Ethics Quiz: “The Handmaiden’s Tale” Halloween Costume

It’s never too early to have a stupid Halloween costume controversy.

Online retailer Yandy revealed a “Brave Red Maiden” Halloween costume for sale, evoking the garb women forced into sexual surrogacy wear in Hulu’s series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” “An upsetting dystopian future has emerged where women no longer have a say,” the description reads. “However, we say be bold and speak your mind in this exclusive Brave Red Maiden costume.”

Predictably, the social media mobs attacked, so Yandy pulled the merchandise and grovelled,

“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. This is unfortunate, as it was not our intention on any level. Given the sincere, heartfelt response, supported by numerous personal stories we’ve received, we are removing the costume from our site.”

In other words, “We, like almost every other company, will restrict the right of other Americans to express themselves if enough people complain loudly enough that those expressions from others don’t matter as much as who is offended by them.”

Of course, the original hype that the outfit would be “inspiring” was ridiculous, as is the contention that this science fiction show has any real relevance to anything in current United States culture. Women no longer have a say? That’s rich.

However, there is a dystopian future looming if the fascist of the Left are able to censor ideas, art, recreation and any other activities they find objectionable. Aiding them greatly are craven companies like Yandy. “Is being seen as a symbol of women’s oppression” by whom, exactly? It’s a Halloween costume! If you don’t like a costume, don’t wear it. The CNBC article says,

“The iconic red cloak from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” has become a feminist symbol of protest against women’s oppression around the world. Recently, demonstrators donned the costume outside Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearing.”

Now THAT was offensive. I can see the costume as satire, then, of the brain-addled delusions and delusions of such protesters. Maybe I want to dress up as one of the maidens. I guarantee that won’t look sexy. Would that be offensive? A sexy Handmaiden’s Tale costume is silly, but so is a sexy Hester Prynne costume, and sexy witch costumes (Is this disrespectful to the women unjustly hanged in Salem?) Is a sexy Little Red Riding Hood costume…

…offensive? Why not? I think it makes light of pedophilia. Red was a little girl. You shouldn’t be allowed to sell such a costume. You shouldn’t be allowed to wear one. You shouldn’t be allowed to smile at one. You shouldn’t be allowed to think such a get-up is funny.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day While I Struggle With A Legal Ethics Opinion That Is Driving Me Nuts:

Should Yandy have removed the Handmaiden’s Tale costume from its site?

My view, in case you couldn’t guess, is that if enough people want to buy the stupid thing, they should be able to. Doing far more societal harm than any Halloween costume in dubious taste is the complicity of the private sector in political correctness bullying and restrictions on freedom of expression.

26 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: “The Handmaiden’s Tale” Halloween Costume

  1. I guess a lot of people haven’t seen the 1990 movie version with Faye Dunaway & Natasha Richardson. It was a rather “sexy” take thanks to Richardson.

    Yandy shouldn’t have succumbed to the zealots but Netflix feminists ruined the book for me a while back anyway.

  2. “The iconic red cloak from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” has become a feminist symbol of protest against women’s oppression around the world. Recently, demonstrators donned the costume outside Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearing.”

    If you want to convince a critical mass of men to oppress women, just convince them that they are being oppressed for the sake of women.

    Imagine if, for example, rape accusations by girls and women were considered gospel truth, regardless of corroborating evidence, or regardless of how long after the fact the accusation was first published.

    Imagine if completely innocent conduct, or even the mere expression of opinion (popular or not) was classified as sexual harassment, merely because a girl or woman took offense.

    Imagine if the federal government put its thumb on the scales of how private organizations should deal with sexual harassment, going so far as to actually forbid a fair hearing.

    Imagine if enough boys and men felt that the only way to protect their livelihoods, their freedom, from the acts of girls and women was to make the Republic of Gilead a reality.

    It Can’t Happen Here .

  3. I think any woman who wants to wear an oppressive costume like that were dropped on their heads. They should wear costumes that exemplify the opposite in reality or fiction if they want to make an agenda statement. (but no one thinks looking like Susan B Anthony will get you a date)

    This falls under the ‘makes you look stupid’ umbrella. I see no real problem allowing people to look as stupid as they want. I just don’t have to take them seriously. Nor do I begrudge a business making a profit on stupid. Helping people look stupid when they are determined to, is not the business’s fault, they’re just feeding their own families from the foolish.

    The costume performs to change appearance as advertised. Atwood should be getting a slice, but I doubt it, so she’s the only one who has a fair objection to the costume.

  4. “Our “Yandy Brave Red Maiden Costume” is being seen as a symbol of women’s oppression, rather than an expression of women’s empowerment.”

    Translated: “We were pandering to the horrible values of “sex-positive” liberal feminists with our slutty costume, but it turns out the equally horrible “sex-negative” feminists shrieked the loudest this time, so now we’re pandering to them. Also, please save us, we live in a dystopian clown world.”

    • The “sex negative” feminists should eat more prunes as they are full of it. Or perhaps they would be happy if women were forced to wear burkas as Halloween costumes.

