Halloween will arrive tomorrow, with plenty of kids hitting doorbells looking for candy. Some of them will dress as though they want to work something out in trade, as Newsweek noted yesterday (via Instapundit):
Apparently, witches aren’t ugly anymore; they’re sexy. So are pirates and pumpkins and princesses–traditional little girl Halloween costumes that used to say, Isn’t she cute? now scream, That’s hot! with an increasing array of halter tops, bare midriffs and miniskirts. Costume catalogs and Web sites, filled with images of pouty preteens modeling the latest in Halloween fashion, seem almost to verge on child pornography, and ooze with attitude. Witches are “wayward” and grammar-school pirates are “wenches.” A girl isn’t an Army cadet, she’s a “Major Flirt,” and who knew female firefighters wore fishnet stockings? Even Little Bo Peep comes with a corset, short skirt and lacy petticoat.
And while complaints about “slutty” kids’ costumes may seem like a yearly parents’ lament, the industry has been ramping up the sex appeal to ever younger groups of girls. It’s not just 10- and 12-year-olds who have gone Halloween trampy. Now 6- and 7-year-old models are featured in catalogs wearing child-sized versions of skimpy costumes that used to be reserved for adult boudoirs. If you think we’re exaggerating, note that they’re actually selling something called a “Child’s Chamber Maid Costume.” And, many of the tween girls in the photographs are wearing more make-up than Christina Aguilera on awards night. More disturbing may be their expressions–they look as if they’ve been told to give the camera their best “sexy” gaze.
Tack on all the licensed outfits from popular TV shows and toy lines like Cheetah Girls, Bratz and Hannah Montana, and parents are having to search farther a field for something that won’t make their little trick-or-treater look like a lady of the night. But with adolescent girls parading around in short-shorts that say JUICY across the bottom, and every younger girls aspiring to be a diva of some sort, is it any wonder that their Halloween costumes have gotten racier? “No, but it is distressing,” says Joe Kelly, founder of the advocacy group Dads and Daughters. He sees the trend as symptomatic of a deeper issue. “The hypersexualization of younger and younger girls only serves to reinforce gender roles. When an 8-year-old girl can’t find a doctor costume because all they have are nurse outfits, that’s a problem.” Celia Rivenbark, author of the 2006 parental manifesto “Stop Dressing your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank,” has noticed it too, and says that Halloween has become “just another excuse for little girls to dress like sluts.”
It’s not limited to the girls, either. Michelle Malkin points out that boys can get in on the prostitution theme by dressing up as pimps. The Washington Post keeps the focus on girls in a front-page piece today that reports on the challenges parents face with pre-teens and costumes such as the Playboy Racy Referee, Major Flirt, Devilicious, and French Maid — all sized for the elementary-school set.
Why are we sexualizing our little girls? Whose interests does that serve? Carol Platt Liebau takes a look at the issue in her new book, Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls (and America, Too!). As the grandfather of a 5-year-old girl, this trend disturbs me and makes me question how she will manage to learn responsible sexuality in a world determined to cheapen and degrade her.
I look forward to reading the book — but in the meantime, we’ll have Carol on Heading Right Radio on Thursday, 3 pm ET. This topic hits close to home, and it won’t go away on November 1st. Be sure to join us.