Is the outfit on this page an appropriate Halloween costume for a toddler?
Lin Kramer, a Savannah attorney on the hunt for a costume for her daughter, thinks the answer is absolutely not. To her, it is inappropriate bordering on obscene. And that is what she told Party City, the retailer selling the costume online, in an open letter she recently posted to the company’s website.
“Toddler girls are not imagining and hoping that they will grow up to become a ‘sexy cop’ — which is clearly what your girl costume suggests; rather, young girls, just as young boys, see and admire their family members and neighbors offering service to their communities and delight in the idea of doing the same,” Kramer wrote. “I am absolutely appalled that your business reinterprets girls’ innocent and well-intentioned dreams into this costume.”
Kramer’s post went viral. After directly responding to Kramer’s post with its own, saying “we appreciate the insight and will consider your feedback for the future,” Party City removed their comment.
In an email interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week, Kramer said she hasn’t heard anything more from Party City. She has been, however, overwhelmed by the national conversation her post has generated regarding gender stereotypes and the sexualization of girls.
To make her point, Kramer compared the police officer costumes for boys and girls. The boy’s costume is straightforward: pants, buttoned up shirt, patrolman’s cap and walkie-talkie. The little girl’s costume, with rhinestones, heels, handcuffs and fingerless gloves, looks more like a costume for a musical than anything a female police officer would wear in this century.
“The underlying message, intentional or not, supports the antiquated gender stereotype that girls are to be seen and not heard, as well as the inappropriate suggestion that girls are to be valued only for physical and sexual appearance,” Kramer wrote to the AJC. “My concerns relate to both a lack of occupation-related options and the disturbingly sexualized marketing of those few options that do exist.”
Kramer said she was simply trying to get a large retailer to consider the subtle and not-so-subtle messages its merchandise can send. Party City did not respond to the AJC’s request for comment.
Come Halloween, Kramer’s daughter will have costume inspired by an occupation, a nanny, albeit a beloved nanny: Mary Poppins. And apart from the “magical” umbrella, which Kramer bought from another retailer, the rest of her daughter’s costume will be constructed in the time-honored tradition of many children’s Halloween costumes: cobbled together from stuff already in the house.