By Sheryl Estrada
It’s estimated that 68 million Americans will dress up for Halloween this year and will spend a total of $950 million on children’s costumes. Companies are beginning to respond to the criticism of activists, educators and parents who seek gender equity in products for kids, whether it’s a Halloween costume or a toy.
In the onlineDisney Store, a part of The Walt Disney Company (No. 34 on DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity), Halloween costumes no longer have boys or girls designations, allowing kids to pick and choose as they please. All outfits are only labeled “for kids.”Target(No. 25) announced in August its plan to phase-outgender based signage, which means it will no longer use signs in stores to label toys for boys or girls.
Rebecca Hains, an associate professor of advertising and media studies at Salem State University and assistant director of the Center for Childhood and Youth Studies, wrote the following about gender-neutral marketing:
“Gender-neutral marketing doesn’t signify an attempt to make males and females the same, however, or to ban traditionally gendered toys like Barbie and G.I. Joe, as some allege it simply means organizing products children already love according to interest or theme not by boy or girl.”
Meanwhile, the retail chain Party City has not yet gotten onboard in regards to Halloween costumes which a parent brought to the company’s attention.
In September, Savannah, Ga., attorney Lin Kramer visited Party City’s website looking for a costume for her 3-year-old daughter in the “Toddlers Costumes” section. She was bothered by feminized versions of “Career Costumes” for girls as well as the lack of occupational costumes compared to the boys.
Kramer wrote an open letter to Party City on its Facebook page in hopes the company would reconsider some of the content on its website “and the antiquated views such content communicates about your company’s beliefs.”
“30 percent of the costumes you market to boys are based on occupations, while just under 7 percent of the costumes you market to girls are based on occupations,” Kramer wrote.
She pointed out that the Girls Cop Costume appears to be sexualized.
“Generally speaking, real life uniformed female police officers do not wear short skirts and low cut shirts, but instead wear exactly the same slacks and shirts as their male counterparts,” she wrote. “When describing the girl costume, your marketing team elected to use language like ‘cute cop’ and ‘sassy and sweet,’ while for the boy costume, they chose to note the ‘realistic scaled-down police shirt’ and assert that ‘this protector of the peace has it all under control!'”
Party City, whose 11-member board of directors only has one woman, has not responded to Kramer directly. It issued an official, seemingly canned, response, which said, “We expect parents to be as involved in their children’s costume selections as they are in selecting their everyday wardrobe, and we encourage parents to shop with their children. We supply the types of products that our customers, and specifically parents, demand, and the Girls Cop Costume mentioned by Ms. Lin Kramer is one of our most popular costumes.”
Apparently Party City’s PR team not only deleted Kramer’s post from its Facebook page and the comments that accompanied it but also blocked her from the company’s page.