Because at this time of year we witches scream. Not for fright, but in rage.
[cw: mention of sexual assault (in relation to a Handmaid’s Tale-eque costume)]
A lot has happened in the past two weeks. But if I let myself start writing about Kavanaugh, voter suppression, or Proud Boy assholes, I am going to start screaming and not stop. Luckily, I have a built-in excuse to not think about those things; my yearly Sexy Halloween Costume Roundup.
I have been writing round-ups of sexy Halloween costumes for four years now. That’s a lot of time spent poring over costume sites, evaluating their wares, categorizing them, and then thinking of clever things to say about them besides “Sexy costume. Ha.” (It also means that there is about a solid month where my computer cookies mean that basically all of my ad suggestions are for sexy costumes.)
I first decided to get a head start on the costume post for this year back in mid-September. And I started wondering… had I spent too much time looking at sexy costumes? Because while there were certainly plenty of costumes that were objectionable (And we’re gonna talk a whole hell of a lot about racist costumes here in a minute) I found that a lot of them… weren’t bad. And I might even… like? Some of them? I was pretty sure I’d gotten Stockholm syndrome.
Don’t worry. The feeling passed. Exactly three days later.
But we’ll get to that. First, I think it’s useful for you to come along with me on my journey from hopeful “huh” to despairing “oh my fucking god.”
So first, the costumes that I actually liked. Or at least kind of liked. And because I love you all, you get slightly blurry screenshots instead of links.
Yandy actually did remarkably well with quite a few hero costumes this year.
There is the Avenging Assassin, which is definitely NOT Black Widow, which I think is actually pretty fabulous aside from how difficult it would be to sit in:
There’s also a similar costume for plus size ladies, that I frankly think looks way more comfy.
There is a fairly fun if particularly booberific gender-bent Aquaman costume known as Atlantis Queen:
There is a pretty damn fantastic General Okoye costume that only fails in that it doesn’t involve pants:
There is a pretty spot-on Scarlet Witch costume:
There is Toxic Treat, a Poison Ivy costume that, despite being sexified, still manages to give her more clothing than the entire Arkham series of games:
There’s a Hornet Honey that actually is a pretty good take on the original comic costume for the Wasp. (And also reminds me of Dr. Mrs. The Monarch):
There is a legitimately cute anthropomorphized version of Rocket Raccoon:
There’s a pretty good take on Wonder Woman’s Themiscyra outfit:
There were also a few interesting video game-based costumes, including this legit fun Assassin’s Creed outfit:
And a fairly accurate Lara Croft costume:
There’s a cute and kitschy sexy Sherlock Holmes:
A sparkly peacock showgirl outfit:
A “Jackie the Ripper” costume that would be a really good Steampunk outfit:
A couple of Barbie costumes that are only as sexualized as much as… you know…. Barbie is:
A Clueless Cher costume that is exactly what it says on the tin:
A Jessica Rabbit/Roger Rabbit set that is… actually kind of amazing. I think they actually do a really good job of gender bending the Roger Rabbit costume, and it’s sexy without being insane. And again, Jessica Rabbit is already pretty damn sexualized:
This is a genuinely great flapper costume:
I would totally wear this bizarre but weird space cadet costume:
One of a million pretty passable Wonderland-related costumes:
I know I should hate this costume, because there is no reason to have a Prickly Pear costume, but I love it. Look at it. LOOK AT IT. It is so adorable. Look at that hat! Look at that bag. This is amazing:
I will be honest, I would totally wear this Pokemon Go trainer costume. Probably with leggings, because damn, but I would wear it:
I should not like this costume. I know I should not like this costume. This “Silent One” costume is a sexualized, gender-bent Hannibal Lecter. And no matter what fanfiction tells me, that is not ok. But it comes with a brain clutch. A BRAIN CLUTCH. How can I hate a costume when it comes with a BRAIN CLUTCH?
So you can see why I was getting a little confused. Why were there so many good costumes? Was I still on Yandy’s website? What was going on here? Was I actually finally going crazy?
Luckily, there were some costumes that let me know I was exactly where I thought I was. Weird ass trends and half-assed costumes abounded.
For example, there were four deer costumes. Four. Deer. Costumes. All of them new. Someone looked at the world and said, “You know what we need? Multiple forms of sexy deer.”
