It’s no secret that there’s a huge difference between men’s Halloween costumes and women’s Halloween costumes (hello sexy…lady bug? Wait, wut?), but should that same gap exist between boys and girls costumes, too?
One mom very strongly believes no. After checking out Party City’s toddler costumes for her three-year old daughter, Lin Kramer wrote an open letter to Party City on Facebook, urging the company to rethink how it frames what’s acceptable
She begins the letter by comparing the classic costumes that are available in both the boys and girls sections. The classic costumes for boys include 53 different options, with 16 costumes relating to occupations. And for the girls’ side? There are 45 options, with only three costumes relating to occupations. Three! One of which is a cheerleader—and we all know how much those make.
Dear Party City,
Having just finished perusing your website for Halloween costumes for my three year old daughter, I am writing in the hopes that you will reconsider some of the content on your website and the antiquated views such content communicates about your company's beliefs. In order to understand my concerns, please direct your attention to the 'toddler costumes' portion of your website. Compare, for instance, the 'classic' costumes offered for boys and girls.
As you can see, the classic costumes for boys include 53 assorted options, ranging from traditional vampire attire to a 'rascal pirate' to 16 costumes relating to possible occupations. Meanwhile, the classic costumes for girls include 45 options, ranging from a 'vampire queen' to a 'precious pirate' to three costumes relating to possible occupations. (It is worth noting that I have generously included in this number the 'cheerleader' as a possible occupation, despite it being well known that even NFL cheerleaders are not paid well enough for this to be their only source of income, as well as the 'cowgirl,' although, unlike the 'cowboy,' she is clearly not appropriately dressed to be employed on any sort of working ranch). To be clear, that means 30% of the costumes you market to boys are based on occupations, while just under 7% of the costumes you market to girls are based on occupations.
If the nature of my concern is not already abundantly clear, please now take the opportunity to compare the girl costume representing the occupation of a police officer to the same occupation costumes marketed for boys. (Links are included in the "Comments" below this post.) Are you beginning to see why this might be concerning to your customers, and, well, society as a whole? When you look around at the police officers in your city or neighborhood, the uniforms they wear are probably substantially similar to the costumes you have elected to offer for boys. However, the same cannot be said of the costume you market to girls. Generally speaking, real life uniformed female police officers do not wear short skirts and low cut shirts, but instead wear exactly the same slacks and shirts as their male counterparts. Further, while your choice to market these different costumes to different genders is remarkable in and of itself, it is worth noting that this disparate treatment was apparently at least somewhat conscious on the part of your business. I invite you, and anyone else reading this letter, to review the description of the costumes. When describing the girl costume, your marketing team elected to use language like "cute cop" and "sassy and sweet," while for the boy costume, they chose to note the "realistic scaled-down police shirt" and assert that "this protector of the peace has it all under control!"
While Halloween costumes are undoubtedly about "make-believe," it is unfathomable that toddler girls and boys who might be interested in dressing up as police officers are seeking to imagine themselves in the incongruent way your business apparently imagines them. Toddler girls are not imagining and hoping that they will grow up to become a 'sexy cop' --- which is clearly what your girl costume suggests; rather, young girls, just as young boys, see and admire their family members and neighbors offering service to their communities and delight in the idea of doing the same. I am absolutely appalled that your business reinterprets girls' innocent and well-intentioned dreams into this costume.
Finally, the thing that I would maybe most like to point out to you is this: Your company could EASILY include many, if not all, of the costumes you have in the boys' section as options in the girls' section as well! And in so doing, you would not only improve the message you are sending to society, but you might actually help your bottom line by selling more costumes (since little girls shopping with their parents would be more likely to see these options)! Even if you insist (and I really hope you don't) on offering the sexualized version of costumes for little girls, you could also offer girls the realistic option of the same costume.
Look at the world around you: In a world where Ronda Rousey and Danica Patrick are excelling, there are certainly girls who would be interested in that Toddler Boys Everlast Boxer Costume or that Turbo Racer Muscle Costume. Perhaps you recently read about Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, the first female graduates of Ranger School; knowing that these women were once little girls, doesn't it seem like maybe there are girls out there today who would have some interest in the Combat Soldier Costume or the Flight Suit Costume? And surely, having observed female doctors when walking down the halls of a hospital, or female construction workers when driving down the street, or female postal workers when mailing a letter, it is reasonable to believe - both from a sociological and business perspective - that there are girls who might be interested in such costumes just as there are women who are interested in these professions.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with little girls who enjoy and want to dress up this Halloween as a 'Light Up Twinkler Witch,' or a 'Doo Wop Darling,' or an 'Enchanted Stars Princess,' there is also absolutely nothing wrong with little girls who might wish to give the 'UPS Driver' costume or the 'Ride in Train' costume a try! Please, Party City, open up your view of the world and redesign your marketing scheme to let kids be kids, without imposing on them antiquated views of gender roles.
Sincerely, Lin Kramer
A company as big as Party City can easily include just as many, if not all, the same costumes in the girls’ section as is available in the boys’, but doesn’t. Which is a statement on what the company (and let’s be honest, society) thinks about women.
To drive her point home, Lin then took it a step further by comparing the boys and girls police officer costume, pointing out the obvious and patronizing difference. Where the boy costumes were mini versions of what a real policeman would wear while on his beat, the girl version was flounced up with a flirty skirt and low-cut top. It doesn’t stop there, though. Lin also pointed out that the wording used to describe the costumes was as sexist as the actual outfits themselves.
“When describing the girl costume, your marketing team elected to use language like "cute cop" and "sassy and sweet," while for the boy costume, they chose to note the "realistic scaled-down police shirt" and assert that "this protector of the peace has it all under control!’” Well, that says a lot.
She goes on to say, “Toddler girls are not imagining and hoping that they will grow up to become a 'sexy cop' --- which is clearly what your girl costume suggests; rather, young girls, just as young boys, see and admire their family members and neighbors offering service to their communities and delight in the idea of doing the same.”
She finishes off the letter by asking Party City to change its view of the world and “redesign your marketing scheme to let kids be kids, without imposing on them antiquated views of gender roles.”
By pointing out if there really needs to be two different types of costumes for the same role, Lin isn’t only keeping her daughter’s best interest in mind, but women’s everywhere. And while Party City might not make any radical changes to its costume selection, hearing a strong opinion voiced this way makes us pause and take a critical eye to what we’ve been accepting. So even if Party City doesn’t change, we still can.