and publicise the creeps who think it ok to sell this shit to turn a buck.

    • Partial Human
      October 13, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      Yep. As a kid in 80s Britain Halloween involved hollowed out turnip lanterns, bin-bags with armholes over our coats, and maybe a pointy hat.

      We went door to door asking for a “Penny for Halloween”, and people gave us pennies and tuppences that they’d been saving up especially.

      Sometimes we had school/Brownies/church parties with apple-bobbing, ghost stories, and dancing to songs like ‘Monster Mash’ and singing about Gobbolino the Witches cat.

      It seems so incredibly innocent, looking back. I’ve never understood the mostly American penchant for “sexy” Halloween stuff. All Hallow’s Eve is about witches and spooks, not cheerleaders and Snooki!

  11. anna
    October 12, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Sometimes men like to look sexy and women like to look at sexy things.

    But men aren’t under intense pressure to be sexy while women are totally exempt. Men aren’t encouraged to base their self-worth on how good they look.

    On Halloween, when you can be anything you want, women (and even girls) are told they should be sexy for men’s pleasure. Isn’t that a problem? Even if an individual woman sometimes wants to be sexy?

  12. samanthab
    October 12, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Oh lordy! I did the reverse and got my unsexy costume idea from a baby website. (It’s a deviled egg, consisting of felt devil horns and a felt egg pinned on a black dress. I’m lazy and cheap about Halloween- there are starving kids in this country, and I’m supposed to spend a lot of money on something I wear one night?(

    My sister has twin boys, and since I’m wacky, I come up with lots of goofy ideas. My first was a queen bee and worker bee costume. She wasn’t up for gender bending. I had a few more she didn’t like, and then I thought one could be a lobster and the other wear a U of Maine onesie. Finally, she got a used lion costume from a neighbor, and I decided the three of them should be a lion, a witch, and a wardrobe. We’ll see if she goes for it.

    As a nerd kid I always wanted to be the fictional characters that I loved: Dorothy, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Pippi Longstocking. All of them made me feel strong; in my mind, they were independent, smart role models. I’d have a really hard time with a daughter who wanted a vehemently anti-feminist costume. I just wouldn’t know what to do with that, and I’m so sympathetic to your plight. It’s shitty and screwed up!!

  13. Becky
    October 12, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Last year at our Brownies halloween party there were a lot of witches and fairies and I was disturbed to see that their costumes looked like miniatures of sexy fairy and sexy witch costumes for adult women (fishnet gloves on a fairy costume for a 7 year old? Really?). Fortunately though, the costumes look a lot less disturbingly sexualized on 7 year old girls running around at play than they look on child models wearing make up and posing with their hips thrust out.

  14. Bagelsan
    October 12, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Most of my childhood costumes involved some construction (yay cardboard!) but none were sexy. I was things like a T-Rex, a horse-and-rider, a computer, a raindrop (as a 5-year-old), a National Geographic photographer, a bacterium, and a werewolf (but dressed normally sans makeup ’cause it wasn’t a full moon).

    • samanthab
      October 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      Ooo, I’m jealous. My family wasn’t patient and/or crafty enough for cardboard. I was always jealous of the kids in cardboard- all the best costumes were always cardboard.

    • October 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm

      I’m jealous too. You were a ridiculously clever kid!

      (My childhood costumes were mostly mundane things like witches, zombies and princesses. With big winter coats over it, of course. I only started to get creative in college, when I was Nightcrawler from the X-Men, a vector, and a decidedly unfashionable character of my own devising called Petunia the Plaid. She was a wizard along the lines of Gandalf the Grey and Radagast the Brown, but her robes were all made of some different eyeball-bursting plaid print. I also carried a staff with fuzzy dice hanging from it.)

  15. October 12, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    I’ve found I’ve managed to circumvent a lot of the ‘sexy’ by emphasizing the ‘scary’ part. I’ve taken my kids to a couple of zombie walks and at least one of the two love getting all gored up, and aren’t as interested in the sexy costumes (although my oldest is into anime.. but she seems to want to be the guy characters). This year the youngest wants to go as the kid from The Grudge.

