Lingerie retailer Yandy showcased a Halloween costume of a mistress with a “sexy” twist, directly referencing the hit Hulu series, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling novel. The costume was immediately met with backlash and criticism from the public because of what it represented. On Yandy’s website, there is a photo of the model wearing the costume, which consists of a tight mini-dress, a long red cape and a white bonnet.
In the series “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the women are forced into surrogacy and the outfits that they are made to wear resemble the costume that was featured on Yandy’s site. Personally, I find this disturbing because this practice is inherently violent and shouldn’t be made out as something “sexy” or even consensual.
The handmaids are assigned to elite families and are used for sexual practices, where they are raped, impregnated and forced to give birth. This isn’t something that should be celebrated for public consumption, especially as Halloween is approaching. In my opinion, the costume is incredibly tone-deaf towards people who have experienced sexual assault.
The handmaids are also prevented from working, owning property and having money. Those that resist these rules are beaten, tortured and, in some instances, killed.
Included with the costume, there is a description that tells the meaning behind the costume. The product description says, “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.”
This description is incredibly angering because it’s sexualizing a show about rape, misogyny and women not having agency in regards to themselves as women. I also think it’s reinforcing patriarchal ideologies around policing the bodies of women.
Since receiving backlash and sparking controversy over the costume, Yandy has pulled it from their site. The online retailer has also released a statement addressing everything. The company states, “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.”
Why do costumes (especially those that are tone deaf) have to be sexualized? Online retailers that sell costumes for Halloween have a history of creating costumes that “represent” marginalized groups. I think that this just leads to further stereotypes and fetishization.
How could Yandy think that sexualizing the issues of sexual harassment, rape and misogyny that many women experience daily was an “expression of female empowerment?” As noted in their statement to the public, they said that they drew inspiration from other women protesting sexual harassment, abortion and poor healthcare. I think that this instance should serve as a marker for other online retailers who sell costumes in this fashion to think it through thoroughly. We must also question how it could further hurt marginalized and oppressed groups.