Your children have probably already chosen their Halloween costumes for this year’s trick-or-treating festivities. What about your ‘tween girls? I have noticed in several stores and on websites for “ideas” that there seem to be more “sexy” costumes for very young girls than in the past. Maybe I’m just now noticing, but do little girls and ‘tweens really need to be sexy for Halloween?
Of course, the media promotes sexuality even in toddlers. For instance, in a recent Toddlers & Tiaras episode, a 3 year old was dressed as Julia Roberts’ hooker character in Pretty Woman. We’ve also seen some parents’ outrage at push up bikini tops and thong panties (from major retailers) for pre adolescent girls. Many of our young girls suffer from body image issues anyway. Eating disorders are rampant ranging from anorexia and bulimia to binge eating for comfort. When overt sexuality is promoted in young girls, it sends a very mixed message to them and to the young men they encounter.
Kelly Finley, women’s studies instructor at UNC Charlotte in North Carolina, says that while it’s normal for girls to experiment with fashion, today’s trends thrust girls into an adult sexual light. “From a very young age, our girls start to focus on how they look to other people, and more specifically it’s become how sexy they look, how hot they look,” Finley says. “It starts to become, ‘Is this what’s attractive to boys?’ instead of ‘Do I feel attractive in this?’ ”
Joe Kelly, founder of the advocacy group Dads and Daughters, says the trend is 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.”
Perhaps our little girls just patterning themselves after their favorite TV shows and movies. Maybe they don’t even realize the message they are sending. As parents, we must provide some guidance regardless of what is presented in mainstream media – even at Halloween.
We still have a choice as to what we buy and permit our children to wear. Yes, like all “no’s”, it can be a battle. “All the other kids wear this, etc. etc.” Maybe this could open a discussion with your daughters about why they want to dress that way with so many options. Who is it for? What does it do for you? How does it make you feel, and are there other ways to feel that way? Again, even though Halloween is a time for costumes, “How will you be perceived, and is that okay with you?” Just because Halloween is over, the visual remains – sometimes even in digital pictures that can end up anywhere.
If your daughter wants to dress in a more provocative way than you feel is appropriate, at Halloween or not, perhaps you can create something together that you can both live with. Be creative and open minded, and please remember this one note of caution. Try not to criticize the “other girls” or the parents who allow things you do not. This isn’t about them; it’s about what you feel is in the best interest of your child. Keep it there. Criticizing others’ choices can put you at odds with your daughter and might limit open communication in the future.
Have a safe and happy Halloween!