    No, I didn’t let her watch the Grudge.

    I had the benefit of growing up in a house where we never bought costumes, we pieced them together from what we could find, with a bit of sewing if necessary. In my time I’ve been Sailor Jupiter, Slash, a Titanic victim, Courtney Love, numerous zombies, an ‘unlady bug’ (stole the idea from the Hairpin last year) and the Bee Girl from the blind melon video.

    I’ve only bought my kids costumes once, mostly from a fiscal standpoint it doesn’t make sense to pay big bucks for one day. But yeah, I did it once. It was a wonder woman costume. I’ve also dressed them as Kim Possible, The Hulk (I’m all for genderbending costumes! and my daughter looked adorable!), spongebob and patrick, Duffman, Pebbles flintstone, a cat, zombies, and last year they went as Amy and Rouge from Sonic the Hedgehog. I made a disctinct effort to DE-sexify the Rouge costume, because you know, age-appropriateness.

    Yeah, I get into the halloween thing.

  16. Laura
    October 12, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    when I was but a wee-bit in prek, my mom made the best costume ever. I was a butterfly. I had a stripey pink and orange dress, and mom made butterfly wings out of foam and pipe cleaner antennae. I wore them for dress up, and then my sister wore them pretty much anywhere mom would let her. Best costume ever.

  17. Bagelsan
    October 12, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Question from a non-parent, evil fizz; how much input does a 3.5-year-old want on their costume? Does she want to be a princess, etc., or is she just kind of cool with wearing whatever you offer, still?

    • October 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      I’m not evil fizz, but I found at that age, they were pretty cool about going with the flow.. it was once they hit school that they wanted to be princesses because EVERYONE at school were going as princesses.

      I had to work hard to convince them that this is precisely the reason you DON’T want to be a princess.

      Of course, their school now doesn’t have dress up.. they have Orange and Black day. Don’t get me started. *grumble grumble*

    • evil fizz
      October 12, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      She’s mostly cool with being allowed to choose from a set of options. The princess thing at preschool gives me a bit of a headache, but she likes Dora, so that’s a decent pop culture alternative.

      • October 12, 2012 at 4:32 pm

        Yeah, pop culture is a good thing sometimes.. I distracted my oldest from the princess thing with Kim Possible.

    • abra
      October 13, 2012 at 2:00 pm

      I got a witch costume and she bought in… until she found out everyone was going to be a princess.

      I went to the Halloween party and there was a lot of talk among a group of parents about how their daughters (3-5) just couldn’t decide what they wanted and were still choosing the day before — whether they wanted to Ariel or Belle or Cinderella or Aurora. I bit my tongue but I was like “They are 3/4/5!! Give them 2 choices, that’s final, move on.”

      At the time I was thinking at the time this was newly purchased costumes that they were choosing between. It very well may have been the case that they already had the choices available and it was a matter of going through the dress-up clothes to pick. Which, when I come to think of it, is not any better — the girls only had the choice of which princess to be.

      The hassle of putting together a Halloween costume from scratch is offset by the fact that my daughter has wanted to be Puck among many other non-Disney princess/fairy options. I kind of put the brakes on that one arguing that no one is going to know who she is and will probably think that she is Peter Pan just like Puck was in the book we were reading if she dressed up as Puck is normally portrayed or that she hadn’t dressed up at all if she dressed as Puck did in the book we were reading (green hoodie and jeans). She decided that would be just as frustrating in real life as it was for Puck in the book.

  18. October 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    I do kind of cringe at some of my childhood costumes.. some were pretty good – Laura Ingalls, Eddie Munster, sad clown (I think it was meant to be just a clown, but I was in a shitty mood that year) but every so often my parents got onto the cultural appropriation (mostly defaulting to gypsy costumes for lack of better ideas) and looking back, those costumes make me kind of cringe now.

