I'm an aggressively heterosexual male. I slow down and admire the mannequins when I stroll past a Victoria's Secret. In middle school, I spent a disproportionate amount of time on the "Kiss My Bass" panties page in my Bass Pro Shops catalog. When the Body Shop in West Hollywood burned down in 08, I observed a moment of silence.
But today, I was disgusted at Party City. I'm using "at" in the locational sense, not the directional sense. This is not an anti-Party City post, because it could have been any store selling Halloween costumes. I just happened to be at Party City helping a buddy of mine pick up a costume for his kid.
As I perused the aisles, my eyes were naturally drawn to the requisite "slutty fill-in-the-blank" costumes that adorn the display shelves in any costume store this time of year. I have always taken this phenomenon with a grain of salt, and have even made social commentary slanted jokes about it. I've shaken my head, but never with true revulsion behind it. But then I saw this, and everything changed:
This is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume for women. Ninja turtles are male, reptilian and a cartoon. You can have your vampires, you can even have your zombies, but when you take something as non-sexual and child admired as Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo and make them slutty (technically, the term is *sexy* Ninja Turtle), we need to sit down and have a talk.
When I take my daughter costume shopping in a few years, she'll notice this. She'll notice that while her brother can aspire to be a SWAT officer, Ninja, Doctor, Scientist, or Serial Killer, her future aspirations will include a police officer with a short skirt and handcuffs, a ninja with amazing cleavage, sleeveless dress and long gloves, a nurse who looks like she should be straddling a pole, a girl in a bun, glasses, a short lab coat, heels and a clipboard, or a girl in a tilted fedora and strategically torn dress mimicking the color pattern of Freddy Krueger's sweater. Of course, she can also opt to be a crime fighting turtle, with patent leather thigh high boots because, and I quote, "She's the smartest and sexiest of all the Turtles!" Oh, my bad, she's smart. Ok, the mini-skirt can stay.
Upon realizing this, I took a stroll down the costume aisle to find anything non-slutty (sorry, I mean... sexy... and smart!) for women. I failed, but I did learn that Harry Potter, Minnie Mouse and even Big Bird can be quite arousing. If there were a bouncer at the door, I'd be fine with that. But there wasn't. I was in an establishment full of little boys and girls who are forming an association between aspiration and fantasy, admiration and imitation.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the ideal progressive male. I will never be. I will objectify. I will sexualize. I will walk into an establishment with a bunch of my buddies, armed with a stack of ones. There is a time and place for everything when you're a consenting adult. But just as there's room in this world for a woman who starts out as a girl choosing a Halloween costume to put her sexuality front and center, there is just as much room for her to put her writing talents, love of quantum physics, musical ear, punching and kicking ability, entrepreneurial drive, crime fighting instincts, leadership qualities, and etc. etc. etc. etc. in front of the world to see.
These are the "fill-in-the-blank" possibilities I want to see for my daughter. When I finally take Lessi to buy her costume, I will try to shield her eyes, because there's some scary stuff out there this time of year.