Store aisles are lined up with items designed to scare children and delight Halloween lovers. The scariest things in these aisles are some of the offensive Halloween costumes that perpetuate gender stereotypes.
These costumes are harmful toward young women because they don’t encourage them to rise above gender expectations.
Costume manufacturers should be more aware of the gender stereotypes that some of their outfits encourage. Even though costume manufacturers aren’t imposing gender stereotypical costumes on people, that doesn’t give them to right to market costumes in an offensive way.
Miss Representation, a social campaign that started with an award-winning documentary focusing on gender inequality in the media and pop culture, called out costume manufacturer Halloween Spirit for using offensive stereotypes in their costume descriptions. Miss Representation encouraged followers to hashtag the words “notbuyingit” in their tweets to the manufacturer.
Before the manufacturer changed its description, thanks to these efforts, the raggedy doll teen costume was described as “whimsical and girly, but you are all grown up now so why not find out if big boys like to play with dolls!” This description used the “Lolita” complex where young girls are sexualized for the “big boys.” It relied on an offensive gender stereotype to sell the costume and make money.
Though Miss Representation made a change by encouraging the public to protest the offensive marketing, it’s not enough. If you’re offended by a Halloween costume, tell your friends about it. Encourage them to voice their disapproval to the manufacturers.
If enough people boycott the product, the manufacturers will look twice at the costume and why it’s not making a profit.
Also, females have to deal with costume manufacturers designing and selling costumes that debase them to just their bodies. As Lindsay Lohan’s Cady Heron said in the movie “Mean Girls,” “Halloween is the one night a year where girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.” While this is an exaggeration, there’s an expectation that women should look hot in Halloween costumes.
There are a lot of female costumes that are marketed as sexy. There’s the sexy witch, the sexy nurse and the sexy cop. Many times, while female costumes are designed to show skin, men’s costumes highlight other qualities such as humor or intelligence.
Not to say there’s a problem with females showing skin on Halloween. What’s wrong is that it’s only females who are expected to be “sluts” on Halloween. All I’m asking for is some gender equality. As a straight female, let me just say that I’m not opposed to guys being expected to show more skin.
I came across another example of gender stereotypes being portrayed when I strolled down the Halloween aisles at Wal-Mart and a flash of pink caught my eye. Instead of the red and blue Supergirl costume, there was a pink cape with a prominent pink S on the body.
Yes, some Halloween costume designer thought it would be OK to make Supergirl’s costume pink. Not the red and blue as depicted in comics. As a comic book nerd, this was unacceptable. As a female, I was insulted.
Supergirl isn’t the only superhero to fall victim to this “pinkification” of Halloween costumes. Barbara Gordon’s alter-ego Batgirl also has a pink Halloween costume to go along with the black. Who’s next? Will the Black Widow suddenly appear in pink next Halloween?
Let’s get one thing straight. Batgirl and Supergirl don’t have an inch of pink on their capes or cowls. Costume manufacturers made the decision to sell these pink costumes because there is a profit. Females should be free to wear pink superhero costumes, but manufacturers could offer them in different colors. Why not have more variety that isn’t gender based?
Because pink costumes are the only superhero alternative for younger girls, they establish gender stereotypes for girls at young ages. If young girls like pink, that’s fine. Just let them be aware there are other colors to like.
By changing the color of only female superheroes, costume designers reinforce the stereotypical idea that all females love wearing pink. It also assumes most males wouldn’t be caught dead in anything pink, because how often do you find a pink Superman suit made for guys?
These stereotypes put people in boxes and make it harder for people to express themselves through their fashion choices. It makes it more difficult for people who don’t fit the stereotype to find acceptance.
Enforcing gender stereotypes through clothing make children feel different for not dressing manly or girly enough. It harms their self-esteem.
If you care about the effects of gender stereotypes, make a difference. Contact costume manufacturers. Tell them to stop making costumes that enforce gender stereotypes on the wearer. Let them know if costumes are sexually offensive. Boycott a costume if it is offensively marketed. Ask for more color variety for all costumes.
At the very least, ask them to stop providing only pink alternatives to superhero costumes.
Kim Buckley is a senior news-editorial major. Follow her on Twitter @kimceebee or email her at email@example.com