Halloween is not my favorite holiday. I don’t like all the creepy costumes associated with darkness. But it is not just the creepy costumes that bother me. Too many of the costumes, regardless of how you feel about Halloween, send the wrong message to young girls.
Have you looked at the offerings for young girls. Like most fashion, the costumes sexualize the girls. Short skirts, fishnet stockings, revealing body parts — a sharp contrast to the boys. Take the pirate costume for example, eye patch, baggy pants and top for guys. Same for the girls except the girl pirate wear a short skirt.
Maybe you are thinking, really, Dr. Linda, now you are harping on costumes!
I am, and here is why. I like to take every opportunity to point out the messages to young girls about their bodies.
Media help move this message. Think back on the movie, Mean Girls, and the line the mean girls give, “Halloween is the one night a year you can be a slut and get away with it.” Then, the mean girls make fun of a girl who doesn’t dress like a slut. It’s not just Miley Cyrus swinging on a wrecking ball, but also a fashion industry determined to sexualize girls at a young age.
Why do I care?
Because the message that it is all about your body continues to be fed to our girls. And we know that sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandizing and media are harmful to girls’ self-image and healthy development (American Psychological Association, 2007).
Halloween is a huge merchandizing holiday, filled with naughty and sexual costumes for fun! But the message to have fun and be noticed is to sex it up. And I see the fall out of this message in middle schools, high schools and colleges–Girls who think they have to look like prostitutes to get noticed, and guys who think they have to score to be popular. Record rates of eating disorders and body dissatisfaction along with negative self-image are consequences of an over emphasis on physical beauty and sexing it up.
Parents, talk to your kids about their choices in costumes if they participate in dress up. Find something that doesn’t demean or sexualize them. Reinforce the message that your child is more than a sexual object or physical beauty.