Halloween is here, and that means that the Pecksniffs (also known as Leisure Fascists) will be out policing or criticizing kid’s costumes. No sombreros, Native American costumes, any costume that bespeaks “cultural appropriation” and so on. Now these critics have some point: you don’t want blatant racial stereotypes, like someone in blackface, which has a history of racist tropes. (But again, those should not be forbidden, simply criticized). Sombreros seem okay to me, and I’m not even sure that Native American costumes are out of bounds. Yes, we have a sad history of exterminating those groups, but a costume doesn’t mean you favor genocide (unless it’s a Nazi outfit). Maybe you really like the colorful clothes worn by many Native Americans. (The critics would respond that unless those kids are deeply educated in the history of Native Americans, they can’t wear them.)
Anyway, there’s an argument to be had there, and I won’t engage in it now. What I want to point out is that the Pecksniffs have started policing ANIMAL COSTUMES. Why? Because pet stores, which sell animal costumes, are selling “male” costumes, like policemen, for male animals, and “female costumes”, like the French Maid Dog Costume, for female animals. And that is gender bias. As the Washington Post reports in the article below (click screenshot for link):
Pet costumes have been gaining popularity in recent years, with 16 percent of Americans saying they’ll dress up their dogs, cats and bunnies for Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation. The most popular costumes for pets were gender-neutral pumpkins [OMG! PUMPKINS!], hot dogs and bumblebees.
The glass ceiling appears to be firmly in place at PetSmart, where career costumes labeled “male” include firefighter and police officer, while female dogs can choose between a pink cowgirl costume and pink loofah.
On the site BaxterBoo.com, options for your female pooch include “sweet heart nurse” or French maid. “Any tidy girl dog will look adorable wearing this French Maid Dog Costume,” the site’s description reads. “Whether your pup is a clean freak or a messy mutt, she will enjoy playing ‘dress up’ in this fun costume.”
The choices for male dogs, meanwhile, include fireman, mob boss and doctor (suggested pairing: “match up with a girl friend with the Sweet Heart Nurse Dog Costume.”)
“It seems silly on the surface, but this is part of a larger message we’re sending, that there are certain jobs for men, and certain jobs for women,” said Scott Lawrie, 36, who co-hosts a podcast, ‘She will not be ignored,’ about gender issues. “The career options for women — and dogs — need to go beyond pink loofahs and pink cowgirls.”
Again, there’s some point here, but not one that’s so trenchant that I feel it needs to be underscored.
Lawrie, who plans to dress his two dogs as the cop duo Cagney and Lacey, says he did a double-take when he saw PetSmart’s police officer costumes marked for “males.” He clicked around and noticed a pattern: Career-related costumes were often explicitly marked “male” and “female.” (A number of other costumes, however, ranging from lobsters to pumpkins and dinosaurs, bear the “male/female” label.)
“I thought surely there was some reason behind this: maybe the pets needed to relieve themselves a certain way, or something like that,” said Lawrie, who lives in San Francisco. “But all of the costumes are identical.”
Representatives for PetSmart and Baxter Boo did not respond to requests for comment.
Now you can, I suppose, make Lawrie’s argument that gender segregation for animals might bleed over into gender segregated-costumes for kids, but, as the Post article notes, most retailers have already stopped labeling toys or costumes as appropriate for one sex or another. I approve of that. There’s still a difference, though: as with dry cleaning, items marketed to girls cost on average 7% more than those marketed to boys.
That’s discrimination, and needs to be scrutinized. But seriously: do you think a female dog wearing a tutu is going to be jealous of a male dog dressed as a fireman? I suspect the vast majority of these pets are neutered, anyway.
None of this, of course, applies to cats, who won’t wear costumes and thus are immune to cultural appropriation.
And Grania wanted to add this:
I would point out that people who dress their dogs up in costumes , even gender neutral womyn-affirming culturally sensitive ones, deserve to have said dog throw up on their carpets.