With Halloween right around the corner, most people (myself woefully not included) have already planned out their costumes. These days, costumes come in many varieties: Scary, funny, sexy, and—more often than ever before— offensive.
2015 is no different, and the costume that has raised the most eyebrows and generated the most debate is undoubtedly 'Call Me Caitlyn.' Clearly inspired by Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair cover, the costume immediately caused such a firestorm of criticism that it got pulled from shelves in certain stores.
However, according to TMZ, Caitlyn Jenner is on track to be the most popular Halloween costume of the year, allegedly creating a craze on par with last year's demand for Elsa from Frozen. But, I can guarantee that those who object to the costume will not (and should not) let it go.
There were legitimate reasons for the outcry
Though the PR spin from companies like Spirit has been to acknowledge Caitlyn as a "superhero" who is being "celebrated," the marketing terminology (a.k.a. what the general public would actually read) says something quite different. What is really selling this costume is a mockery of who Caitlyn is, as this description from AnytimeCostumes.com puts it:
You probably won’t break any Twitter records when you wear this outfit like Caitlyn did, but you’ll be sure to get a few laughs out of your friends and the other guests at the get together.
It's hard to see this as a celebration when costume websites are presenting Caitlyn as a "Miss-ter," an extremely dehumanizing way to refer to a trans woman.
When these products came to light, trans activists and advocates were quickly and understandably horrified, and it wasn't long until a Change.org petition ('Stop Exploiting Caitlyn Jenner') was filed to remove the masculine-presenting costume from retailers. Though a few of them complied, that certainly wasn't the end of the conversation.
When asked about the costume, Caitlyn said "it's great"
When Caitlyn Jenner herself was asked about the costume controversy on The Today Show, she told Matt Lauer that she was fine with it, much to the dismay of trans advocates who found it so offensive.
I’m in on the joke. I don’t think it’s offensive at all. I know the [trans] community does, and [the company has] gotten a lot of criticism for doing it. I think it’s great.
For those who haven't been actively following Caitlyn's ascent to America's 'Respectable Trans Person' (as Slate's J. Bryan Lowder puts it), this position is not all that surprising. She has continually distanced herself from the community at large (for instance, a discomfort toward same-sex marriage), but that doesn't mean her actions don't affect LGBTQ people on a broader level.
Not everyone agrees that Caitlyn's approval means the costume is okay
While Caitlyn may not object to her own costume, many other trans individuals see the popularity of her costume as a reaffirmation of the myth that trans people are just "playing dress up," as if gender identity is something that can be worn and removed at will.
Look, it's one thing if a woman wears this now-famous corset (a debate for another article), but a man wearing it, especially with the way it's been advertised above, serves to perpetuate the stereotype that trans women are really just men in drag.
I mean, it's all pretty simple. As Nick Adams, GLAAD's director of programs for transgender media, puts it:
If a man wears the costume with the intention of mocking Caitlyn Jenner, and by extension all transgender women, that is just mean-spirited and unacceptable.
When 41% of trans people attempt suicide due in large part to society's ongoing stigma, I just can't find a reductive costume very funny, even if the intentions are supposedly celebratory.
(Source: TMZ, Slate)