A “se.xy” handmaiden’s Halloween costume inspired by Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel and now TV show The Handmaid’s Tale could have been yours for a red hot second. The costume – sold by United states lingerie company Yandy – was proclaimed “offensive” by the internet. Needless to say.
Yandy duly removed the Sexy Halloween Costumes For Women, saying: “Over the final several hours, it is obvious that the ‘Yandy Brave Red Maiden Costume’ is being seen as a symbol of women’s oppression, instead of an expression of women’s empowerment.” Within the true spirit of Halloween, taking out the costume from sale was a misstep. The costume casts one of many spookiest images easy for modern women. The spectre of any handmaiden is really haunting, much more than a ghoul or ghost or zombie.
For all those unfamiliar with Atwood’s nightmarish world, a handmaiden is actually a woman who may have an intact reproductive system in an era of growing infertility. Handmaidens are forced to carry the offspring in the ruling class. They wear distinctive red dresses and white bonnets that obscure their faces.
The handmaidens are women who are valued just for their reproductive function, they may have no autonomy, and therefore are essentially raped each time they are assigned to bear a young child. In Atwood’s dystopia, women generally speaking aren’t permitted to read or write and therefore are stuck in domestic roles. As Yandy points out within their apology, handmaiden’s costumes (albeit canonical, non-s.exy versions) have been donned all over the world by protesters demanding greater rights for women. The costumes were used in both 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 around the US to protest numerous bills, such as funding cuts to reproductive health centres. The idea is to draw a parallel between the way women are silenced in dystopian fiction and exactly how women in today’s political climate feel silenced on matters relating to their own bodies. To some degree, the dystopia is here.
The Adult Halloween Costumes takes this iconic handmaiden image and propels it in to the absurd. It shortens and tightens the figureless red robe and adds fishnet stockings and very high heel shoes. Besides it connote an (all too real) world where girls have no say over their reproductive health, but it additionally produces in the fore the veracity that women are overtly se.xualised.
It’s easy to view why so many people wrote into Yandy proclaiming that it had been offensive, but surely there’s also something darkly humorous about this too. It’s bizarre that somehow the industry of retail will be able to spin a tale about oknqdh and misogyny into an empowering garment. The original item description read: “An upsetting dystopian future has emerged where women no longer possess a say. However, we say be bold and speak your thoughts in this particular exclusive Brave Red Maiden costume.” The irony astounds.
Past the laughter, if they intended to or not, Yandy sold the ideal Adult Halloween Costumes. It mixes the puritanical reproductive coercion in the Handmaid’s Tale with the objectification and commercialisation of female bodies. It displays a dystopian reality which may be inside our future, and might describe our present. It’s a truly scary way to observe Halloween.