Published by CultNoise Magazine
I’ve always loved Halloween. It’s a holiday where we have the excuse to dress up in elaborate costumes and makeup, be silly, play games and go out trick or treating with friends and family for bags full of free sweets and chocolaty treats that’ll rot our teeth — it’s basically Christmas come early — which then, as you get older, turns into going Halloween parties where, with the help of alcohol, things get a little scarier. But in the last couple of years, I’ve noticed that fewer people use Halloween as an excuse to create imaginative outfits and cosmetics and instead take the opportunity to make some kind of provocative statement.
This particular “provocative” statement, however, is in not funny or clever or in the true spirit of Halloween in any way, shape or form. The latest costume craze emerging from fancy dress shops takes the form of this extremely damaging, transphobic advertisement: the unisex Caitlyn Jenner Halloween costume.
The initial concept of a costume styled in the image of Caitlyn Jenner’s iconic Vanity Fair cover isn’t in itself offensive. In fact, had it been marketed appropriately and modelled by a woman, it could have been a celebratory statement; a tribute to Jenner just like when fans of Marilyn Monroe and Beyoncé dress up in the image of their idols for Halloween as a way of honouring them.
This costume, however, in the way it has been represented, is not honouring Jenner at all but, instead, is shaming and ridiculing her. The first aspect of this ad that is offensive is the category it has been placed in: “mens costumes”. By reducing Jenner’s legacy and image down to “mens costumes” when she is now legally a woman, Wholesale Halloween Costumes have completely insulted, disregarded and belittled Jenner’s 65-year-long struggle to come out as transgender and fully transition — physically, emotionally and mentally — into the woman she always was on the inside.
It’s unimaginable how much courage it must have taken Jenner to dismantle the carefully-constructed hyper-masculine facade she had been hiding behind her entire life and admitting to herself and to the world — quite literally the world since Jenner stars in a reality TV show that is broadcast around the globe and is stalked daily by ruthless paparazzi — that she was in fact a woman, and to have her struggle reduced down to a mockery in the form of this tasteless, transphobic Halloween costume is utterly disgraceful.
The second thing that makes this representation of Jenner offensive is the model. Having a man representing a transgender woman in this way is essentially the epitome of transphobia and I don’t think much more could have been done to create a more offensive, insensitive and harmful statement.
And last, but not least, the third offence of this ad is categorizing the costume as “humorous”. Turning the image of Caitlyn Jenner into a joke is extremely damaging to all the activist work that Jenner and other transgender individuals, groups and supporters have been doing for decades to try to spread a message of love, acceptance and tolerance towards LGBTQ individuals (as seen on E! documentary series I am Cait).
The decision to market the costume in this way and having a man dressing up as Jenner not only implies that society should still perceive Jenner as a man rather than the woman she chooses to identify as, but is also a huge step backwards for gender equality; implying that LGBTQ activist work is a laughing stock rather than a serious issue that deserves respect, recognition and support.
In the public outcry that quite rightly followed the publication of the ad, a petition has been created on Change.org aiming to stop Caitlyn Jenner being exploited with this transphobic costume and has already received over 4000 signatures and counting.
While this costume may, at first glance, appear to be a harmless joke made by someone who isn’t very aware of the struggles that LGBTQ individuals face daily; it is when we take a closer look at the connotations of transphobia, ignorance and intolerance associated with the way this costume has been designed and marketed, that we see just how much work still needs to be done before all transgender individuals will be truly accepted and respected within society.
It is important to remember that while the UK, America and other developed countries are reasonably — but not yet entirely — tolerant towards transgender individuals, there are still many transgender men and women who not only have to cope with a few little jokes and jibes here and there but also face poverty, unemployment, disownment from their family and friends, suicide and even murder in many countries around the world. This ad does nothing but promote the ongoing stigma that transgender people are freaks when in fact they are just people who deserve the same rights and opportunities as everyone else; people who deserve respect, acceptance and love.
Although many people have spoken out against the companies making and selling this costume and have shown huge support for Caitlyn Jenner, it is clear that our society is still far from perfect when it comes to acceptance and much more still needs to be done to achieve equality for all genders.
What do you think of the Caitlyn Jenner Halloween costume? Let us know in the comments section below.
Featured image courtesy of Heikki Siltala via Flickr.