Friday, October 25, 2013

Naughty Leopards, Sexy Vaginas, and Frog

Photo by Richard
A wise woman once said "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."

And while October nights don't seem conducive to bare skin, most women will end up scantily clad and disappointingly cliche this season.

Sexy costumes can be fun, flattering and even clever. Unfortunately, the option to dress slutty has become more like the rule.

Earlier this fall, Wal-Mart pulled a controversial costume off its shelves. Intended for toddlers, the "naughty leopard" was deemed too suggestive because of sexual connotations surrounding the language.

But this was no isolated incident. Girls of all ages are sold sexy costumes everywhere. For instance, can anyone really tell the difference between this child-sized police officer and this adult police officer? It's certainly not the amount of material used to make their uniforms.

For mothers, it can be a real struggle keeping daughters from products marketed with problematic messages about sexuality and gender.

When one mom decided to dress her daughter as several iconic women, the photoshoot quickly became an internet sensation. Her project now serves as a template, inspiring young girls (and their parents) to reject consumerism and come up with their own meaningful costume ideas.

While stores offer trick-or-treaters "naughty leopards," Amelia Earhart is a refreshing change of pace.

But that little leopard costume cut to the heart of a much bigger issue. Sexy or not, Halloween costumes for women are dumb. The ears were the only indication, amid a corset and tutu, that the "naughty leopard" was a leopard at all. And what about those lady cops? How can they serve and protect in skirts and knee high boots?

Women know, no matter what generic thing they're trying to be, the attire is short and tight, paired with stockings and heels.

But more creative websites like Take Back Halloween and the Feminist Halloween tumblr are trying to change those expectations. Both encourage women to think outside the clear packaging containing a predictable sexy nurse, sexy maid, or sexy referee. And as they take on misogyny, they're also addressing racism, because ethnocentric costumes, like Geisha, Eskimo, and Indian Princess, are sold every year.

What's worse-- people actually wear them.

These caricatures are beyond insulting. They're dehumanizing. Relying on stereotypes to inspire costumes is wrong. Mocking the identities of people corporations choose to label the "other" should not be a widely-accepted Halloween tradition.

Maya Behn, a teenage girl wanting more from the polyester providers, petitioned Party City asking for better costumes. Focusing on super heroes, she explained why women's choices were insufficient:
While men get to actually don the character's uniform, women wear dresses with character icons on them. There's no reason why women can't wear Batman's uniform with the pants. In addition, a glance at the 'women's careers' section makes it clear the only job for a woman is a prostitute. 
What a novel idea. As a consumer, let the supplier know your demands. Yes, some girls will always want to be slutty. And that's okay. But other girls want to be funny, or even frightening.

For those who remember the Mean Girls quote, Cady had an incredible costume. She was a zombie bride, otherwise known as an ex-wife, who had everyone asking, "Why are you dressed so scary?"

The Halloween-industrial-complex has replaced scary with sexy, and it's ridiculous. We've ruined a perfectly good holiday reserved for ghosts and goblins with cleavage and crotch shots.

But we've also determined that public displays of sexiness are only acceptable once a year, much the way stuffing one's face is only excusable on Thanksgiving.

Sexy isn't something you pretend to be. It's something you are and own.

You express it as an individual, all year long. It doesn't have to be extreme. It doesn't have to meet anyone else's standards. And it doesn't merit slut-shaming or sexual assault when displayed after October 31st.

But the real confusion lies in contradictions surrounding "sexy" costumes that aren't really sexy-- which is why no one ever forgets this video, or sexy mustard.

As indicated by the Girls's Costume Warehouse, when we examine a large sample of women's costumes, they range from nonsensical to insane. And they only seem to be getting worse.

No one knows this better than Daily Show senior women's issues correspondent Kristen Schaal, who took Halloween for ladies to the next level. She introduced the ultimate costume, the sexy vagina, and something tells me we're gonna be seeing a whole lot of those. Which is great, because isn't walking, talking genitalia what we were alluding to all along?

So this year, try something new. Be sexy mustard. Or frog. Be whatever you want. Just avoid purchasing something in a plastic bag, because it's probably unimaginative and offensive. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

International Day of the Girl

I think we can all agree, this year's official girl is Malala Yousafzai.

Watch this interview. Read her book. Donate to the Malala Fund.
And never take school for granted again.