Prof says ‘Sexy Mr. Rogers’ Halloween costume enforces gender norms

“Too often, however, the freedom to use costumes to experiment with one’s identity has been replaced by the power of costumes to reinforce rigid gender roles.”

Prof. Stuart Charmé also says costume manufacturers encourage “the sexualization of women."

A professor at Rutgers University-Camden wrote an op-ed criticizing a ‘Sexy Mr. Rogers’ costume, noting that it “reflects Halloween’s worst tendency” of gender norms.

A professor at Rutgers University - Camden wrote an op-ed lamenting a “Sexy Mr. Rogers” Halloween costume that highlights what he sees as the holiday’s worst stereotypes.

Professor Stuart Charmé, a religion professor, wrote in The Philadelphia Enquirer that “it’s a sad day in the neighborhood” when costume makers continue to create Halloween costumes that “emphasize traditional gender roles for children and the sexualization of women.” 

The costume is a play on Fred Rogers, the television personality whose biopic starring Tom Hanks is due out later in 2019. 

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According to Charmé, Halloween should encourage children to explore other identities. 

“Ideally, Halloween costumes present an opportunity to expand the possibilities of children’s identities — giving children a chance to experiment with clothing, which is one of the major ways gender is expressed in our culture,” Charmé wrote. “From the moment we dress an infant in a pink or blue onesie, clothing is very connected to this understanding of culturally enforced gender presentation.”

Charmé goes on to suggest that Halloween is a better experience for boys than it is for girls. 

“Aisle after aisle, costumes are precoded to delineate those for boys and girls, and any uncertainties are quickly allayed by the models on the packages,” the professor wrote. “Worse yet, as children grow older, commercial costumes offer different models for adolescent boys and girls.” 

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“’Sexy Mr. Rogers’ sums this up perfectly. Boys’ costumes express power and agency, while girls’ versions emphasize beauty and sexual appeal,” Charmé added. “A large number of Halloween costumes are inspired by comic book/movie superheroes. Boys’ costumes offer extensive choices and possibilities for instant muscles and superhuman powers. Not so much for girls. Their limited options usually include extra ruffles and ribbons for younger children, and tighter-fitting, revealing, and sexualized costumes for older ones.”

Charmé also criticized the ease with which men can find occupational costumes such as a police costume or a doctor costume. Unlike men, he says women resort to “sexy” versions of these occupations, such as a “sexy doctor.”

In a statement to Campus Reform Charmé clarified that he was not seeking to prohibit any type of costume.

“I was not advocating censuring [sic] or prohibiting anyone, male or female, from wearing any particular costume they like, sexy or otherwise,” Charmé wrote in an email. “However, the collective effect of the inventory of commercially available costumes is to reinforce traditional gender norms (even outdated ones, as in the case of occupational costumes like doctors and astronauts.), and also to accentuate the sexual objectification of women.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @eduneret