There were no fewer than three Mary Poppins costumes, all of them imaginatively labeled “English Nanny”:
Cavewomen were also a new trend, with two generic cavewomen, and two sexualized Flinstones costumes, Bedrock Babe and Bedrock Baby, the latter of which is sexualizing a toddler. Just saying.
There were some lazy and bizarre news-based costumes, including a Sexy Mystery Op-Ed, and a sexy Newsflash:
There were a lot of religious costumes, either due to the new Conjuring movie about the scary nun or just…. straight up sacrilegiousness:
… I am pretty sure this is what happens when you try to make the Three Wolf Moon t-shirt sexy:
And then you have this…. brain breaking quartet. Obviously South Park Characters, they are known as Small Town Erika C, Small Town Kylee, Small Town Stanka (seriously? Stanka?) and Small Town McKenna. I just…. cannot:
There were two Wednesday Addams costumes, known as Mid-week Honey (cuz her name is Wednesday. Get it? Get it?) and Gothic Child. I mean, I guess if you want to make it super clear that you’re sexualizing children you can but… it’s a weird decision:
There is a “Slim Man” costume that seems fine, until you think too hard about what that poor person does when they need to use their hands:
And a… Playboy Bunny logo costume. Was the Playboy Bunny costume itself, which is basically synonymous with sex, not sexy enough? Did we need this, too? This is bad. This is worse. It is emphatically less sexy:
And then… No. Nononononononono. No.
Do not accept. This is horrendous. It’s lingerie plus a sleep mask. No.
So a lot of these were bad. Some of them were really, really bad. But it wasn’t heinous.
I was first looking at this on September 17th. Some of my examples were admittedly added later, because as I found out on September 20th, apparently Yandy hadn’t finished stocking their store for the year. I found this out, because on September 20th, I found out about… this:
This… this is the Brave Red Maiden costume. It is a Sexy Handmaid’s Tale costume. A SEXY. HANDMAID’S TALE. COSTUME. This is literally an Onion article come to life. (Or at least Onion-equivalent.)
It’s also something that actually happens in the show, when June and Fred go to the club/brothel. I am not willing to subject myself to the emotional trauma of rewatching multiple episodes to find the scene, but I promise you there is at least one sex worker in the club who is dressed as a sexy handmaid.
To really explain why this is terrible, let’s relabel it. This is a Sexy Rape Survivor costume. There, I fixed it. And by fixed it I mean revealed how terrible it is. Handmaid’s are subjected to repeated, ritualized rape. And while I believe, to a certain extent, in the concept of embracing sexuality as empowering when you have been subjected to sexual abuse, that is a personal, case by case issue. Not for a company to decide on and sell at $64.95.
Following the outcry about this costume, Yandy did something I’ve never seen it do in the four years that I have been doing these roundups: they responded to the controversy, and took the costume down. It was the right decision. I was able to get angry and have my anger deflate within the same 24-hour period. But it also raised the question: Why in God’s name have they not only not removed other costumes, but continued making them?
So: the following is a selection of the worst offenders for new racist costumes at Yandy. Not all of the racist costumes, not even all the new racist costumes. Just the worst ones.
These costumes are named things like “Beautiful Native,” “Chop til You Drop,” “Chief’s Desire,” “Harem Nights,” and a name that I won’t repeat because it involves an actual goddamn slur. The only way that Yandy has improved over past years is that at least a fraction of the costumes are worn by actual women of color in the photos. But in every case, they are replicating racial stereotypes, making cultures into costumes, and again, using slurs.
We should be just as upset about these costumes as we were over the Handmaid costumes.
If you want to actually appreciate other cultures, there are places to start that actually benefit people from the culture you are appreciating. Try Beyond Buckskin for Native-owned online places to shop for clothing and accessories, and this list from Bauce for African clothing and accessories. But please, please don’t go there for Halloween costumes.
At this point it’s clear that we’re not going to stem the tide of sexy costumes. But if the sexy costume trend could involve less cultural appropriation and mocking of sexual assault survivors, that would be great.
Signed: Feminist Fury
Featured image of a jack-o-lantern light is by Flickr user Thomas and released under a CC-BY-SA 2.0 license.