Bare Bones: The Lingering Spirit of Sexism in Halloween Costuming

 

Halloween is fast approaching and with it comes the inevitable cold gust that lets us all know winter is well on its way. To the vast majority that would signal a time to start layering up and doing our best to stay warm. However, it appears design teams creating women’s Halloween costumes have a very different opinion.

It only takes a quick search on Google to observe the startling disparity between the male and female editions of many popular costumes. Oftentimes the lack of material available on women’s costuming is unsettling to say the least, especially in comparison to the less sexualised – and much warmer looking – male alternatives to several popular costumes.

Perhaps the most confusing is the skeleton costume. While the men’s version is all-covering, the women’s rendering features bare arms, shoulders, and exposed thighs. But why? It seems costume manufacturers are unaware that the very idea of flesh in a skeleton costume is ridiculous to begin with. It’s evident these companies are content with sexing up almost any costume available to women. In 2019, it’s frankly disturbing, especially when their efforts are as ludicrous as this.

Thankfully we live in a time in which women can wear whatever they please, which makes it all the more disappointing to see the lack of choice that many women face if they do not wish to bare skin and risk hypothermia in the name of a party on this Hallow’s Eve.

Dressing up as another person’s occupation remains an enduringly popular option every Halloween. It also serves as a reminder of how deeply embedded sexism is in the costume market. Studying occupational costumes, such as that of a construction worker, Halloween’s hypersexualisation problem becomes clear. While there’s nothing sexual about a high visibility vest and a will to be safe in a construction site, once again, the marketing teams don’t seem to agree, emphasising bare skin and a chilling lack of empathy.

Companies are content to reinforce the negative gender stereotypes that women need to look and feel ‘sexy’ when costume season comes around, whilst the men face much less pressure to do the same.

Even children’s costumes are imbued with this upsetting ideology, which in turn creates questionable differences in costuming. Should one look at the ‘cop’ costume for children, the girl’s costume feature a skirt, tights, knee-high boots, and a lack of sleeves, whereas the boy’s costume featured full coverage and a more realistic depiction of what a law enforcement agent looks like in real life.

In a world in which a policewoman can be a remarkably strong role model for any young girl, it’s disconcerting to observe companies warp the image of these positive role models in any young girl’s mind in order to push forth this sexist ideology to as young a demographic as possible. Any young girl should have the option to dress as any real world hero, as they would actually appear in our day-to-day, without the fear of having to fit into a distorted and sexist depiction of such a hero as is presented.

As more people become aware of this issue with each passing Halloween, it remains to be seen if costume manufacturers will finally begin to alter their archaic point of view.  At Halloween, one’s fears should be limited to eating too many sweets, and the odd ghoul passing through the town. However, the thought of costume companies continuing to push forth these sexist ideals, and what that means for the next wave of trick or treaters, is a scary one indeed.