Walmart apologized for selling “fat girl” Halloween costumes on its website this week, but I have yet to see any apology for selling the “Adult Sexy Indian Princess” costume or the “Sexy Gypsy Fortune Teller” costume.
Whether it be with blackface or by scantily clad “Pocahottie” costumes, cultural misappropriation runs rampant this time of year, and people take a lot of liberties in their various costume creations. Native women in particular are often trivialized as scantily clad sex objects.
Aspiring "Pocahotties": please keep in mind as you’re slutting up and degrading an entire race of strong, proud people who have been disenfranchised for hundreds of years, that American Indians are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault crimes compared to all other races, and one in three Indian women reports having been raped during her lifetime. (U.S. Dept. of Justice)
While searching Walmart’s site I found an Elite Men's Indian Brave Costume.
It degrades Native men without overtly trying to be “sexy.” That seems to be the case with a lot of costumes. While police costumes for men look like actual uniforms, while the women get “Sexy Officer Frisky.” The costume for girls is a junior version.
The only other costume I found based on race or ethnicity was a women’s Celtic Warrior costume, which would in my opinion have stopped any battle.
Interestingly, they have a West African Girl costume and a West African Boy costume, both of which appear simply to be colorful and tasteful, but there is no African Princess Costume or African Warrior Costume. Gee, I wonder why not.
Also interesting is that Walmart, on its Global Responsibility page, touts a Women’s Economic Empowerment initiative, which includes a commitment to “Promote Diversity and Inclusion Representation Within Our Merchandising and Professional Services Suppliers.”
In the context of the disparity between what women and men earn, how does Sexy Officer Frisky and Red Hot Riding Hood square with that commitment? Another stated Walmart initiative is Diversity & Inclusion. How does profiting from gender and cultural stereotypes and degradation square with that commitment?
Perhaps Walmart’s executives should shop their own costume department for a disguise. They certainly ought to be hiding their faces.
Amy Foxworthy is an Indianapolis-based Native American writer and activist.