While preparing for Halloween, I was in Wal-Mart looking for a costume to complement Isaac’s Scooby Doo outfit. I decided I was going to be his best friend, Shaggy, and I needed to find a wig and a fake beard. After passing the countless bags of candy corn, mini Snickers, and other “Scooby snacks,” I made my way into the costume section.
The aisles were overflowing with costumes, separated by both age and gender. Toddlers had the choice of being a bumblebee, Buzz Lightyear, a cheerleader, a witch, and Spiderman, to name just a few. As I made my way down the aisle, I found myself looking at the options that women were given. It wasn’t long before I had my phone in hand, taking pictures. There were approximately eight different costumes for women, all of which included shorts, skirts, fishnets, and low-cut tops.
A few teenage guys were next to me trying on wigs and sunglasses and noticed I was taking pictures of the different costumes. They told me they were all dressing up as Justin Bieber. To my dismay, they had never heard of Scooby Doo, much less Shaggy. I asked them what they thought of the costumes sold to women. One of the guys took one glance at the selection and said, “They are hot! They all look like a bunch of sluts!” The guys laughed.
I am not trying to take the fun out of Halloween, but I do feel like we need to take a closer look at what is going on with the costumes provided for men, women, boys and girls, and question how our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are influenced by wearing and approving these particular outfits.
To begin with, what kinds of expectations are we giving women and girls when we only provide them with costumes that set them up to be objectified? Sexual objectification is seeing a person as a sexual object and emphasizing her sexual attributes and physical attractiveness, while deemphasizing her existence as a living person with emotions and feelings of her own. In my experience, violence is too often the outcome when women and girls are objectified. Why would we want to reinforce this behavior?
Furthermore, take a closer look at the occupations provided to boys and girls with Halloween costumes. Girls are often given the options to dress up as a waitress, maid, a sexy nurse, and a flirty officer, whereas boys are given the options of a doctor, a superhero, police officer, Marine, a SWAT team member, and a pilot. Ask any 5th grade girl what she wants to be when she grows up and I doubt she aspires to wait tables and clean up after others. No, my guess is that she wants to be a doctor, a lawyer, or even the President of the United States.
It occurred to me as I left Wal-Mart that my Halloween observations served as an excellent teachable moment for me to share with Isaac. When I got home I asked him why he had chosen to be Scooby Doo. He shared that he liked how Scooby talked and thought he was funny. I recognize that as Isaac gets older, his interest in costumes will undoubtedly change and Scooby and the gang will soon be discarded. As those interests change though, I will be there to encourage him to be what he wants to be, rather than what others expect.