Halloween costumes have become increasingly sexualized in recent decades. At first, the trend was seen primarily in adult costumes. But now, as many parents of young children can attest to, the revealing costumes are available for young children as well.
Several parents spoke to the New York Daily News recently about the concerning costumes.
“Why is she in knee-high boots and heels — and why isn’t she in pants? Real female cops don’t wear skirts,” father Peter Armenia told the paper. “It’s like, ‘Boy, that looks sexy. Boy, she’s 5!’ That’s really not great.”
A quick stop into a costume shop will reveal all kinds of short-skirted, form-fitting outfits designed for girls who are barely even old enough to go to school. Even the names of the costumes, like “Major Flirt” and “Fallen Angel” raise eyebrows.
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“The title itself sends the wrong message to young girls,” mother Jennifer Pehr told the Daily News. “The hypersexualized version of this costume shouldn’t even be a choice for a child.”
Jean Kilbourne, an educator who studies the effects of advertising on women’s issues, says the revealing costumes introduce a number of problems to young girls.
“Some argue that these costumes are trivial, the girls are just having fun, but the consequences aren’t trivial,” Kilbourne says. “Girls who are exposed to sexualized images from a young age are much more prone to eating disorders, lower self esteem and depression. These costumes set girls up to be looked at as objects by men and also lead them to see themselves as objects to be ogled. Yet every year costumes are getting sluttier.”
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NYU child psychologist Dana Levy has a few suggestions for parents who want their kids to look their age for Halloween.
“Set up some ground rules before you get to the store — no skirts above the knee, no bare midriffs,” Levy says. “Better yet, go to the store without your child, pick out a few costumes that you approve of, and bring them home and let her pick one out.”