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Monday, November 15, 2010

Halloween costumes are getting inappropriate

I am rarely truly outraged.

(We interrupt this post for a message from Stacey's subconscious: Oh, snap, y'all! Bigmouth is about to go off on something. Here's a hint: It's gonna take awhile. You know she's gonna have to have three examples for everything, and a hundred smart-ass comments. So let me sum it up for you. Stacey did not appreciate the hoochie costumes for sale on Halloween. Y'all go on about your regular business now. Unless you have nothing better to do than read her stark-raving-mad open letter to the Internets.)

Where was I? Oh, yes.

I am rarely truly outraged.

Politics don't rile me. Religion only mildly annoys me. If those things don't make you mad, you're probably okay.

But I was really pissed about Halloween this year, when I watched girls no older than 12 prance by in skirts that barely covered their lady parts, paired with knee-high socks and heels. Really, parents?

Are you freaking kidding me?

I get it, moms and dads. We struggled, too. Emmie wanted to be Lady Gaga. I wanted to be something goofy, like a spelling bee or a cereal killer. Unfortunately, I am neither crafty nor able to sew. So I have to look for something "on the rack," so to speak.

But when I went to look at costumes - online, at Party City, Target, Wal-Mart, Spirit Halloween, and stores at the mall - with my sister and Emmie, I was mortified. Every recognizable and obscure female character from pop culture, history and literature has been turned into a gutter-trolling whore.

Cleopatra now wears a midriff-baring miniskirt. Amelia Earhart has ditched the chinos and bomber jacket, and now sports a low-cut top and impractical miniskirt. Even Hermione Granger, cerebral student witch, has ditched her academic robes for a robe more suited for the bedroom.
This is not okay, people!

What really got me were the bullcorn costumes available for girls ages 5-12. Alice, the virginal Victorian tween lost in Wonderland, now renamed Chalice, carrier of sexually transmitted diseases. Cookie Monster, a blue Seseme Street puppet whose only previous "action" was relegated solely to a puppeteer's hand up his butt, now gives her cookies away to anyone. And there was some kind of medieval/shepherd thing that I called "Little Ho Peep."

What's the big deal? You might ask. Didn't you just argue against sexualizing young children?

Yes. But it's not as though the boys' costumes featured ab-showing, butt enhancing cutouts in clothes the lengths of which wouldn't pass even the most lenient of school dress codes. They were normal, child-like costumes featuring a lot of superhero leotards.

But is it fair to compare boys' and girls' costumes? Boys and girls are inherently different. Isn't that like comparing apples and oranges?

Girls like to be superheros, too. But why does Wonder Woman need a mini skirt that allows drive-by gynecological exams? She doesn't. She needs cargo pants or stretchy spandex for her backflips and a tool belt for her awesome gadgets, like the lasso of truth. (Barring that, this is a way more entertaining interpretation of her costume)

Emmie's a super hero in 2011, and she doesn't have to worry about showing off her hoo-ha while kicking a bad guy in the face.
American women have fought for more than a century to be considered equals of men, and we're not going to lose that fight by dressing up as whores one night a year. In fact, younger feminists often embrace the idea that sexuality can be used as a weapon in that fight. On a side note, costumes have a long tradition in the boudoir - and, hey, what married folks do is between them.

But we're not talking about college-aged adults going to a tasteless pimps-and-hos party, or married adults engaging in fantasies. We're talking about prepubescent children being shown that, on a night when the clothes make the person, that person is mostly naked.

So what to do in 2010? Well, we cobbled together a costume from parts. Emmie wanted to go as Lady Gaga in her "Bad Romance" video. Not the naked part with the weird spinal protrusions; the dancing. So we bought white tights, a white leotard, white boots, and a hair bow. We were going to make the spiky headdress out of poster board, except mommy had a hair dye accident and spent several hours trying to fix it. Oops.

So Emmie essentially wore a ballet uniform with some crazy (but sheer) makeup that she put on herself in the car. And she was ecstatic about herself, singing the song's "rah-rah-ah-ah-ah" all night long and running from house to house. She didn't even notice that the street was filled with under-aged Vegas showgirls. She only noticed how much candy was in her plastic pink pumpkin head.

So maybe I'm overreacting. Hey, it wouldn't be the first time. And, like I argued before, adults are the ones who sexualize children. Children don't do it to themselves. For all I know, the bootie-short tutus so prevalent in tween costumes are there just for swishiness. I always liked a swishy skirt, myself.

But until Emmie turns 18, she'll be barred from clothing like that. Not only does it give off the wrong impression to other people, but the possibility of her internalizing those impressions is equally harmful. So I'll try to guide her towards more creative costume ideas, like an iPod commercial. Of course, Scott and I joke that the usual concerns for parents of tweens and teens won't matter to us, because the second she hits puberty we'll shuttle her off to a convent.

But I still worry. I've seen too many pregnant nun costumes not to.

This is also not okay.


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