    • Chataya
      October 12, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      I went as Pocahontas one year, complete with face paint and a feathered headband. I cringe looking at those photos now.

      I was also a dalmatian (white sweater with black felt dots), a 50s girl with a poodle skirt, and a ballerina Tinkerbell.

      • Alexandra
        October 12, 2012 at 6:39 pm

        I think the most cringe-worthy costume in my family history is probably my grandmother sending my father and his older brother out as ghosts in the early 1960s; I’ve seen the pictures, and they were wearing pillowcases with holes cut out for the eyes and long white sheets with holes for the arms. Basically she dressed them up as mini-Klansmen. The ignorance is fairly mind-boggling as at the time my grandparents were communists living in an integrated neighborhood in Omaha, but that’s white privilege for you, I guess.

      • October 12, 2012 at 7:56 pm

        My mom’s mom wasn’t willing to cut up the white sheets one year for my mom and her brothers, so she cut holes in a pair of yellow sheets, glued black yarn braids to them, and called them Chinese ghost costumes.

      • Chataya
        October 13, 2012 at 4:46 am

        On the bright side, at least they were supposed to be ghosts. I’ve known several people who dressed as Klansmen for shits and giggles.

    • Kara
      October 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm

      I had a serious infatuation with anything and everything Bollywood in high school, and for a couple of years made costumes and dressed up as characters from the some of the movies.

      I am not sure that I really see that as “cultural appropriation”, though.

      • October 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm

        I’m coming from a place of privilege here so maybe I shouldn’t speak… I’d think specific characters could be passable.

        “Generic Bollywood Actress (Actor)” would be hugely problematic, I would think.

      • October 12, 2012 at 3:40 pm

        Eh, I would say dressing up as a particular character is fine. Going as “all Indian/Bollywood people” is problematic as fuck, IMO. (I’m Indian, so I’ve given this some thought.)

      • evil fizz
        October 12, 2012 at 4:30 pm

        One of the most horrifying adult costumes we saw was something labeled “Bolly Ho”. The picture showed a white woman wearing a sexified sari, this sort of face veil thingy and a long black wig. It was gross.

    • librarygoose
      October 13, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      I had some good ones my mom made, queen of hearts (I was a giant playing card painted by hand) snow queen, clown, and then some pretty horrible Indian princesses and Egyptian queens (I have long dark hair). My dad got super excited when I was older and he could afford to buy my store costumes, till he realized all of my costume criteria was, “Can I wear a top hat and mustache?”

  19. mh
    October 12, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    I love the linked websites, and am passing them to my friends who have girl-children; thank you!

    There is a boy-costume analogue to the sexualization of girl costumes: violence. Although preschool boys do usually have the option to dress up as various occupations (though violent costumes for preschoolers and even babies are still available,) once they get past about 1st grade you are hard-pressed to find a costume that doesn’t come with a weapon. Tween boys’ costumes often involve blood or bloody weapons. (Take a look at the Fuck No Sexist Halloween Costumes link in the article and see how many of the men’s costumes involve blood or a weapon – particularly the race-inspired ones)

    I know its Halloween, and kids want to follow their interests, but there should be more to choose from.

    • Past my expiration date
      October 12, 2012 at 2:04 pm

      Yes, in my experience of preschool for 2005-2011,

      1. girls are princesses
      2. boys are superheroes
      3. everybody’s costumes are store-bought

      As I remember it, there was more variety, both within and across genders, in the 1970s. There were also more home-made (and child-made) costumes. I think the two things may be related.

    • Lolagirl
      October 12, 2012 at 6:22 pm

      There is a boy-costume analogue to the sexualization of girl costumes: violence.

