A Rutgers University professor recently published a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer that makes the case that certain Halloween costumes, like the “Sexy Mr. Rogers” costume, reinforce “gender norms.”
Professor Stuart Charmé of Rutgers University claims that certain Halloween costumes are harmful to society because they reinforce “gender norms.” In a column published in the Philadelphia Inquirer ahead of Halloween, Charmé made the case that the “Sexy Mr. Rogers” costume reinforces “gender roles” because it was designed differently for women.
Charmé points out that the female version of the “Sexy Mr. Rogers” costume features a skirt and a revealing top. Charmé sought to highlight what he sees as a disparity between the intent of gendered costumes. To Charmé, female costumes are focused on sexuality. And male costumes, such as a lumberjack, a superhero, or a firefighter, are focused on “power and agency.”
Worse yet, as children grow older, commercial costumes offer different models for adolescent boys and girls. “Sexy Mr. Rogers” sums this up perfectly. Boys’ costumes express power and agency, while girls’ versions emphasize beauty and sexual appeal. A large number of Halloween costumes are inspired by comic book/movie superheroes. Boys’ costumes offer extensive choices and possibilities for instant muscles and superhuman powers. Not so much for girls. Their limited options usually include extra ruffles and ribbons for younger children, and tighter-fitting, revealing, and sexualized costumes for older ones.
Charmé claims that “sexy” female costumes fail to provide women with their own sense of power and agency. Instead, Charmé says that “sexy” female costumes serve the role of reminding women that they play a limited role in society. In this case, their role is that of “accentuating the importance” of their appearance for the sake of others.
“If we want girls to grow up feeling empowered by a sense of their own independence and agency, rather than being channeled into preordained gender roles that accentuate the importance of female beauty and sexual appeal, we should pay attention to the messages these costumes express,” Charmé goes on to say.