Several people have mentioned to me lately that they are having a hard time finding a ladies' Halloween costume that isn't "sexy". One friend even showed me a picture of an equestrian outfit with a plunging neckline and a tiny added tutu, presumably for the "sexy" horsewoman. Definitely not practical for riding. Not everyone wants to dress "sexy" and so while some people are OK with these costumes, some are not, and are looking for something else. The "something else" is increasingly hard to find, apparently.
We didn't dress up for Halloween when I was growing up, there was no trick or treating. Halloween for us was a bit of bobbing for apples and scaring ourselves with superstitious stuff about mirrors. My first costume party at Halloween was as an adult. I chose to dress as a "naughty nun". Ripped fishnet stockings and a very short habit. It was what you would call ironical. Nuns aren't supposed to be naughty, you see. That was the joke.
So, you see I'm not averse to that sort of thing.
But we have a problem greater than that. We have "sexy" costumes for children. And a lot of people are objecting. This problem goes way beyond Halloween costumes. People been complaining for a number of years now of clothing for girls that is considered age inappropriate, and the difficulty of finding anything else.
This gives us a bit of a problem, because thinking women do not want to dress their daughters in these inappropriate styles, while at the same time, not wishing to criticize the styles themselves, because they want to wear them. Words have to be chosen carefully. You can't go around calling these age-inappropriate things "sluttty", for example, and then object to having your own outfit described in the same way. We are trying to stop the policing of fashion in this way.
To figure this all out we have to look a bit deeper.
I have the advantage of coming from a different time and place. When my girls were toddlers, they ran on the beach naked. This was normal, in that time and place. When they were a little older, but still pre-school, they wore what were effectively bikini bottoms. No tops, because they were small children. You could, at that time, walk into any children's clothing shop and buy them. What did a small child need a bikini top for?
We came to Canada, and discovered something very odd. On the beaches there were toddlers in bikinis. There were also slightly older girls running naked. You could tell who the European immigrants were in this way. The Canadian mothers were shocked to see little girls running around naked. The European mothers were shocked to see little girls in bikinis. I witnessed more than one argument over it. To the European mother, the bikini sexualized the child, because it emphasized the idea of "breasts" even though she had none.
You could easily take sides here, based on your own background and views on the matter, but the fact remains, these were all good people. These were all responsible parents doing what they believed to be best for their child. And clearly, there were some strong feelings about it all. How do you allow for everyone's feelings, and smooth this all out?
Actually, it's quite easy. Mind your own business. You choose what you and your child wear, and stay out of what others choose.
The objection to this, and I hear you, is that dressing a child in an age-inappropriate outfit is going to attract perverts. It may even be true. But I don't know about you, I don't want to live in a world where perverts run my life for me. I don't want to give them that power. Moreover, I'm not convinced that dressing your daughter in a Victorian dress, or in completely practical kid clothes such as jeans and a t-shirt, is going to protect her from perverts. Do we have any data here? I don't know. When girls are sexually assaulted does anyone ask "what was she wearing?" like they do with adults?
And if you came across a case where a child was assaulted, and the assailant blamed it on her clothing, would that give him any credibility in your eyes? Think about that very carefully, because that's what it comes down to.
Why then, would a thinking woman object to a "sexy" costume, if we don't believe it's anybody else's business what we wear?
This was put to me, in one such conversation, "you can't have it all ways, you don't want anyone criticizing or even commenting on what you wear, but you complain about the shops being full of "sexy" costumes, and you insist that clothing is just clothing, yet you yourself note that this is "sexy" clothing, and as as a result, you get uptight about it, and really uptight when it's for children."
Fair comment, but missing the point completely.
If you've read this far and whether you had considered this whole issue before, or you hadn't, and you are now pondering it, what I want you to think about is why women are angry about people telling us what to wear, and why, in the first place.
What we are hearing, is that we don't get to choose. This is what we are always hearing. This is the entire basis of our fight for equality. It's not that we object to the existence of "sexy" costumes, it's that we can't find any others. It's that we are told that's where our value lies, as a "sexy" thing. Maybe we want to be "sexy", and maybe we don't, we'd like that choice. But we are told, no, you don't get that choice. You don't don't even get to decide which is which.
We are told that others will decide for us.
And then there's this.
In an interesting twist here, I was told recently that I should stop looking at this as a feminist issue because the worst culprits when it comes to criticizing what women wear are other women. And it's true. Bitchiness and gossip has long been a hobby for many women (not that men don't do it) and I doubt that will ever change. The reason people do this is quite often lack of self-esteem. Not always - everyone is capable of it - but typically somebody who is insecure in themselves will pick on others. It's a classic human failing.
But not all women are feminists. A lot of women reject feminism, for a variety of reasons. Feminism is not "something women do". It's something people who see imbalance in the current system do. We see things that are wrong in the current system, and we speak out against them. And the sexualization of children is wrong. 100% wrong. No excuses wrong. No ifs or buts wrong. No wiggle room wrong. You don't need to be a woman to see that.