      No joke. This has become one of my big Halloween annoyances as my kids (all boys) have gotten older. My 7yo twins are just starting to have real opinions about what costumes they want to wear this year, and there have been a ton of negotiations with one of them because he wants to be some evil overlord character that I think is too violent. But my biggest mistake was taking him and his twin to Target to look at costumes, where I had to consistently steer them away from the tons ultra-violent and character costumes they had. In the past I got lucky and either found something cute and non-violent on sale at Pottery Barn Kids (one year I even made them myself, a pumpkin and a robot.)

      Anyway, the point being that I continue to be horrified by how our culture puts girls into the prematurely sexy and sparkly pink box and boys in the violent and obnoxious box. It’s seriously effed up, and the spouse and I feel like we are constantly having to fight against all the boys will be (violent! and rude! and obnoxious!) boys crap that seems to get pushed on boys these days.

  20. October 12, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    My 3 year old made me both happy and miserable by insisting (since about July, thanks older siblings!) that she wants to be Millie from Team Umizoomi. It’s nice because the costume isn’t remotely sexy, but a major pain because I have to make it. The long sleeve shirt and long pants were easy, but the patterned sundress and hood to go over were a real pain.

    My kids don’t get to do the sexy costumes. Thank goodness my 10 year old considers them awful for the most part, although she does like Monster High.

    I’m trying to talk my son and daughter into Nyan cat costumes for next year. Almost talked them into it this year, rather than store bought costumes, but my 10 year old had promised to coordinate with a friend already.

  21. sabrina
    October 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    what about going as the purple people eater? I found no glitter purple wings online at target, you could buy a horn and the eye from the craft store, and then just put her in purple sweats. Weather appropriate and it meets all of your criteria.

  22. antigone23
    October 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    I have a toddler girl, who fortunately still wears toddler sizes. I’ve noticed the the girls’ costumes (size 4-12) are basically miniature versions of the women’s costumes, complete with pouty poses, hips thrust out, etc. There are even more examples than what you’ve posted. It’s terribly upsetting to me. It was bad enough when women were given the sole choice of “sex class member” for commercial Halloween costumes, but little girls? Little girls who haven’t even been through puberty yet? WTF??? It makes me want to run off with my daughter and join a commune.

    • evil fizz
      October 12, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      Yeah, the poses are (in many cases) more troubling than the costumes. The goth rag doll outfit isn’t actually all that bad, but the way the model is posed is bizarre. The sailor suit reminds of Toddlers and Tiaras promotional materials, which is really depressing.

  23. October 12, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Currently feeling extremely lucky to have had an awesome, handy auntie who LOVED to sew and would hand-make extremely elaborate Halloween costumes for my sister and I every year. We had to pick what we wanted to be a month in advance. Costumes included: a Hershey bar, a bunny, Snoopy, a sock-hop girl, Garfield, and a zombie covered in blood. Costumes always had a full headpiece and everything was hand-sewn. Definitely not sexualized in any way, and also TONS of fun as a child. I wish I had those same sewing skills.

  24. Henry
    October 12, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Buy boy’s costumes for the girls until things change. It’s the retailer’s fault for dealing in such trash, but like any good drug dealer, they sell what we collectively buy – so let’s blame ourselves too, such costumes did not exist when we were kids because no one would ever have bought them. Someone, many someone’s, are buying this stuff for their daughters. Your child is not an extension of yourself, they don’t get to do the stuff you were banned from as a kid, or worse have parents pick this stuff out and push it on them. Cause you know our parents were right at least 10% of the time.

  25. girafferussle
    October 13, 2012 at 11:42 am

    This is why I think making your own costumes is a great thing. My mom always made mine and I used to make my own but I guess a lot of people don’t know how to sew or don’t have access to a sewing machine so they are unfortunately left with these options.

    Just out of curiosity, what implications does the word “geisha” give?

    • Partial Human
      October 13, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      I guess a lot of people don’t know how to sew or don’t have access to a sewing machine

      Or they’re broke, or exhausted from working three jobs, and are worried enough about where their kids’ next meal is coming from, without stressing over a one-night event.

      As for geisha, the popular western view is that geisha are prostitutes. So a geisha costume for little kids is dodgy, to say the least.

