It’s almost like the team behind online retailer Yandy.com took a moment to assess 2018 so far, examined the sexual politics that have dominated headlines and fuelled women’s anger, and thought, “How can we make this a bit worse?” Then, they had a quick meeting and decided that they should provide women with something we never asked for: the opportunity to dress up as a sexy handmaid for Halloween. As in, of The Handmaid’s Tale fame – the dystopian novel written by Margaret Atwood that imagines a world where women are completely subservient to men and all fertile women are owned, raped and forced to bear children for someone else. Happy Halloween!
The product description on Yandy’s website read: "An upsetting dystopian future has emerged where women no longer have a say. However, we say be bold and speak your mind in this exclusive Brave Red Maiden costume." Sure. Social media was, obviously, furious. There were many, many tweets proclaiming the awfulness of this costume, with one user writing: “Our society doesn't take the rape of real women seriously, why should they take the rape of fictional women seriously?" This is a completely fair point; however, the hideous irony of the costume is actually so ridiculous that it’s difficult to even summon anger. Also, a quick look at the rest of Yandy’s, er, offerings suggests that this is just the tip of the iceberg. A few of my personal favourites include the opportunity to dress up as: “Native American seductress”, “Mischievous Fairy”, “Bondage Naughty School Girl”, “Deadly Land Shark” (?!) and “Sexy Dead Assassin”. I feel like I’m trapped inside Donald Trump’s imagination.
Just a quick glance at this site’s selection is enough to remind us that, even when it comes to fancy dress, women are on the backfoot
I know what you’re thinking: but what if I want to go as a sexy version of Nemo, the eponymous fish in Pixar’s seminal classic, Finding Nemo? Don’t worry, there’s a costume for that! And for those of you in the market for a Skeletal Print Crotchless Bodystocking, Yandy’s got that covered, too. While “sexy” costumes for Halloween are nothing new, just a quick glance at this site’s selection is enough to remind us that, even when it comes to fancy dress, women are on the backfoot. The array of costumes for men, for example, affords them the opportunity to be a pilot, a doctor and a (fully dressed) priest. The women’s equivalent of these costumes? “Foxy Flight Attendant”, “Sexy White Nurse” and “Sinful Nun”, the description of which reads as follows: “Bring the congregation to their knees in this Sinful Nun lingerie costume featuring a black g-string and a black nun habit with a white collar. (Pasties not included.)”
Look, if anyone wants to go to a party dressed up as a sexy Pikachu, they should have the right to do so. I wouldn’t let you bob for apples in my house, but I appreciate it’s personal choice. However, these costumes are all marketed at women, while the most extreme men have to deal with is “Sexy Bad Wolf Costume” (I think the “sexy” part lies in the fact that the top is – gasp! – sleeveless).
Yet, even Yandy couldn’t ignore the furore around the “Brave Red Maiden” costume, as they published the following statement:
“Yandy always has stood, and will continue to stand, at the forefront of encouraging our customers to ‘Own Your Sexy’. We support our customers being comfortable in their skin, regardless of who they are or what they choose to wear. Our corporate ideology is rooted in female empowerment, and gender empowerment overall.
“Over the last few hours, it has become obvious that our “Yandy Brave Red Maiden Costume” is being seen as a symbol of women's oppression, rather than an expression of women's empowerment. This is unfortunate, as it was not our intention on any level. Our initial inspiration to create the piece was through witnessing its use in recent months as a powerful protest image.
“Given the sincere, heartfelt response, supported by numerous personal stories we've received, we are removing the costume from our site.”
That Yandy’s corporate ideology is rooted in any sense of empowerment is, quite frankly, hilarious. But at least they apologised. Maybe now we can turn our attentions back to the women wearing (non-Yandy) Handmaid’s Tale costumes as a form of protest, largely in the US, where women’s rights continue to be threatened. I wonder what Brett Kavanaugh is going as for Halloween? Himself, maybe?