Clichéd and sexist Halloween costumes have always bothered me. They’re bad for women in a misogynistic culture that seeks to only objectify femininity and never allow it subjective, autonomous space. But they are also bad for a holiday that should be all about creativity, humor, fun, and even a little magic.
Whether it was because we were broke or because my mother really believed in the DIY spirit, when I was a kid I wasn’t allowed to buy pre-made Halloween costumes. In our house, Halloween was, well, sacred. It was my mother’s favorite holiday and her enthusiasm for it — including her willingness to put in long nights helping me create masterful costumes — was infectious. Today, Halloween is my favorite holiday as well. And it’s one family tradition I hope to pass down to my daughter, too.
But as a feminist parent, it is going to be hard to navigate around all the sexist stereotyping and sexy-izing of costumes and gender-branding sold to girls. I want my daughter to embrace strong female role models, not pine to wear a sexy big bird outfit.
I don’t know if it’s because of my mom’s rule about homemade costumes or if our culture actually is more sexualized now but when I walk into a Halloween costume section of any store, I am immediately angered and disappointed by the selection. Not just for girls who get slap-a-tutu-on-it costumes but for boys, too, because the gender lines are so damn rigid you could cut bread with it. It’s a trap. And it saps all the creative inspiration from a holiday that has so much potential!
To wit, I have scoured the internet, pestered my friends, and racked my noggin for inspiration to share with you. You’re welcome:
Editor’s note: Please keep in mind, this is a mix of adult and children ideas. Obviously, some of these are not suitable for children.
Lists of kick-ass ideas:
- Super Heroes (and Villains): Wonder Woman, the Bionic Woman, Elektra, and a HUGE list here.
- Buffy and Ripley are just a couple of the strong female characters in geek culture that make this list.
- Katniss and Hermione make this list of strong women from literature. Others to consider: Anne (of Green Gables), Dorothy Gale, and Alice (in Wonderland).
- Strong women in TV: Veronica Mars (yes!), Maude, Sidney Bristow …
- An IMDb list of badass women in movies: Beatrix Kiddo (of Kill Bill fame), Sarah Connor, Black Widow…
- The AMC list of best 50 female characters. Bonus points if you got as Hildy Johnson from His Girl Friday.
- Try Take Back Halloween for more ideas! Frida Kahlo anyone?
- Forensic anthropologist, medical examiner, or crime scene tech ala Dr. Temperance Brennan from Bones, Dr. Lanie Parish from Castle, or the many others who populate TV these days. (Great way to encourage your girl in STEM studies!)
- Cops: Det. Kate Beckett (Castle), Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (The Closer), Agent Dana Scully …
- Authors: Alice Walker, Eudora Welty, The Bronte sisters …
- Historical figures: Amelia Earhart, Rosie the Riveter, Margaret Thatcher, Mother Theresa, Ada Lovelace …
- Political figures: Malala Yousefzai, First Female US President!, Hillary Clinton, Benazir Bhutto, Michelle Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Condi Rice …
- Scientists and Inventors: Madam Curie, Jane Goodall, Hedy Lamarr (actress and inventor of frequency hopping technology that enables bluetooth today)
- More Careers: Doctor, CEO, fire fighter, chef, ninja, astronaut
- Real Sesame Street characters.
- Any Wizard of Oz character. (Double points for flying monkeys!)
- Flying spaghetti monster
- Any form of contraceptive. (Don’t say it can’t be done.)
- Scary costumes: zombies, ghouls, monsters, aliens, etc.
- Pop culture: Phyllis Diller, Julia Child, Liz Lemon, Rachel Maddow …
- Goddesses/Mythical: Nike, Kali, Guanyin, Joan of Arc…
- Animals: One commenter on The Tired Feminist Facebook page says her entire four-person family is going as a family of penguins. Fun!
- Sports: Race car driver, soccer player, football player (because it’s happened surprisingly more than you think), Olympian!
And feel free to liberate some old standbys!
Check out this photo shared by Nerdgasm on Facebook:
Have your own ideas? Share them with the group and post a comment!