Cluttering clothing racks alongside ghoul and superhero outfits are a type of costume better left alone this Halloween, according to Diane Sowden.
Sowden, who works to prevent sexual exploitation and human trafficking as executive director of the Children of the Street Society, is asking parents to avoid revealing costumes marketed to young girls.
High hemlines and low necklines are common on girls’ costumes including nuns, ninjas, swashbucklers and even skeletons.
“When it’s the female version of the costume, it’s sexy,” Sowden says.
While the sexualizing of young girls is troubling, the trend is becoming more worrisome as younger children are increasingly well-versed in social media sites.
“The costumes don’t stay just at the house party anymore,” Sowden says. “Because of technology now, those pictures … are shared on Facebook.”
The possibility of a predator lurking on Instagram or Facebook is very real, Sowden says.
Pimp and ho costumes – while sometimes cartoonish – are nonetheless glamorizing an ugly, abusive lifestyle, according to Sowden.
“We would not have a domestic violence party because we know how devastating domestic violence is.”
Much like a KKK costume would be deemed socially unacceptable, Sowden says any outfit that glamorizes the sex trade should be equally unacceptable.
If a young teen or tween is interested in a sexy costume, Sowden encourages having a conversation that begins with a single question: “Why?”
“I would have an un-emotional discussion about it, and you may even find out there’s underlying things,” she says.
Children may unwittingly be buying into a concept of how women should look, or they may simply be after attention, according to Sowden.
If it’s attention they’re after, the child should have some understanding of the dangers of being perceived as sexual at a young age, she says.
Human trafficking is a crime that sometimes relies on a victim being misinformed. By portraying pimps in a comical light, the costumes may end up contributing to a problem that creates thousands of victims every year, according to Sowden.
As an antidote, Sowden suggests abandoning Halloween shops entirely.
“I would encourage them to be creative and make costumes,” she says.
By helping to make the costume, the child will be conscious of what they’re portraying and why they’re portraying it.
Sowden has a happy memory of the Halloween when her family all dressed up as characters from The Wizard of Oz.
“Halloween sometimes is scary and fun and creative, but we don’t need to sexualize our young girls through the process.”