December 2015 Bar Bulletin
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Hiked Hemlines for Halloween: The Sexualization of Girls’ Occupational Costumes

By Quinn Sullivan


Sparkles and tutus galore, the girls' costume section in your average Halloween shop is filled with short, shiny skirts and low-cut tops. From toddler to teen, girls are transformed into sexualized versions of princesses, movie characters and, most shockingly, professionals.Career-based Halloween costumes are a rising trend among all ages. However, with the hiked hemlines and scanty scoop necks in the girls' section, a negative image is cast upon women in occupations.Discrimination of women in the workplace has been a hot topic for years. The history of inequality dates back centuries. While it is gradually improving, full equality for women has yet to be reached. Female employees are still paid less than 80 percent of their male counterparts. Needless to say, this number is too low and women deserve better.

For those still trick or treating, dressing up is about looking the part. When one scrolls through the website of Party City, a successful costume emporium, the outfits for young female professionals are far from realistic. Labeled as "sassy and sweet," the girls' cop costume leaves a lot to be desired as far as realism goes. Sporting a tight-fitting and outrageously short navy dress, the young "police officer" looks nothing of the sort.

With no real resemblance to their character, little girls wear their "cutified" outfits as girly dress-up. Boys, on the other hand, have a variety of practical-looking firefighters, policemen and FBI agents to choose from. Their costume descriptions include words such as "look of authority" and "realistic." There is something wrong with this picture.On Party City, three out of the 45 costume options for young girls are career oriented, compared to 16 out of 53 for the boys. In fact, unlike the boys, the girls don’t even have a section titled "careers."Here is where the problem begins. The limited number of girls' occupational costumes reiterates the inequalities toward working women as it implies a lack of importance and strength. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women make up 47 percent of the general workforce. It is imperative that they be represented accurately.The sexual images incorporated into occupational costumes are a major setback for the portrayal of females in careers. With a degrading character such as "sexy nurse," the legitimacy of women in occupations diminishes further.

Already bombarded by ugly tradition and societal expectations, women in professions must often take massive efforts to gain respect for themselves. Typical girls' Halloween costumes complicate things even further as they reflect little appreciation for women in careers. Dressing in a skimpy police skirt not only disrespects the women in that field, but also decreases desire for young ones to grow up and become independent, working females. Women doctors, lawyers and business owners are not properly depicted in the world of Halloween.Despite the provocative advertisement from holiday shops, blame also lies in the hands of the consumer. While Party City is indeed a source of injustice for women, its intentions are distinctly to make a profit and it will continue to produce what is selling the most. Whether it be parents of young ones or teenage girls themselves, purchasing these risque outfits only propels the issue further.

Have some respect for the great strides that women have made to establish themselves in the workforce. Sexy occupational costumes may be eye catching, but they work against these efforts and detract from the value of female workers. Girls, wear what you please, but keep in mind the way that you are representing the tough and powerful women above you.

Originally published in the Garfield High School Messenger on October 30. Reprinted with permission.


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