Sexism and Halloween Costumes



“Sexy Middle Eastern Arab Girl Burka Halloween Costume”

There were protests when the above costume appeared for sale in Halloween costume retail stores. It is the perfect storm of sexism and cultural appropriation.

In the past, I’ve written about the harm of cultural appropriation and the need for whites to be sensitive to non-white cultures when it comes to dressing up for Halloween. While many scoff at the thin skin of those who might be offended by their giant sombrero or war-painted Indian costume, I think it’s important to be respectful of other cultures and religions. (For the record, I don’t think it’s cool to dress up as a nun for Halloween either.)

But this year, one mom’s protest against Party City’s sexualized costumes for girls caught my eye and reminded me that sexism is another problem with a lot of Halloween attire. Both young girls and women have a hard time finding a costume that isn’t either very “girly” or prefaced with the adjective “sexy.” You can be a sexy pirate, inmate, cop, nurse, etc.

I have no problem if a woman wants to dress up in a sexy costume or outfit of any kind. That is her prerogative. But the fact that it’s almost impossible to find women’s costumes of any other type speaks to a problem we have in our culture, and that is the objectification of women. That problem has even infiltrated our presidential election, in which we have heard Donald Trump talking about women’s bodies, faces, and weights, as well as his predilection for grabbing their genitals whenever he pleases.

I do have a problem with costumes targeted for young children and preteens that are sexualized. It’s one thing if your daughter has her heart set on being a princess for Halloween. It’s quite another to market a feminized or sexy version of, say, a police uniform, to a young girl.

Party City apparently took note and listened to that mom’s protest. This year’s website features the following police costumes:


Sure, you can still be a sexy cop or wear a girlish police dress, but at least there are options for girls and their parents when they go shopping for that all-important Halloween getup.

As for me, I’m going for the female empowerment motif and dressing up as – you guessed it – Hillary Clinton.



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