Thursday, October 15, 2015

Halloween Costumes Are Still Lack-Luster

This week I was a guest on the podcast Trade Paper Hacks for their Halloween episode of super hero costumes, comic book mayhem, and to promote my podcast, CosPod. It was a lot of fun and I always get a kick out of hanging with the TPH crew.

The obvious thing that came up in the conversation, when it comes to Halloween costumes, was the issue of body image and the "sexy" factor. Why is there this need to dress "sexy" for Halloween when you're a woman?

After the recording, I felt like my responses probably came off as slut-shaming. Co-host Alex had asked me what I thought were the two trends for Super Hero costumes this year. I answered jokingly if it was a trick question, because the obvious response is sexy and slutty. Why? Because those are the only options for women! So I'd like to first say that my words were in no way meant to slut-shame. I don't care if you want to wear the panty and bra costume. That's your call. Your body. You do what you want. I have never, and will never, disrespect someone for their costume decisions.

What I'm calling attention to are the lack of options for women's costumes. You get Sexy Witch 1, Sexy Witch 2, and Sexy Witch 3. That's it. Some stores may carry Sexy With 4, or Sexy Ninja Turtle. The options are sexy and slutty. That's not a choice.

Ladies! Do you want to be Captain America? Okay. Here's the women's version of the costume. Does being a bad guy better suit your fancy? One Sexy Riddler coming up! How about Princess Leia from Episode 4? Possibly one of the easiest costumes for party stores to create and market. Leia is beautiful in that dress. You don't have to mess with the iconic look. Whelp party stores did anyway. Here's "sexy" Episode 4 Leia, and this one is tame compared to what I found on the interwebs.

Over and over again women are subjected to the same line of costumes. If it's not "Sexy" this, it's "Slutty" that. And that really freekin' sucks. Where are the other options? Where is the non-sexy variety?

In all fairness to party stores, some non-intentionally sexed up costumes have been arriving; slowly but surely. Game of Thrones licensed costumes have full dresses that are semi-accurate to the show. So does The Walking Dead and Adventure Time. And this year several retailers began to introduce more casual Halloween costumes such as hoodies, sun dresses, and shirts. There's a set for A Nightmare Before Christmas that could be passable for daily geek wear. The Sally dress is a little short for my taste, but it comes to just above the knee. Even still this is leaps and bounds better then what has been offered in the past. I'm not saying the quality is great but it's a start. And to see an Ezio (Assassin's Creed) costume in store is mind blowing. Right up there next to Minecraft on the cool scale.

But those additional options are too few and far between. Not when I walk into a store and the first thing I see are rows of fishnets, booty shorts, plunging necklines, push up bras, and butt busting skirts. If I want to be a Stormtrooper, that should be an option. Not "sexy." Not "slutty." I want the exact same Stormtrooper outfits that you give men. Girls should not be excluded either. It's disparaging to see how different a character costume can look between boys and girls. Take the Ninja Turtles. They are a big costume this year. I've seen party stores devote entire aisles to the franchise. Boys are given one piece suits with turtle shell backpacks, a prop weapon, ninja mask, and sneakers. Girls have frilly tutus in various shades of green, a leotard, heeled shoes, and not all have the masks. They don't even get the turtle shell! And that sucks. Why can't girls and women be given the same options as men? And please don't use the "because you're girls" defense. It's stupid. It's trite. Having boobs does not mean I don't qualify to have a real costume. The other argument I hate is "because they don't want it." How do you know? Party stores have never offered the option to girls and women. How do you know what we want when you don't even give us the choice?

It sadly reminds me too much of how Halloween stores were when I was a kid. My options as a little girl were a princess or a princess. Or...a princess. Disney licensing on costumes wasn't fully-formed yet, so it was some variation of a generic princess costume. The boys got all of these cool things: Star Wars with lightsabers, Army fatigues, Police Officers, Firemen, Ninjas. You could be anything if you're a boy. You can only be a princess if you're a girl.

The year that they had Universal Monsters with the Bride of Frankenstein for kids I was stoked! Finally! A costume I could get on board with. And sadly the only thing I remember, other then loving that costume, were the weird looks I got from everyone who wasn't my family. I even remember some of the party store employees saying I would look stupid. I should be a princess. "Don't you want to be pretty?" Dude. The Bride of Frankenstein is pretty. Look at those glorious cheekbones, and that hair! But it didn't end with them. People around the neighborhood would comment on my not dressing like a princess. I'm glad I was oblivious to it all back then.

This girl did NOT want to be a princess. She wanted to be the bad ass queen, thank you very much. Or in this case, the bride of a monster.

And that's the thing: I never really had any options before then. It was princess, princess, or princess. After that year with Bride of Frankenstein, which ended up being removed later - but all of the boy "monster" costumes stuck around, my mom and I would make my costumes from then on. I was Cleopatra, Athena, Emily Dickinson - my no princess theme stuck. Outside of Frankenstein, the options for girls still defaulted to a princess.

So when I go to party stores now to look at Halloween decorations (that's really the only reason I go - I can't stand the costumes) it hurts to see how little things have changed. Princess has transformed into "sexy" for adult women. While there are more "sexy" characters available, it still comes down to the same concept. Girls - Princess. Women - Sexy. Our ONE Female Stormtrooper character from the new Star Wars movie, who is wearing REAL ARMOR, Captain Phasma, was originally labeled for boys and men only. It's a unisex costume, but it still doesn't absolve the error that it was set to be available only to those with a dick between their legs. The official Disney costumes have been adjusted on their site, but a number of party stores still carry the boys/men packaging. Guess where you won't find a Phasma costume? In the girls or women section.

Back to square one! It's Sexy Riddler. Sexy Robin. Sexy Witch. A number of us would rather be an accurate portrayal of Riddler, Robin, or a Witch. Probably not French Fries. I don't know why "Sexy French Fries" is a costume. It confuses me.

Being a "sexy" character is not a choice when it's the only option presented to us.

Halloween is not about pleasing the male gaze. It's about transforming yourself into something or someone that you can't be for the other 364 days out of the year. Give us that opportunity to show that "Yes, we DO want better, non-sexy, costumes," and we'll buy them! I can promise you that. For the women that still want to dress sexy, knock yourself out. There will always be a market for those costumes, and that's fine! I'm not telling you to stop doing it. But we shouldn't force ourselves into accepting "sexy" as our only option.

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