The 2016 Sexist Costume Roundup | Vol. 3 / No. 49.5

Yeah you read that right. | Image: Joel Solomon, CC BY 2.0

I’ve always really wanted a tattoo. I’ve also never actually gotten one, because I am super eclectic, and I fall hard and fast for various phrases, characters, styles (etc.). I can never be certain that my momentary passions are going to remain lifetime ones, or that if they do, I won’t find passions that are even fiercer. How can I know that if I do it, if I finally break down and have “An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards” written in script down my arm, that I won’t one day want to replace it with “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid”? Even if I combine passions, which one do I go with? Minimalist Maleficent? Bombshell Wonder Woman? Art nouveau Princess Leia?  I can’t settle on something long for enough.

But now I think that I may finally have a phrase that I’m going to repeat for eternity, so it’s probably safe to get as a tattoo: “I just want a range of representation.” (Note: my friend K initially thought that I said “I just want to rage” and was way more approving of this plan.) This favored phrase has come up in my life once again because this week’s post is another entry in what will probably become an annual series: the Sexist “Sexy” Costume roundup. And as ever, our “friends” at Yandy are happy to oblige.

In case you have gotten a really nice form of amnesia and you forgot these people existed, the folks at Yandy.com are responsible for pushing both copyright infringement and human decency past their breaking point. Just so we’re clear on the taste level (and true intentions of the site,) this is the popup when you first visit the site (Warning, probably NSFW “because: ladies’ underwear.” Maybe don’t click if you don’t want your boss to think you are up to some weird things at work):

Don't say I didn't warn you
 yandy-pic

Now I’m not anti-sex, or even anti-panties. But this just explicitly shows that Yandy is primarily a sex-based site. They aren’t a costume manufacturer that just decided to skew sexy—they’re a lingerie site that decided to do costumes. And what costumes they are.

Hidden among all the sexist (and in many cases, racistSo, sososososo very racist) costumes there are occasional gems—their Hipster Ariel knockoff is actually pretty good,  and their Pikachu Catch Me Honey dress is downright wearable. But these are the exceptions, not the norm. The highlights this year, if you want to call them that, are the company’s attempts to cash in on new movies or shows without getting sued (or having to use more than a yard of fabric).

There is at least one pretty obvious take on the costume for Elektra from the newest season of Daredevil¸titled Ninja of Darkness, not to mention The Punisher “The Punishing One” There’s a Riddler “Evil Mastermind Hottie” costume that made me genuinely ask the question, “Are those supposed to be question marks, or Fallopian Tubes?” And in the “are you even freaking trying?” category, we have the “Sexy Dead Assassin,” which is not only the laziest take on Deadpool I’ve ever seen, its name misunderstands the very nature of Deadpool. Deadpool’s whole thing is that he doesn’t die. That’s kind of the point of Deadpool. Also, a lady version of Deadpool already exists. Her name is Wanda Wilson, and one of her listed aliases is literally “Boobs.” You had so many options, Yandy. There are even two different fish costumes that have disturbingly similar coloring to Nemo and Dory from the Pixar films. I’m not saying Yandy is suggesting that you be sexually attracted to cartoon fish. I’m just heavily, heavily implying it.

Then there are the ones that just… defy explanation. There is a sexy corn costume. Sexy. Corn.  And this year’s winner in the “oh my God, why does this exist” category is the Sexy Poop Emoji costume. For the low, low price of $57.95, you too can have a high-necked brown onesie with a poop emoji on it. Which… Just.. we had a good run, world. Civilization was kinda working for a while. Now we should probably go back to the drawing board.

To be fair to Yandy, they seem to be listening at least slightly, in that they now have a plus size costume section. So now we can at least be ridiculously sexualized in a larger size. And Party City, who I also criticized last year, has a much better ratio of not-skintight/falling past the knee costumes to sexy/skintight costumes in their “new costumes” section. In a lot of cases, this is because Party City, like Yandy, is drawing on popular characters from movies and television. But in some cases, unlike Yandy, they are leaving those characters’ costumes the eff alone. Instead of having a “sexy Ghostbuster” or a “sexy Rey” they just have a Ghostbuster costume.  And a Rey costume. It’s as if they understand that women, as a subset of people, can see something they like in the movies, want to dress like that character, and actually want to look like that character. Not like that character on sexy role play night. It’s an understanding that they have applied to men for ages, but progress is progress. And after the kerfuffle last year over a lack of “career” costumes for toddler girls,  they have added a normal-looking girl cop costume to the “cute” cop costume they had already, and also have doctor and firefighter costumes for female toddlers. (Not to say that Party City doesn’t also still have problems. They have a weird emphasis on calling costumes the “Miss” or “Mrs.” Version of male characters if the costume is gender-bent, and some of the costumes are just… noNonononono.)

Now, as I feel I must reiterate every time something like this comes up: I’m sex positive. I want people to feel good in their bodies. I want women to feel good in their costumes. But the one-sided sexiness, and the frequently metaphorical and literal “one-size fits all” nature of many of the costumes are things that I find fault with. If you cannot find a costume that you feel comfortable in, if you cannot find a costume that you literally fit in, and you cannot find a costume that isn’t preordained to be sexy, then you’re not necessarily going to be having fun. You shouldn’t feel that your options are “sexy X” or “nothing.” There’s an incredible variety of costume ideas in the world. There are Snow White/Boba Fett mashups. There are steampunk Iron Man costumes. We all need to step up our game.

The people who run Yandy and Party City will say that they are just reacting to supply and demand, and providing people with what they want. This is true, up to an extent. But at the same time, people will resort to buying what they have access to, even if they don’t entirely like it. I used to buy terrible, terrible peasant blouses. Not because I liked peasant blouses. Not even because I looked good in peasant blouses. But because there was a period of time where every budget clothing manufacturer decided, en masse, “okay, so all women who are larger than a size 10 like peasant blouses, right? SELL NOTHING BUT PEASANT BLOUSES.” I bought them because the alternatives were “muumuus” and “nudity.” “People buying what you are selling” and “people being satisfied with what you are selling” are different things. We don’t have enough of a variety in costumes for women to make any judgement about the market for women’s costumes.

So hopefully, costume manufacturers will start, or continue, to branch out. In the meantime, I’ll seriously consider getting that tattoo somewhere on my body. And until we get a larger range of costumes, there’s an 80% chance that any costume I buy won’t actually cover up said tattoo.

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Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week In Tomorrow. When she’s not trying to point out that maybe the words “poop emoji” and “sexy” shouldn’t ever be placed next to each other ever (EVER!), she studies gender in popular culture.

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