Each year around this time, I ask our kids what they want to be for Halloween.
This year, our 9-year-old animal-loving daughter immediately shouted, “TIGER!” Okay, Sweetheart, I replied. Let’s see what we can do.
I asked Google to show me “girl’s tiger costume,” and this is what it tossed back:
Huh. Okay. Apparently when I typed “girl’s tiger costume,” Google thought I typed “flirty, sassy, or uber-sexified costume made of some sort of tiger print (unless you’re a toddler).”
Looking over my shoulder, my daughter’s exact words were, “WHAT is THAT?! That’s not a tiger costume! Neither is that! And neither is THAT!” She was completely offended, but for totally different reasons than I was. For her, they just don’t look realistic. She wants to be a real tiger.
For me, they represent the early and earnest oversexualization of our girls. My girl. My strong, healthy, self-assured, in-no-way-old-enough-to-even-have-sexy-in-her-lexicon girl.
Taking the word “girl” out of the search brought a few different options, though the vast majority were for kids younger than 6. It was surprisingly difficult to find a decent, realistic tiger costume for a 9-year-old.
And I’m irked by the fact that simply searching for a costume with the word “girl” in it brings up so many of these kinds of sassy/flirty/borderline-sexy results.
Yesterday, a friend shared this article about a “naughty leopard” costume for a 2-year-old. The costume itself isn’t as bad as the name makes it sound (though, again, a black and purple frilly dress does not a leopard make), but the Evolution of Girls’ Halloween Costumes slideshow at the end of the article is a real eye-opener.
Seriously, what the flip, people?
The article calls out the manufacturers and marketers of the costumes, which I understand. However, I don’t expect much different from marketers. They sell the people what they want. I think we really need to be looking at the people who buy the idea that this is okay. The people who purchase these costumes because they think they’re “cute.”
I get it, sort of. After you look at ten or twelve of them, that whole desensitization thing kicks in and some of those “girly” costumes do start to seem kind of cute. But let’s examine how young girls’ costumes end up looking like that in the first place by starting with adult costumes and going backwards.
I know those images are a little small, but you can see pretty clearly that almost none of these costumes are meant to resemble an actual tiger. An actual stripper? Yes. Tiger? No.
I’m reminded of the scene from “Mean Girls” where Cady says, “In the regular world, Halloween is when children dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”
So basically, I’m slut-shaming Halloween. Pretty unapologetically. I’d love to leave the sexy adult costumes out of it, but I’m a Mama Bear, and this trend affects our children – both the little girls whose costumes are being modeled after these sexy adult ones, and the little boys who are forming their image of females.
The fact that the sexy adult costume thing has trickled down into children’s lives is not okay with me. I don’t want my girls thinking that’s what it means to be a grown-up in Girl World. And I really don’t want to see little girls reflecting that “world” in their childhood Halloween costumes.
I know some people are going to say I’m overreacting or overreaching. And looking at individual costumes doesn’t show the whole story. But check this out:
When I went to the biggest online halloween shop and put in the following search terms, these are the costumes that came up side by side (pardon the fuzziness – these are screenshots):
Ummm . . . those last two are the exact same costume. I’m not the only one who sees this, right?
The question is, are we modeling young girls’ costumes after the sexy adult ones? Or modeling the sexy adult costumes after the cute little girl ones?
Either way, ew.
But what really concerns me is the popular notion that these kids’ costumes are “cute” or “stylish,” which somehow makes it all hunky dory. More and more we seem to be taking sexy adult fashions, barely modifying them, and then calling them “cute” and “stylish” on little girls.
I don’t think people even see it for what it is. Why would girls want to dress up like that “cuddly lion” above instead of an actual lion? Who is plopping the idea in girls’ heads that a short skirt, choker collar, and mesh elbow gloves have anything to do with dressing up as a ladybug for Halloween?
Personally, I think that as a society we’ve become so obsessed with being sexy that we’ve let this happen. Slowly, year by year, the costumes (and clothing in general) for girls push the envelope further and further, and it happens younger and younger. And the words we use to describe these clothes and costumes only serve to gloss over the truth: “Sassy” and “flirty” and “stylish” – and quite often even “cute” – have become fashion synonyms for “sexy for children.”
I don’t think it’s overreacting to question this. And I don’t think it’s overreaching to say that parents probably play a significant role in it. Marketers are catering to the clientele. I’m just trying to figure out how. Perhaps some parents don’t want to project the idea of sexualization onto their daughters, so they don’t question or discuss their clothing or costume choices, thereby letting the sexualization happen as it may? Perhaps some parents are so immune to the constant barrage of sexual images in the media that they don’t recognize how close these girls’ costumes actually are to the sexy adult versions, or see how that is problematic? Perhaps some mothers are struggling with their own sexual or body image issues and therefore live vicariously through their daughters, wanting them to be seen as they’ve never been able to see themselves? Maybe?
I don’t know. All I know for sure is that my daughter wants to be a tiger, and a frilly tiger-striped tutu and fishnet tights isn’t going to cut it in her eyes.