The real Halloween horror: it’s just another excuse to sex girls up too soon

Just when you thought you’d seen every possible way for marketers to pressure girls to be too sexy too soon, along comes another opportunity for stores to sell product and sexualise girls . . . Halloween! Though we may not have grown up with Halloween as a tradition, trick-or-treating is entering our culture in a big way.

For my daughter, Teyah, and son, Kye, 11 and 8, any celebration that involves dressing up and lollies is bound to be popular, so I took them to a Halloween store at The Supa Centre (Home Hub), in Castle Hill, to pick out a couple of costumes. I’ve always known the centre as a whole to be a fine place to take the kids.

So just how did this casual little school holiday outing to a suburban shopping centre end up with me appalled beyond belief, racking my brain for a response to a perplexed 8-year-old’s question about bestiality and hightailing it out of the store just before security came to escort me out? I went on Mornings with Kerri-anne to tell the story. (Note, when I say “homemaker centre” in this video, I’m using the term generically. The place I’m talking about is called The Supa Centre but is listed on-line as Home Hub Hills.)

The little girls’ Halloween costumes were stomach-churning examples of sexualising kids at too young an age. This one is available in sizes to fit girls aged from 3 to 10:
major flirt

When Halloween becomes an opportunity to sexualise little girls, we’ve crossed a line. Girls aged 3 to 10 should never be dressed up as major flirts. Full stop.

And what do little girls have to look forward to when they grow up? Those ubiquitous bunny ears, of course:

If I sound like some kind of prude, let me just say that I don’t have an issue with women dressing up in a sexy way if they want to. And I totally get it that Halloween is one night of the year when people might want to express their wilder side.

What I object to is that, yet again, women are boxed into a narrow view of what “sexy” is. We shouldn’t be allowing Playboy (or any other brand) to define what “sexy” means. Not all of us feel at our sexiest or most feminine stuffed into a tight corset and fishnets. Real female sexuality is more interesting and diverse than the big-breasted, long-legged Playboy stereotype!

What I object to is that yet again women and girls are being made to believe that their true currency is their body and the best they can aspire to is to be sexy. Standing in that store was exactly like this cartoon by Andy Marlette, which sums it up perfectly. Boys can be superheroes, literary characters and martial arts experts. Girls can be . . . sexy.

andy marlette
Reproduced with thanks to Andy Marlette

What I object to is that there is simply too much blurring of the line between adulthood and childhood. Girls aged 3 to 10  have sexualised soldier and sailor outfits. Women and teen girls have sexualized Sesame Street costumes, like these I saw on Feministing:

The website (yes, seriously, it exists) asks: “Who doesn’t want to see a slutty version of our favorite Disney character?” Well, me for one.

The line between childhood and adulthood is often further blurred by retailers who place adult products at children’s eye level — think FHM near the chocolate bars at the checkout. The Halloween store I visited at Castle Hill seemed to be mainly aimed at kids, and I counted 11 children under the age of 10. Yet the adult costumes were mixed in with the children’s ones. Playboy was in amongst Star Wars. But even worse than that, there were some deeply offensive costumes for men openly on display for kids to see. They were too graphic to show on Kerri-anne or to show here. One costume had a fake sheep attached to the groin area. Another had a blow-up doll dressed in a G-string attached to the crotch so that it would appear that she was giving the man oral sex.

I was angry that my children were exposed to this. My son actually asked me “What’s that man doing to the sheep, Mummy?”

But I was polite when I went and asked the manager why this merchandise was on display for kids to see. I think my question was a very reasonable one, but I was asked to leave the store.

When Home Hub Hills’ management rented space to this retailer, I’m sure they assumed they would be selling the usual witch’s brooms and scary masks and lollies. I want to stress that in the past I’d always had good experiences at this shopping centre with my family. This weekend, the centre held a Cat in the Hat Family Fun Day and I can’t imagine that the management would be okay with kids visiting the centre possibly being exposed to depictions of bestiality and oral sex.

If a shopping centre’s management receives enough complaints about a retailer, it may affect their decisions about whom to lease shop space to in the future.  So if you’re as concerned as I am about protecting children from adult content, please join me in contacting Home Hub Hills’ management. Ask them to do whatever they can to prevent retailers from displaying inappropriate adult merchandise where children can see it. Here are the contact details from their website:

Home Hub Hills

Telephone: 02 9634 1116 
Fax: 02 9634 4288 
Mailing address: PO Box 7067, Baulkham Hills NSW 2153

12 thoughts on “The real Halloween horror: it’s just another excuse to sex girls up too soon

  1. Jane Higgins says:

    When will it ever end!! Anything to earn a buck!
    How horrible and disrespectful of our gorgeous girls. In the words of a divine year 8 girl I worked with this week …. “I am a beautiful the way I am and I don’t need to impress anyone!!!” sums it up perfectly! Her currency is not her sexuality and thank goodness she now knows that!
    I vote we all get thrown out of stores if that is what it takes!!

  2. Jane Higgins says:

    Copy of the Email sent to Management at the Shopping Centre …..

