[UPDATE: “Party City Makes Official Statement, Then Changes Story On Facebook… And Still Fails To Contact Lin Kramer”… full details here]
On the hunt for a Halloween costume for her daughter, Party City was the first retail site Lin Kramer visited. Out of genuine concern over what she found – both a general lack of “Career Costumes” for girls, and realistic representations of the few occupations shown gone the route of “cute,” “sassy,” “sexy” – she wrote the following “Open Letter to Party City,” and posted it to their Facebook page. Party City, who is now making lots of noise about standing with nurses and pulling their ads from “The View” as they continue to sell the most insulting “nurse” costumes, chose to silence Lin. So we chose to amplify her voice…
Dear Party City,
Having just finished perusing your website for Halloween costumes for my three-year-old daughter, I am writing in the hopes that you will reconsider some of the content on your website and the antiquated views such content communicates about your company’s beliefs. In order to understand my concerns, please direct your attention to the ‘toddler costumes’ portion of your website. Compare, for instance, the ‘classic’ costumes offered for boys and girls.
As you can see, the classic costumes for boys include 53 assorted options, ranging from traditional vampire attire to a ‘rascal pirate’ to 16 costumes relating to possible occupations. Meanwhile, the classic costumes for girls include 45 options, ranging from a ‘vampire queen’ to a ‘precious pirate’ to three costumes relating to possible occupations. (It is worth noting that I have generously included in this number the ‘cheerleader’ as a possible occupation, despite it being well known that even NFL cheerleaders are not paid well enough for this to be their only source of income, as well as the ‘cowgirl,’ although, unlike the ‘cowboy,’ she is clearly not appropriately dressed to be employed on any sort of working ranch). To be clear, that means 30% of the costumes you market to boys are based on occupations, while just under 7% of the costumes you market to girls are based on occupations.
If the nature of my concern is not already abundantly clear, please now take the opportunity to compare the girl costume representing the occupation of a police officer to the same occupation costumes marketed for boys (see lead image above). Are you beginning to see why this might be concerning to your customers, and, well, society as a whole?
When you look around at the police officers in your city or neighborhood, the uniforms they wear are probably substantially similar to the costumes you have elected to offer for boys. However, the same cannot be said of the costume you market to girls. Generally speaking, real life uniformed female police officers do not wear short skirts and low cut shirts, but instead wear exactly the same slacks and shirts as their male counterparts. Further, while your choice to market these different costumes to different genders is remarkable in and of itself, it is worth noting that this disparate treatment was apparently at least somewhat conscious on the part of your business. I invite you, and anyone else reading this letter, to review the description of the costumes. When describing the girl costume, your marketing team elected to use language like “cute cop” and “sassy and sweet,” while for the boy costume, they chose to note the “realistic scaled-down police shirt” and assert that “this protector of the peace has it all under control!”
I am absolutely appalled that your business reinterprets girls’ innocent and well-intentioned dreams into this costume.
While Halloween costumes are undoubtedly about “make-believe,” it is unfathomable that toddler girls and boys who might be interested in dressing up as police officers are seeking to imagine themselves in the incongruent way your business apparently imagines them. Toddler girls are not imagining and hoping that they will grow up to become a ‘sexy cop’ — which is clearly what your girl costume suggests; rather, young girls, just as young boys, see and admire their family members and neighbors offering service to their communities and delight in the idea of doing the same. I am absolutely appalled that your business reinterprets girls’ innocent and well-intentioned dreams into this costume.
Finally, the thing that I would maybe most like to point out to you is this: Your company could EASILY include many, if not all, of the costumes you have in the boys’ section as options in the girls’ section as well! And in so doing, you would not only improve the message you are sending to society, but you might actually help your bottom line by selling more costumes (since little girls shopping with their parents would be more likely to see these options)! Even if you insist (and I really hope you don’t) on offering the sexualized version of costumes for little girls, you could *also* offer girls the realistic option of the same costume.
Look at the world around you: In a world where Ronda Rousey and Danica Patrick are excelling, there are certainly girls who would be interested in that Toddler Boys Everlast Boxer Costume or that Turbo Racer Muscle Costume. Perhaps you recently read about Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, the first female graduates of Ranger School; knowing that these women were once little girls, doesn’t it seem like maybe there are girls out there today who would have some interest in the Combat Soldier Costume or the Flight Suit Costume? And surely, having observed female doctors when walking down the halls of a hospital, or female construction workers when driving down the street, or female postal workers when mailing a letter, it is reasonable to believe – both from a sociological and business perspective – that there are girls who might be interested in such costumes just as there are women who are interested in these professions.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with little girls who enjoy and want to dress up this Halloween as a ‘Light Up Twinkler Witch,’ or a ‘Doo Wop Darling,’ or an ‘Enchanted Stars Princess,’ there is also absolutely nothing wrong with little girls who might wish to give the ‘UPS Driver’ costume or the ‘Ride in Train’ costume a try! Please, Party City, open up your view of the world and redesign your marketing scheme to let kids be kids, without imposing on them antiquated views of gender roles.
Lin originally posted her open letter to Party City’s Facebook page, and the company did initially respond to her with the following reply: “Hi Lin, thank you for reaching out to us. We appreciate the insight and will consider your feedback for the future. Thank you.”
However, that response was quickly deleted from Party City’s Facebook page, along with Lin’s open letter and all the comments posted by others. They even went as far as to ban Lin from their page. She told us this morning, “Not only did they delete my letter, but they actually appear to have blocked me from being able to comment or share anything on their Facebook page.” Party City’s comments policy on their Facbeook page states, “This page is monitored in accordance with Facebook terms and conditions. Fan posts containing foul language, hate speech, or other inappropriate content are subject to removal.” Lin added, “Apparently, under their thought process, my letter falls into one of those categories.”
Just days later, Party City became the fifth major brand to pull its ads from “The View” in response to ignorant and derogatory comments made by two of the show’s hosts about nurses. We find this move incredibly ironic, since this is what Party City thinks of nurses when it comes to emulating them on Halloween. It’s painfully clear that this retailer does not practice what it preaches and #nursesmatter to them only now… when they can cash-in on the PR of someone else’s ignorance, while hiding their own.
About The Author
In addition to being a mother and wife, Lin Kramer is also an attorney who works in the public sector.
She prides herself on serving as a strong role model for her 3-year-old daughter and encouraging those around her to consciously consider the impact they can have on the world.
We want to thank her for sharing her letter with us, and for using her voice to speak out.