A “se.xy” handmaiden’s Halloween outfit inspired by Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel and now Tv program The Handmaid’s Tale could have been yours for a red hot second. The outfit – sold by United states lingerie company Yandy – was declared “offensive” by the internet. Of course.
Yandy duly removed the Sexy Halloween Costumes For Women, saying: “Over the final few hours, it is now obvious that our ‘Yandy Brave Red Maiden Costume’ will be viewed as a symbol of women’s oppression, rather than an expression of women’s empowerment.” Inside the true spirit of Halloween, removing the costume from sale had been a misstep. The costume casts one of the spookiest images easy for modern women. The spectre of any handmaiden is definitely haunting, much more than a ghoul or ghost or zombie.
For all those not familiar with Atwood’s nightmarish world, a handmaiden is really a woman that has an intact reproductive system within an era of increasing infertility. Handmaidens are required to carry the offspring in the ruling class. They wear distinctive red dresses and white bonnets that obscure their faces.
The handmaidens are women that are valued just for their reproductive function, they have got no autonomy, and are essentially raped each and every time they are assigned to bear a young child. In Atwood’s dystopia, women in general aren’t allowed to read or write and therefore are stuck in domestic roles. As Yandy points out inside their apology, handmaiden’s costumes (albeit canonical, non-s.exy versions) happen to be donned around the globe by protesters demanding greater rights for women. The costumes were used in Ireland and Argentina to campaign for abortion rights, they were used in Britain to protest Donald Trump’s state visit, and they’ve been used across the US to protest numerous bills, like funding cuts to reproductive health centres. The thing is to draw a parallel in between the way women are silenced in dystopian fiction and how women in today’s political climate feel silenced on matters in relation to their own bodies. At some level, the dystopia has arrived.
The Sexy Halloween Costumes For Women takes this iconic handmaiden image and propels it to the absurd. It shortens and tightens the figureless red robe and adds fishnet stockings and very high heel shoes. Not only does it connote an (all too real) world where women have no say over their reproductive health, it also produces in the fore the truth that women are overtly se.xualised.
It’s not hard to find out why so many people wrote into Yandy saying that it had been offensive, but surely there’s also something darkly humorous about this too. It’s bizarre that somehow the world of retail has the capacity to spin a tale about oknqdh and misogyny into an empowering garment. The initial item description read: “An upsetting dystopian future has emerged where women no longer possess a say. However, we say be bold and speak your brain within this exclusive Brave Red Maiden costume.” The irony astounds.
Past the laughter, if they meant to or otherwise, Yandy sold the ideal Adult Halloween Costumes. It mixes the puritanical reproductive coercion from the Handmaid’s Tale with the objectification and commercialisation of female bodies. It displays a dystopian reality which may be inside our future, and may even describe our present. It’s a really scary way to observe Halloween.