Halloween is all about fantasy. But costume retailers have taken the holiday’s charm to the next level – and not in a good way.
Today, women have many of the same jobs available to them as men.
And yet, based on the limited selection of career-oriented costumes available to little girls at retailers like Spirit Halloween and Party City, you’d think the only jobs women can hold involve holding a microphone and wearing a short skirt while tackling bad guys.
Eventually, that could have devastating effects on individuals as well as our workforce.
There’s nothing wrong with accommodating girls that want to dress up as princesses, pop stars, or cheerleaders; what becomes problematic is when those are their only options, which sends the message that what they can aspire to become is just as limited. Party City offers eight “Career Costumes” for girls, while it offers 24 to boys.
And Spirit Halloween offers 28 costume options under its “Occupation & Military” subcategory for boys, while it offers 11 for girls.
“We set norms with the options we provide people,” Adam Galinsky, a social psychology scholar, business professor at Columbia Business School, and co-author of the new book, “Friend & Foe,” tells Business Insider.
“The choices and the sets we give people really help determine the descriptive norms that people think are out there. And norms have a powerful effect on people’s behavior,” he says. Descriptive norms are people’s perceptions of how people behave.
“Descriptive norms can become prescriptive norms,” Galinsky says. Prescriptive norms designate what people should do. “It becomes, ‘I have to wear something like this,’ because that’s what the options are telling you,” he explains.
What we wear can have a transformative effect on how we think and how we behave, Galinsky says, so if businesses are going to make a realistic Halloween costume for boys, it should follow that the company makes the same costume for girls.
“If you want to send the right message to kids about their career options and what the world would be like, we want their outfits to match what exists in the real world,” he says.
What’s more, what kind of message are we sending when mommy can only dress up as a sexy nurse or naughty sheriff, while daddy gets to play the esteemed doctor?
The constant pressure for young girls to be sexy can have damaging, long-term effects on things like cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality, and attitudes and beliefs, the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls reveals.
While it’s ultimately a parent’s choice how to dress their child, “businesses have a responsibility, in a sense, to provide a reasonably comparative set to boys and girls. And if they’re not doing this, they’re basically part of the problem, not part of the solution,” Galinsky says.
“We’re proud to offer a wide selection of costumes and accessories to make Halloween as fun and creative as possible, and we encourage all of our customers to shop across our categories, regardless of age or gender,” a Spirit Halloween spokesperson told Business Insider. Party City representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
AOL’s MAKERS came up with a fun solution with its #MakeHerAMAKER slideshow. Ruth “Baby” Ginsburg, anybody?