Re-Thinking Halloween

Jennifer Siebel Newsom comments on trends in Halloween costumes and makes a call-to-action…

Last week, while browsing Walgreen’s pharmacy, I happened upon the Halloween section and spent some time looking around at what costumes were available for my children (both under two).

Like in so many other areas of society, the options were extremely limiting. The girl’s outfits were almost all centered on beauty and sexuality, while the boys were either professional (i.e. doctor) or violent (a majority of the boy’s outfits included some kind of weapon).

A few of our interns look for Halloween costumes at a local pharmacy

I started to think about the impact of young girls being encouraged to dress up as sexy kittens while young boys are pushed towards hyper-masculinity and aggression.

Halloween seems to amplify our cultural trend of women being raised to manipulate their bodies and boys being taught to master their environments. With these costumes, are we again teaching girls to value themselves only for their beauty and boys to glorify violence? When are we going to provide a wider array of opportunities for our girls to portray characters that aren’t easily objectified or sexualized? Where are the costumes for my daughter that actually represent power or authority?

It’s not just about our children either. On the Halloween page features a “Sexy Costumes” section. There are only women’s costumes in this section. There’s a clear imbalance here: is Halloween now for girls to dress sexy for men? The way we adults approach this holiday has a direct effect on how our kids view it. And with more and more of us participating in Halloween each year, it becomes critically important for us to think about that effect.

This Halloween I urge you to consider carefully how you dress yourself and your young ones. But since the costume stores aren’t displaying much creativity, we have to help each other come up with interesting and inspiring outfits.

We’re starting a campaign to collect positive and non-gendered Halloween costumes online. Post pictures or videos of your outfits on our Tumblr page and leave a sentence about why you chose it! Together we can start new trends and make Halloween a little less disconcerting for parents.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom is the writer, director and producer of Miss Representation and the Founder and CEO of