      • girafferussle
        October 13, 2012 at 5:34 pm

        Yes, I know there are other reasons why someone might not sew costumes, I just assumed people would be able to figure that out without me having to list every single reason.

        And I was worried that was the implication with geisha. I wish people would not make sweeping generalizations about other cultures without actually understanding them. Geisha are not and have never been prostitutes. They dance, play instruments, act in plays, do tea ceremonies, and entertain. Oiran, which look vaguely like geisha are prostitutes which is where I think that came from, but I don’t see how dressing up like a geisha is sexual.

    • kate
      October 13, 2012 at 9:48 pm

      “Geisha” are often believed by Westerners to be prostitutes, but on top of that, they’re fixated on as symbols of submissive, formal, and above all exotic Asian women. They’re fetishized even by those who do know more about them. Often, any image of a sexualized Asian woman will draw out the name “geisha.”

      To be honest, I was a little bothered by how evil fizz got “geisha” from that costume because of this. It’s a generic “Asian” fantasy costume, that ended up looking more like historical Chinese clothing than Japanese. The wide sash being singled out, especially, bothers me, as wide sashes have been an element of Asian women’s clothing (Chinese, Japanese, and others) for hundreds of years.

      Yes, the costume and packaging are gross. Parents are going to buy this for their kids so they can play-act as the demure, exotic Asian princess for a night, and they might even call her a “geisha.” However, we should take care not to fall into the same trap, and not to appear to make those same associations ourselves. I think evil fizz was referring to the stereotype the marketers are playing to, but it was ambiguous enough that I cringed a little.

      • evil fizz
        October 14, 2012 at 11:01 am

        I think this is a fair criticism. Part of the reason I wrote the post that way is that when I looked for comparable adult costumes, they were all labeled geisha. It’s a style of dress that’s been worn for hundreds of years in many different settings and isn’t just a Japanese style of dress. The American notion of a geisha stereotype (submissive prostitute) is definitely well established enough that marketers are playing on it, but I could have been more cautious in my writing.

        Short version: Kate is right.

  26. Val
    October 13, 2012 at 11:53 am

    These are horrible. Who buys these?? I couldn’t imagine letting my kid go out in that.

    The last couple of halloweens, we’ve gone to parties thrown by some friends. The first year, my daughter dressed like a Jane Austen heroine, as did I, while my son dressed like Horatio Hornblower. They looked flippin’ adorable (both were under 8 at the time). Last year, I dressed up as a lady from the 1940s, my daughter was Amelia Earhart, and my son was a WWII soldier. These horrible sexualized costumes are SO LIMITING to a child’s imagination. There are so many cool things you can dress up in…why limit them to only being a little kid version of a tacky adult costume? I remember the costumes I wore as a kid – I was a pirate one year, and a gypsy another year (got to wear lipstick! heck yeah!). You never saw little girls dressed in stuff like this when I was a kid. They were witches or ghosts or princesses or animals, not “edgy vamps” or “sailor cuties”. How have we as a society changed in one generation to the point where this garbage is seen as not only acceptable, but normal?

  27. revser
    October 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    I was a princess or fairy several years running, but never one from a Disney movie. My costumes were always some hodge-podge of my own creation, and I tended to give my princesses elaborate backstories and sometimes swords.

    Whatever happened to animal costumes? It seems like I used to see a lot more cat/dog/butterfly/etc. costumes than I do now. Those homemade animal suits were mostly sweats of an appropriate color, with ears/tails/wings and facepaint. Simple, cheap, gender-neutral, and not gross….

    My neighbor’s child told me the other day that she is going to be “probably a washing machine” for Halloween. That’s the kind of ridiculous and creative costume idea I can really get behind.

    I cannot imagine that very small children want to be a sexy anything without some prompting. It’s parents who are buying this crap, which is the most disturbing part. My mom had zero sewing skills, but we were always pushed to be creative and come up with our own idea (which was, yes, sometimes a princess, but other years really funny and creative things). This store-bought crap is problematic for the sexiness, but also the total lack of creativity or thought.

