‘Sexy Handmaids’ uproar forces retailer to scrap Halloween outfit

Rape and enforced surrogacy turn out to be less empowering than Yandy seems to have imagined

Handmaid’s Tale Halloween outfit: Yandy’s “brave red maiden” costume

Handmaid’s Tale Halloween outfit: Yandy’s “brave red maiden” costume

 

Oh sweet mother of divine. Who came up with this one? Who was sitting around the corporate table and thought, “This Handmaid’s Tale lark seems to be very popular. Here now, lads, can we monetise that one somehow? Hey, I know, let’s come up with a sexy costume based on that story about extreme repression of women in a misogynistic, dystopian future. That’ll go down a storm.” And so it did.

Yes, we know Halloween is supposed to be scary, but it’s “scary” in an inverted-commas, fun, ghouls-and-vampires and witches-on-broomsticks kind of way. Not in a terrifying-vision-of-a-logical-outcome-of-women’s-oppression-in-society kind of way, as evoked in Margaret Atwood’s novel, and in the outstanding, chilling television series, starring Elisabeth Moss.

To anyone who’s read the novel, or seen the series, handmaids represent the degradation of women; they are confined to narrow, highly controlled categories, with costumes colour-coded to indicate their enforced status, whether servant, prostitute or wife. Handmaids are subject to ritualised rape and enforced surrogacy. So not so sexy.

But there it was, in full glory, on yandy.com, a model in a red Halloween outfit: red miniskirt, flowing red hooded cape, impossibly high black shoes (preserve us, is she wearing fishnets?) and a cute white bonnet (but this version doesn’t obscure the wearer’s side vision).

This little glory is the “Yandy brave red maiden costume”. Jesus wept.

The blurb burbles: “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.” The outfit is $64.95 (“pantyhose not included”).

You too can romp in a costume jollying up being enslaved to harvest the fruits of your womb.

The social-media reaction to this ludicrous misjudgment was swift.

Kim Horcher tweeted: “Did you love The Handmaids tale for it’s dystopian themes about a degraded future society where women no longer have any sort of rights or autonomy, holding up a mirror to our own reality? Cool, well, here’s a sexy version for Halloween.”

Zoe Margolis tweeted: “We’re now beyond satire. “Sexy” Handmaid’s Tale outfit. There’s nothing like fighting the patriarchy by sexualising a show about misogyny and rape.”

Ms O’Mahuncy tweeted: “I’m still unable to form my feelings about this costume into a coherent sentence. My gast is flabbered.”

Dangermaus tweeted: “Sorry. Slept in. Is that a fucking sexy handmaids outfit. Does nobody think sexy versions of a ritual rape outfit might not, possibly, be just a wee bit totally fucking wrong on every level.”

The Handmaid’s Tale: Elisabeth Moss in the TV series based on Margaret Atwood’s novel
The Handmaid’s Tale: Elisabeth Moss in the TV series based on Margaret Atwood’s novel

Eventually, copping on that perhaps not everything can be sexified, Yandy tweeted a statement.

“Yandy always has stood, and will continue to stand, at the forefront of encouraging our customers to ‘Own Your Sexy’ ” ...yada yada yada... “Our corporate ideology is rooted in female empowerment” ...yada yada... “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... It was not our intention on any level.”

Its initial inspiration “to create the piece”, it said, was “witnessing its use in recent months as a powerful protest image. Given the sincere, heartfelt response, supported by numerous personal stories we’ve received, we are removing the costume from our site.”

So not an apology, but no more sales. And lots of publicity. (And you know what they say.)

But here’s a thought. What will Yandy now do with the thousands of sexy-ritualised-rape-victim costumes now taking up space in a warehouse somewhere in the wilds of Wichita (or wherever). Might make good bunting.

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