A “se.xy” handmaiden’s Halloween outfit 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 outfit – sold by US lingerie company Yandy – was declared “offensive” by the internet. Needless to say.
Yandy duly removed the Sexy Halloween Costumes For Women, saying: “Over the final few hours, it has become obvious which our ‘Yandy Brave Red Maiden Costume’ will be viewed as a symbol of women’s oppression, rather than an expression of women’s empowerment.” Within the true spirit of Halloween, taking out the costume from sale was a misstep. The costume casts among the spookiest images possible for modern women. The spectre of a handmaiden is truly haunting, more so compared to a ghoul or ghost or zombie.
For anyone new to Atwood’s nightmarish world, a handmaiden is really a woman who has an intact reproductive system within an era of growing infertility. Handmaidens have to carry the offspring from 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 may have no autonomy, and are essentially raped each and every time these are assigned to bear a child. In Atwood’s dystopia, women in general aren’t permitted to read or write and therefore are stuck in domestic roles. As Yandy indicates in their apology, handmaiden’s costumes (albeit canonical, non-s.exy versions) happen to be donned around the world by protesters demanding greater rights for females. The costumes were utilised in Ireland and Argentina to campaign for abortion rights, these people were used in Britain to protest Donald Trump’s state visit, and they’ve been used around the US to protest a number of bills, including funding cuts to reproductive health centres. The idea is to draw in a parallel between the way women are silenced in dystopian fiction and how women in today’s political climate feel silenced on matters associated with their own bodies. To some degree, the dystopia is here.
The Adult Halloween Costumes takes this iconic handmaiden image and propels it into the absurd. It shortens and tightens the figureless red robe and adds fishnet stockings and incredibly high heel shoes. Furthermore it connote an (much too real) world where girls have no say over their reproductive health, it also brings to the fore the veracity that ladies are overtly se.xualised.
It’s not difficult to view why so many people wrote into Yandy stating that it was offensive, but surely there’s also something darkly humorous regarding it too. It’s bizarre that somehow the realm of retail will be able to spin a narrative about oknqdh and misogyny into an empowering garment. The initial item description read: “An upsetting dystopian future has emerged where women no longer use a say. However, we say be bold and speak your mind in this particular exclusive Brave Red Maiden costume.” The irony astounds.
Past the laughter, whether or not they designed to or otherwise, Yandy sold the ideal Halloween Costumes. It mixes the puritanical reproductive coercion of The Handmaid’s Tale using the objectification and commercialisation of female bodies. It displays a dystopian reality that may be in our future, and may also describe our present. It’s a really scary way to observe Halloween.