Halloween Horror Story: Feminist Dad’s Scary Visit To The Girls’ Costume Aisle

BeautyGirlsHolidayWomen's Rights 10 Comments

By John Marcotte – We went to the local Halloween superstore for some supplies. While we were browsing, my wife Patti noticed they had a “Boys Career” section, complete with doctor, fireman and astronaut costumes.

We thought it would be interesting to compare the boys’ choices with the choices the girls were given in their career section. Would the girls get equivalent options? Or would they be offered nurse, secretary and cheerleader instead?

Halloween_Boys AisleThe good news is that I was wrong. The girls were not saddled with nurses and secretaries as their only career paths. The bad news is there was no “Girls Career” section at all. None.

They did, however, have an entire section – I am not making this up – labeled “Flutter Fairy”. This was separate from the regular fairy section. I’m guessing because there is more “fluttering” involved.

What message does that send to girls about who their heroes are? About whom they should aspire to be?

Looking more carefully at the costumes, we compared the “Boys Fright” section the “Girls Fright” section. The boys were given some truly terrifying options. Freddy Krueger, Jason, Bloody Skeleton, and more.

Over on the girls’ side, there was literally nothing that was legitimately scary. From “Feisty Fairy” to a tutu-clad “Zomberina”, real terror was in short supply.

I mentioned it to Patti, “None of these costumes are scary in any real way. They all are cute.”

Halloween_Girls Aisle 2A passing employee chimed in, “Most of the scary costumes involve a mask. Girls don’t like to cover their face.”  She added helpfully, “They want people to see them.”

The superheroes aisle was not much better. Spider-Girl wore a tutu and had a “princess wand”. Batgirl was clad in head to toe HOT PINK. There were dozens of choices to help a girl look cute. But what if she wants to look tough? What if she wants to look scary? What if she wants to look professional?

It was easy for me to draw a line in my mind connecting row after row of costumes that tell little girls that the only thing that is important is that they look “cute” to the row after row of costumes that tell young women that the only way society values them is if they look “sexy”.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love the spookiness, the costumes and the creativity. I’ve dressed up in everything from silly, to creative, to scary. Hell, if I could pull off sexy, I might go for that, too – but I really appreciate the fact that when I go to the store, I have other choices.

I hope that someday my girls will be able to say the same.

About This Guest Contributor:

Holding the esteemed title of “First Male Contributor To Women You Should Know” is John Marcotte, Founder of Heroic Girls, a burgeoning girl empowerment organization. By trade, John is a writer, web designer, “Award-Winning Author,” and occasional political satirist. By choice, he is a “hip nerd,” comics and pop-culture junkie, as well as a proud feminist dad of two superheroic young daughters.

Lead & closing images feature John’s two very spirited and creative “Geek Girl” daughters, Anya (age 8) and Stella (age 6). Photo credit: Superwoman, Superwife, Supermom Patti Marcotte

John Marcotte with Anya_Stella

  • april

    I used to love Halloween but I’m quickly beginning to despise it… I’m more conservative and like my lady parts covered… It’s sickening that the only available options are to dress slutty… It’s disgusting, tacky, and upsetting

    • JohnMarcotte

      Don’t hate Halloween. It’s too great for that. Take it back instead. We couldn’t find appropriate costumes for my girls so we made them. The amount of positive attention and praise they have received for those home-made costumes that cover them from head to toe is extraordinary.

      Perhaps if enough of us do this, the costume companies will take note and give us better choices.

    • Renee

      I agree with the sentiment that we need to take back Halloween! For ourselves or for our kids.

      Two good resources that come to mind for ideas are:

      and for kids:

  • Alida Lee

    I just wrote a blog post on this very subject. I’m so sick of little girls being sexualized. I’m so sick of society’s message that a girl should be pretty and pleasing and always wear pink. It’s maddening! http://www.alidamakes.com/2013/10/styled-by-ellie-i-am-girl.html

  • Gargouille

    Frightening, indeed! In my day, we had the inimitable Princess Leia, who was at least a wise ass. Later on there was Ellen Ripley or Mother, if you wanted to be really clever. And then anyone from Kill Bill. But these days regular-bodied role models who kick butt are really hard to find. And girl gore…well where is it? We just don’t have enough she-slashers to imitate. Disney’s been maimed a few times to great effect. But not often enough. Feminist Dad, any plans to write a Geek Girl tale?!?

  • Samantha Ettus

    I love this. Thanks for posting. Wishing you outed the store by name. p.s. Awesome t-shirt!

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  • reinzig

    “I really appreciate the fact that when I go to the store, I have other choices…..I hope that someday my girls will be able to say the same.” While I completely agree about the inappropriate and ridiciulous disparity between costumes targeted to boys/girls, I feel compelled to say that there is no need to wait for “someday”. Your girls have as much choice right now as anyone else. They can be vigorously taught that they can choose any costume, in any section of the store, ignoring the stupid rules that our culture is trying to impose. When my daughter was young, and we were in the same stores, we just told her that there was no such thing as boys costumes and girls costumes, even if the store made it seem that way (we said that the people who run the store are confused or “silly”), and that any costume she liked was appropriate for her. Yes, we need to work for change of this sort–but in the meantime, we can vigorously ignore what is expected and teach our children to do the same.

  • Asmodeus Mictian

    Mr. Marcotte, you are an inspiration to all Dads with daughters. Thanks for bringing the attention to this, my daughter went last year as a dragon!