    • Chataya
      October 14, 2012 at 11:14 am

      Speaking of animal costumes, one of my friends in high school glued semi-circles of shiny fabric to a skirt and top and went as a fish! It was an adorable costume.

  28. Anastasia Bright
    October 13, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    It’s not just limited to Halloween. Recently, due to a complete parent fail, I had to buy a couple of day’s worth of clothes for my six year old at the local mega-cheapo-clothes-mart. It was a Marshalls. I usually buy things from organic stores or make them, so I honestly hadn’t been in the girl’s section of a ‘normal’ store in nearly a decade.

    The underwear section made me turn heel and leave. The only pairs that would fit my six year old (who is, I’ll acknowledge, about the size of an 8 year old) were poison electric green nylon/poly “boys shorts” style, with, I shit you not, lipstick kiss marks across the bottom and XX OO. The brand was titled something like “First Kiss.”

    For my SIX YEAR OLD.

    Now I remember WHY I decided to learn to sew a few years ago….

  29. wembley
    October 14, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    But women only find extremely sexy guys like Ryan Gosling to be sexy. I mean even guys can appreciate a guy like that.

    But women only find extremely sexy guys like Ryan Gosling to be sexy. I mean even guys can appreciate a guy like that.

    But women only find extremely sexy guys like Ryan Gosling to be sexy. I mean even guys can appreciate a guy like that.


  30. October 15, 2012 at 9:26 am

    I too am taken aback at the choices of costume on display for females in general and young females in particular.

    However, I do remember that my younger sister used to always want to dress in ‘sexy’ costumes like Playboy Bunny and Disco Dancer (which in the late 70’s was just basically a sexy outfit.) For her it was more about wanting to be older than being sexualized, and she grew up to be a professor of accounting with a great marriage and two lovely children, not a porn star, so there wasn’t really any lasting effect.

    So while I disapprove of the way these costumes are marketed, I can say there’s probably no reason to tear your hair out if your 7 year old daughter desperately wants to wear one.

  31. Jenni
    October 16, 2012 at 9:41 am

    This year, I’m being Alex the Droog for Halloween, from the book/movie “A Clockwork Orange”. Long sleeve shirt, long pants, combat boots, fedora, cane. By the way, I’m a girl. :)

  32. Muffin
    October 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Totally agree. I think “sexy” costumes are getting more and more ridiculous as well.
    I think this video does a great job of pointing that out haha

  33. skb8721
    October 29, 2012 at 10:19 am

    As father of a 13-year-old daughter, I agree with you about everything except the Asian princess costume — it doesn’t look “sexy” to me at all since it does not bare any part of the body except face and hands, and overall seems rather modest and traditional (in the photo anyway — I can’t tell if the skirt extends to the feet, but it seems long enough for propriety).

    Moreover, I don’t see how this costume is racist: first, it doesn’t say “geisha” to me — in fact, if you look up images of geishas, you’ll see that their appearance is quite different, including their use of white facial makeup and other traditional features (the trademark wigs, clogs, etc., that are not part of this Halloween costume.) (Also, geishas are not prostitutes, I should mention, despite the popular misconception.)

    This aside, some Asians still wear this type of clothing in public. Just last week I was examining an online photo essay about modern Japan and one of the images showed a woman in traditional kimono — which is what the Halloween costume in question seems to include — shopping at a modern convenience store. Granted, she might have been a movie extra on her break, but that is not what the article implied.

    In short, some Asian women dressed, and still dress, this way — so why is it racist to have a costume along the same lines?

    Otherwise, yes, the other costumes are horrid. And not only are girls’ costumes sexualized (or make our children sexualized) — have you seen the Bratz dolls (for which, by the way, I’ve seen Halloween costumes for kids) as well as the Monster High dolls? Now _they_ do look like little prostitutes.

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