Sometimes this really seems to shock people. They appear genuinely upset when I say ‘this conversation is over’ or ‘I’m actually not interested in debating this with you.’ There’s an expectation that if you care about social justice and political issues, you’re always ‘on.’ You’re always ready to debate, you’re always ready to have theoretical discussions about your own lived experiences and the issues you care about, you’re always ready to defend yourself. That’s manifestly ridiculous and unjust, an expectation that’s simply not reasonable.
It’s tempting to believe that this online row – a toxic combination of misinformation, anger and anxious masculinity – is just about one specific technology industry’s subculture, or that it will blow over. But by labeling Gamergate a “gaming problem” and attaching a hashtag to it, we’re putting unnecessary boundaries around a broader but nebulous issue: threats and harassment are increasingly how straight white men deal with a world that no longer revolves exclusively around them.
Although it is easy to just sit back and accept that our media is more often than not completely messed up and problematic (which has its place, too), part of our duty as feminists is to demand better. We can’t just sit back and let the media do their own thing without critique. It is absolutely essential that we continually call for improvement — because if we don’t, who will? It is important to engage critically in the media we consume, to begin to create new avenues for better, and to reform and smash media structures that do us wrong.
We quickly located a firefighter costume for boys, complete with a bright red jacket, a traditional helmet and an axe. The girls’ version, on the other hand, is a skin-tight, short, shiny dress that’s surely flammable. It includes a fascinator (in lieu of a helmet) never before seen on a real firefighter.
The model on the package, who looks to be about the same age as my daughter, completes the outfit with heeled, calf-high boots — not ideal for running into burning buildings, or trick-or-treating for that matter. The costume is for children four to six and it’s one of several provocative costumes for the age group.
Even the pumpkin costume for preschoolers is sexy: it’s sleeveless and features a black bodice with an orange ribbon that laces up the front like a corset. I found the girls’ firefighter and the police officer costumes the most offensive, as they hung on the rack in stark contrast to the boys’ versions.
What kind of message do these costumes send to our girls? While the boys have costumes that look like the real thing, girls are expected to dress up in spoof ensembles, thus suggesting they can’t, or shouldn’t, do the real job. The costumes are not only “sexy,” they’re also sexist.