A Trip to the Halloween Costume Shop

by | October 18, 2015
filed under Feminism, Pop Culture

Halloween is probably my favourite holiday—it involves costumes (yay!), candy (double yay!) and mostly avoids the colonialism/assumed Christianity/capitalism trap that so many other holidays fall into. However, anyone who has ever looked for a costume knows that Halloween is rife with sexism, racism, cultural appropriation, and just hilarious levels of sexualization.

My friend and I set out to the costume shop to see how bad things are this year. With the loose criteria of: “If it makes me cringe, sigh, or fill with rage take a picture,” I came away with 159 pictures. One hundred and fifty-nine examples of racism, sexism, cultural appropriation, and things made inexplicably “sexy.”

Since no one wants to sit through 159 pictures of cultural detritus I’m going to tackle this thematically. Won’t you come along?

October in Vancouver can be warm and dry or cold and wet or any combination of those, but in much of Canada late October is getting firmly into cold weather territory, so you may be tempted to dress up as a cozy animal. Granted, unicorns, bats, and sharks are not the first animals that come to mind when I think “cozy.” And mini-dresses with bare legs may leave a little to be desired when it comes to coziness but I guess we all make sacrifices for fashion, right?

Collage of sexy animal costumes

Quick question on the topic of animals—cougars don’t have spots, right?

Maybe coziness isn’t high on your list, though, and you’d rather be a kickass superhero?

Superhero lingerie

Oh, sorry, did I not specify that you’d be in lingerie while playing the kickass superhero? Yeah, yeah, I know that there’s a big issue with the sexualization of superheroines and utterly impractical costumes. Okay! Fine! You don’t have to be a superhero.

You like sci-fi, right? How about sexy R2-D2? No? Jeez. Okay, we’ll get away from films entirely, how about an angel? Yes, a sexy angel. Why would an angel be sexy? What an odd question. Why wouldn’t an angel be sexy? Just choose your sexy costume and let’s move on, okay?

Okay, moving on, let’s checkout Cultural Appropriation Station to see what to definitely avoid. No, I don’t understand why there’s a Rasta banana either. A banana? I don’t know.

Collage of cultural appropriation costumes

I know what you’re probably thinking—yes, there is a geisha there, of course there is. And a wide variety of Día de Los Muertos costumes to appropriate another culture’s sacred day. Yes. But we can’t talk cultural appropriation without noting the caricaturization of Indigenous peoples, right?

Collage of racist "Native American" costumes

And just in case you’re still not sure why cultural appropriation is harmful check out this post.

Okay, so you don’t want to be a sexy animal, you don’t want to wear superhero lingerie and you don’t want to be appropriative or disrespectful to other cultures. Awesome! Where does that leave us? How about Waldo? Or an astronaut?

Gendered Where's Waldo/Wanda and astronaut costumes

No, I don’t know why they’re gendered either. You gotta admit, though, that sexy lady astronaut costume looks pretty sturdy. It would definitely stand up to a spacewalk.

Fine, fine! You don’t like Waldo or the astronaut? How about something funny? You like wordplay, right? Well, do I have a treat in store for you!

Punny Collage

I admit, once out of the package the puns don’t really hold up.

“What are you?”

“Puck U.”


“Puck U!”

“Uhhh, sorry to bother you?”

“I’m General Lee Hot!”

“Oh, like you run warm? Interesting. I used to run warm until I had my gallbladder removed, now I’m chronically cold.”

“No, not generally hot. General Lee Hot!”


So…maybe wordplay is out? But since we’re over here let me show you the two outliers I found.

Punny Outliers Collage

I only found one punny costume for men and it is horrifying. I think we can all picture exactly the lecherous dude who would wear this, with everyone wondering who the hell invited this guy again. The other one…I assume it’s meant to be a play on words because it makes no sense otherwise. But—that’s not a play on words. Maybe a heart costume with handcuffs would make sense for “Cardiac Arrest” (though why anyone wants to be “cardiac arrest” for Halloween I’ll never know), but this is just a sexy nurse.

Okay, I can tell you’re getting a little overwhelmed and despairing for the state of humanity, so why don’t we check out the kids’ costumes? I’m sure they’ll be adorable and not at all needlessly gendered.

Collection of nine sexualized costumes for little girls

Oh dear. Never mind. Turns out it’s never too early to introduce hypersexualization and racist caricatures.

Okay, I’ve got a couple ideas of things that simply can’t be made sexy. Let’s—

Sexy Care Bears and Sexy Crayon costume

Never mind.

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