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Family Matters 10/27/17

Are Halloween Costumes Sending the Wrong Message?

Halloween costume

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 what is available in stores? Many of the costumes sexualize 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. Here's why. I like to take every opportunity to point out what the cultural message is to young girls about their bodies.

Take the movie, Mean Girls, for example. The mean girls have a conversation, 'Halloween is the one night a year you can be a slut and get away with it.' Then, they make fun of a girl who doesn't dress like a slut. The message is, if you want to be cool, sexualize yourself. I know it's only a movie, but this type of message is given in music and other media too. 

It's not just media that objectifies young girls, but also the fashion industry. 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). Yet, it continues.

Halloween is a huge merchandizing holiday, filled with naughty and sexual costumes for fun! There is nothing "fun" about sexualizing young girls. I see the fall out of this message in middle schools, high schools, and colleges–girls who think they have to be sexy in order 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. Let them have fun without being objectified.

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