Halloween, Slut Shaming and Double Standards


Welcome to Whoreloween! That time of year when inappropriate costumes are rolled out for our young girls. Because, you know, we just don’t have enough sexy superhero images for our girls.

Last year I wrote about an article about the sexification of Halloween costumes for Girl Body Pride. Sadly, this year, nothing has changed. Just a few weeks ago Walmart pulled the “Naughty Leopard” costume for toddlers. Likely not because they felt it was inappropriate – someone approved it in the buying office months ago! – but more likely due to the parent outrage.

There are more and costumes with little girls that feature tiny cheerleader skirt and low-cut tops. Read the descriptions on some of these seemingly benign costumes and they read more like ads from Backpage. Little girls aren’t reading these, their parents (most likely mom) are. So why the sexy? Why the entendre?


And let’s not forget the come-hither looks, cocked-out hips, hands on hips with shoulders forward looks that are the same or similar to the adult woman modeling a similar costume. Judgements, yes, I’m making judgements. Because years ago kids wore kid-appropriate costumes not sexificated costumes that were once relegated to adult-only private parties or clubs.

But coming off of the Miley Cyrus performance at the VMAs and the subsequent slut-shaming that followed for the many days, even weeks, it’s easy to see a double standard.  The conversation about Miley as a role model and what her clothing says to young girls has been quite heated. There are always two sides – “Miley’s a grown up and comfortable in her skin so leave her alone.” versus the “Miley’s actions border on porn.”

We look out into the world and judge people by our standards. Yet now we have the new buzz-phrase of “slut shaming”. Defined as shaming or attacking a woman or girl for being sexual, slut-shaming seems to have double standards. Why is it not OK to call out Miley Cyrus but OK to attack a corporation for having a costume with a seemingly inappropriate name? Why should we hold our tongue when young girls post provocative photos of themselves to social networks but rant and rave when a major retailer has thong panties or underwear with “inappropriate” sayings on them in sizes for tween girls? Why is a show like Toddlers and Tiara’s acceptable but a sexy costume worn for 2 hours while asking for candy not?

Don’t misread this. I’m not advocating for sexy clothing for my daughter. She doesn’t buy her own clothing and won’t for as long as I can be part of that process. And, no, if she asks for a sexy kitty costume she won’t get one. Instead, she’ll get that wide-eyed, crazy mom “How do you know what sexy is?” look. Followed by years of therapy for the sure to follow parenting fail of having a talk about sexy when she’s only 11.

So why the double standard? What is it about Halloween that gives us the right to publicly judge the appropriateness of another woman’s costume or the costume a child wears? We will all judge those teen and tween girls who show up at our door dressed like a Hooter’s Girl or in some type of sexy something-a-rather. Don’t lie. You know you will. And I freely admit that I will. And I’ll probably say something about their parent “allowing” this. All this despite my feeling that I have no right to judge another’s clothing choice.

Can we rightfully advocate against and rise up against those who “slut-shame” while we do the same when it comes to Halloween costumes? What kind of mixed message are we sending to girls when we tell them they can dress how they wish an no one has the right to shame them. Are we confusing our young girls in a way that inhibits their creativity and expression at a time when we, their parents, are supposed to be there to protect them?

The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding. ~ Albert Camus 

I don’t have the answer. I don’t think anyone really does. But what I do know is that I don’t like this double standard. I think our young girls need to feel free to explore their sexuality in a safe environment and if we’re telling them no one has the right to shame them while we shame others that’s not right.

Corporations should be called out for pushing inappropriate clothing on our kids. But how we do it sends a message to our girls, too. Is a “naughty” costume for a toddler appropriate? No. Should someone have caught it long before it hit the shelves? Absolutely. Do either of these mean we should shame and bully the business until they take it off the shelves? And if they don’t then what? One answer – speak with you wallet and don’t buy it.

Social media has given us an outlet for our thoughts, opinions, so much more. Social media has also created a breeding-ground for public shaming of all sorts. We can hold people and companies hostage with a tweet, status update, or post on any number of social platforms.

But should we? Is there a better way to change the clothing options for our young girls? Can we still try to raise the bar without using it to impale anyone who doesn’t agree with how “we” think “they” should dress or how “we” should dress our girls? Especially when it comes to one night a year.