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The Sexualization of Halloween

My older daughter, 4, recently announced with some amount of finality that she will be Minnie Mouse this Halloween. Should that idea sour before Oct. 31, however, she has the makings of a Cowgirl Dora costume waiting in the wings, followed closely by Rapunzel and then an Unnamed Princess Who Inexplicably Carries a Crayon and Tambourine.

My younger daughter, 1, isn’t aware that Halloween exists, but we will likely torture her with an owl costume regardless, mostly because my older daughter can say “owl” in Spanish and thinks her younger sister will be sufficiently annoyed by wearing an owl hat on her head.

Please note that when I say my older daughter will be Minnie Mouse and my younger daughter will be an owl, neither is a euphemism for slutty-Minnie or whore-ish Owl. Minnie’s dress will not be low-cut, and the owl’s body suit will not have a suggestive slit up either thigh. Because those would be totally gross. Did I mention my daughters are only 1 and 4 years old?

By not dressing them as the street-walking versions of their totally innocent costume choices (with very little emphasis on “choice” for my younger daughter, as previously stated), we are apparently the cheese standing alone this Halloween, at least based on the prevalence of slutty Halloween costumes advertised for young girls. And by “young girls,” I don’t just mean college-age girls attending raucous fraternity parties. I mean girls as young toddlers who could choose costumes that might easily be mistaken for uniforms worn by Hooters waitresses or those whose job descriptions include the words “stripper” and “pole.”

It’s one thing to dress little girls in bikinis. There was a minor uproar over Elizabeth Hurley’s new swimwear line for girls, which critics decried as “disturbing” and “inappropriate.” However, last time I checked, swimming was one of the activities where fewer clothes were usually better and widely accepted because you could experience the cool sensation of water that much more acutely.

That little girls wear bikinis is fun and comfortable. If there’s less material rather than more, well, that’s the point of a bikini, no? Otherwise wouldn’t we just be dressing them in the bloomers favored by women in the 1920s? The littlest girls have no developed breasts, hips or waists, so the more skin they show, the more they reveal in bathing suits exactly what they don’t have. Tell me the problem with that, exactly?

Halloween costumes, on the other hand, are a whole other story. These days girls can strut their stuff as slutty pirates, leopards, nurses, witches and, of course, ghosts. The costumes suggest grown women and sex. Plain and simple.

Imposing sexuality on a girl dressing up to ask strangers in their homes for candy is utterly preposterous—that people would make the costumes and parents would buy them is even more icky and wrong. Part of the fun of Halloween for kids has always been dressing up as cuter, sassier and more imaginative and creative versions of their personality.

Why would we ever tell girls that being sexually suggestive at a tender age is a fitting part of who they are?

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