    Dear Sir/Madam,
    I was appalled to hear that your shopping centre allows the distribution of clothing that I believe sexualises children.
    I strongly encourage you to monitor and be selective in your choice of tenants in the future and ensure that children are not exposed to clothing such as one of your store is selling in the lead up to Halloween.
    Many thanks for your action.
    Jane Higgins
    CEO of The Odyssey Program

  3. Juliet Potter says:

    I completely agree and I am getting angrier and angrier that I cant even take my kids down the street without them being exposed to sex. I had a similar experience walking through Westfield at Bondi Junction a few weeks ago Dannii… Towering above us as were walking through the forecourt *near the cinema at primo school holiday time with kids EVERYWHERE was a screen huge screen (approx 8 metres x 3 metres ) promoting lingerie stores and their merchandise at Westfield. The images shown were a variety of different women in a variety of different bras, g-strings, underpants and other sexy clothing (if you could call it that).
    It was pornographic – no matter how you look at it – in one shot, a young woman was even seen wearing see- through undies and bras. You could see everything. Hello, it was during the school holidays? What were Westfield THINKING to put something like that in a public place? My kids, my partner and I didn’t know where to look. One poor adolescent boy was stuck in his tracks watching this visual sex-fest along with of course nearly every other poor bloke in the centre who couldn’t help but to be exposed to this smut.
    I would like to note Jennifer Hawkins and the brand of undies she spruiks was amongst the myriad of sexualised images. Where have all the role models gone? 🙁 We should also complain to Westfield Bondi Junction too!?

  4. Nikki D says: Are you for real? At least that is clearly an adult site… How is it not obvious to EVERYONE that Playboy costumes and the like belong in an Adult Store not, as you say Danni, merged in amongst the Children’s outfits. And as for having to explain Beastiality to kids during a quick visit to the shops – makes my blood boil!!!
    I wonder when more people will realise that permeating our world with images of such a narrow version of “sexy” IS AFFECTING OUR KIDS!!! I shall use this example with the next group of teen girls I work with and get their thoughts 🙂
    PS I remember my first Halloween costume consisting of a sheet with holes cut out for eyes. Nothin’ “hot” about that!!! But I was free to run around and scoff lollies once I’d had enough and ditched the sheet and that’s all I cared about!!!!

  5. Sheryl says:

    I hear what you are saying about the inappropriateness of these costumes, and agree that contacting the store management to lodge a complaint is a good course of action.
    But have you considered this? Give Halloween a miss altogether! It’s just another “festival” – and an imported one at that – where retailers make money out of selling rubbish to people who’ve been sold the lie that it is a “tradition” that should be followed. Ignoring Halloween would be a good lesson in discernment for our children who need to learn that retailers do not call the shots on what a community celebrates.

  6. Francesca says:

    Halloween has become really scary it seems! I breathed a huge sigh of relief when my 4 year old daughter announced she wants dress as a really big fat pumpkin! I agree Nikki, interesting conversations to be had on this topic.

  7. Home Hub Hills says:

    Thank you for all your recent emails regarding your concern with retailer Halloween Superstore at Home Hub Hills. We appreciate your feedback and giving us the opportunity to respond.

    On the subject of the Halloween Superstore and the merchandise sold at this store, we understand your concerns and regret the events you experienced. In response to your concerns, we have contacted the store owner and discussed the issues you have raised with management. It has been agreed that the store owner will introduce clearly marked signage to indicate the section that contains products suitable for people aged 18+ and will relocated these products to a separate section at the rear of the store so its not visible to children.

    Halloween Superstore is a short-term licensee in our centre whose license will expire early November 2010. As a landlord, unfortunately we are unable to stipulate product offerings outside of standard rules and regulations within the retail category – Retail Sale of Party Products and Accessories. However, Home Hub Hills is a premium home and lifestyle centre that is absolutely a family friendly establishment and we value our customers’ views.

    Thank you again for your time to express your views and we do hope the action taken by the centre is acceptable and resolves this issue.

    Kind regards,
    Home Hub Hills

  8. Juliet Potter says:

    Sheyrl, My kids love Halloween. Just last night we made Jack o Lantins and they had a ball… My daughter loves dressing up as a witch and my son, a ghoul. It’s fun. Any excuse for party-time with kids I’m up for! Commercialism sucks however, it’s a part of life nowadays unfortunately, it has its advantages and disadvantages… Back to topic however, Halloween should not be an excuse to sexual young GIRLS and I don’t expect to see sexual oddities in a home maker center for any reason!? 🙂

  9. Juliet Potter says:

    My kids love Halloween. Just last night we made Jack o Lantins out of pumpkins we bought at the markets and they had a ball…

    My daughter loves dressing up as a witch and my son, a ghoul. It’s really fun. Any excuse for party-time with kids I’m up for!

    Commercialism sucks however, it’s a part of life nowadays unfortunately, it has its advantages and disadvantages…

    Back to topic however, Halloween should not be an excuse to sexual young GIRLS and I don’t expect to see sexual oddities in a home maker center for any reason!? 🙂

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