Walking through the creepy isles of the Halloween store, I had to stifle the urge to let out a blood-curdling scream. No, it was not the disembodied head hanging from one of the displays that frightened me; it was actually the costume selections my 16-year-old daughter was considering.
We had entered the store in search of a costume for her to wear to a big Halloween party on Saturday night. Having gone a few years since her last trick-or-treat trek, we hadn’t had the need to look for costumes for her in awhile. Thus, I was unprepared for what I found.
My daughter had informed me of some of her friends’ selections: Little Red Riding Hood, Dorothy, and a policewoman.
So far so good, right?
What she had forgotten to mention was the adjective used to describe each of these outfits: Sexy Little Red Riding Hood, Naughty Dorothy, and Arresting Policewoman. Each costume was built around one foundation garment: a bustier. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought we were all picking out costumes for a Victoria Secret fashion show, and not a teenager’s Halloween Party.
My teenager tried her best to “shush” my vocal objections, but I could not stay muted for long. Corsets, and garters, and stockings--- oh my! The only thing missing seemed to be edible underwear.
I understand that Halloween took on a whole new slant after the movie Mean Girls came out a few years ago. In this film, the main character, arrives at a Halloween party in—of all things –a ghoulish Halloween costume. She is mortified to find all the other girls dressed in little more than lingerie. And faster than one can say, “peer pressure,” teenage girls across America ditched all potential Halloween costumes that actually covered skin and once again, allowed themselves to be treated as sex objects by Hollywood and everyone else.
Somewhere, years ago, in the ancient civilization known as my youth, I, too, attended Halloween parties. One year, I went as Miss Piggy—wearing a bed sheet and a nose I cut out of a toilet paper role. Yet another year, I went as a bag of trash. Each of those costumes showed off my ample creativity, not cleavage.
Is it simply that we parents today are too willing to buy these overpriced costumes—which range from $49-$129? And by affording these costumes, are we affording our daughters a lesson we really don’t want them to learn?
I know my teenager would love any of those costumes –they are a great fantasy. But, a fantasy for whom?
When I wore my self made costumes all those years ago, I had an entire night of people affirming my creativity. That helped me grow into who I am today. But just what grows and develops in you from the basic affirmation that at 16, you nicely fill out a bustier?
My daughter is used to her “old fashioned” mom. She knew the compromise would end up being a home-made costume that is similar to the coveted ones, but slightly more modest ---and, yes, way more grown-up than her mom would like it to be.
But still, the backwards double-standard that society puts on our daughters bothers me. While I know without a doubt what the boys at that party will be seeing, I have to wonder what they will be wearing. I fully doubt that any of the boys will be buying any costumes that show off their bodies and sexuality. And still, we all buy into the sexing up of our daughters --- allowing, and thereby encouraging them to be defined by their bodies—all in the name of Halloween.
And frankly, that scares me most of all.