  5. Okay it is like Jack is baiting me, as for thirty years I ran a costume shop, I just lost in bankruptcy,and am trying to save collection of theatre costumes, this weekend before they get auctioned off, I thought I was to busy to stop and chime in. But I have to chime in when both costumes, satire, and good taste are all included in discussion. The rise of the the sexy, trashy, costumes, started with The French, maid and naughty nurse, well hello nurse. These were old burlesque staples that crossed into popular culture. Then there were the scanty girls in the Nickelodeon machines adding pirates and the like,I saw it on Main Street in Disney World. Cute girls in the early part on flip cards in scanty for 1910’s outfits. Great Great grandpa’s porn. Those scantily clad girls went on to influence comic tropes till now a century later.

    Has it gone to far, I remember the first time I saw a sexy nun costume I was appalled ( I was the rare Catholic boy it seemed never molested, and never hit on the knuckles with a ruler, personally I never saw any of the nuns at Saint Andrews behave as anything, but paragons of virtue! My nuns even took me to the circus) it was my first time offended by a costume. But I was a fan of Satire, and I had seen the need for satireof the make it aware of its flaws, not that they listen to criticism well. I have heard nun horror stories, I just never experienced that. I still rever the nuns I meet out of habit! If they are are wearing their habit more so.
    In 1994 for the most distasteful costume trend I ever encountered happened the OJ Simpson trail. I am sorry but satire while the trail is just getting underway was an inappropriate response to the tragedy. People were buy Nicole like wigs and putting make up gashes on their neck, I was happy that the latex masks of OJ were so uncomfortable! Presumed innocent until proven guilty did not seem to register as a concept.

    When I moved the costume shop out to the suburbs the first but mistake I made was ordering the “sexy” costumes that did so well in the city. I did not need to reorder the female ones in the next five years. I have a large numbers of loyal gay customers, so the male sexy did well still. The women were not buying, and I had been selective only ordering the classics, I found Anna Rexia costume in bad taste, I would order for you. If you had the bad taste. But normally I would steer you to something that would show off you best side!

    Ok for a gay man I am a prude blame it on the nuns! The balance between good Taste and Satire is a precarious one. This Dress straddles that line. I have seen much worse, like the 400 pound women squeezing herself into a medium silver spandex jumpsuit. It looked like the Hindenburg disaster I found her something I little more tasteful, as she Kept telling me she wanted to be “sexy”. There are some great sultry and sassy costumes out there for women of all sizes.

    Back to satire, I love good satire in a costume, the problem is the satire is not always good or in good taste, and those things need to be considered as you do not want to get into a political arguement over your costume, it will ruin your night. Unless your Jack it will make his.
    I get the problems as this costume does not really reflect the political ramifications of the beloved source material. My problem is the material it made out of. But moot point Yandy which is a lingerie company has removed the costume and apologizes for offending. Now that is a shame Because if someone wants to wear a misrepresentation as satire they should be allowed to stir up all the controversy they want, just not the way I want to spend Halloween, I ‘ll be in my Little bow peep costume smoking my cigar!

    Oh a series of heart attacks drove me to bankruptcy! Getting better trying to rebuild!

    • Good luck on the rebuild for your heart and your business, Rip.

      The Bo Peep outfit sounds great, especially since it fits with the current Handmaid costume perfectly. Both stories are based on history, and both have controversial uses. Bo Peep originates in the 14th Century as a type of punishment (in the pillory or stocks) where one’s face was exposed – peeping out, that is – to a jeering crowd. Much as the early (well, 1970s) gay rights paraders knew they had to expose their own faces to make it known that they not only would not hide anymore but that they would celebrate who they are. (The sheep came later; that’s a different story)

  6. Then there’s that marvelous relic who makes a small but steady side income sewing costumes for friends for all occasions. All that’s needed is a photograph, a few words of context, your measurements, and the cost of the fabric. For a small fee, she’ll even let it out a bit next year so you can wear it again. For another small fee, she will show you how to handle a needle and thread yourself.

    They’re a dying breed, those seamstr…uh…seampeople.

    • By Jove, I believe you’ve hit the Next Big Thing:

      The Seemingly Seamy Seamstress…thimbles on all digits…come hither specs…hair clumsily pulled back in Kosmo Kramer’s purple scrunchy…faux frumpy petticoats…Mercy!

      • Ah, you know her! She is actually more of a Playboy bunny type but she has to put on the disguise (and costume, of course) so the customers will trust her. It’s that obverse-sexist thang.

        • Heh! It don’t mean a THANG if it ain’t got that SWANG!

          Reminds me of some of those commercials from the 60’s that I still remember all the words to…like:

          Please note the …um…diversity of the participants!

  7. Why do none of these companies ever seem to understand that the people screaming the loudest are very likely not, and never would have been, their customers? I doubt anyone “upset” about this dumb thing is the sort of person who has enough of a sense of fun to ever dress up in a costume at all.

    • And now, the Top 10 dumbest ideas I just made up for Democrat ice cream flavors!

      10. Karl Marxmallow (with Friedrich Sprinkgels!)
      9. Impeachment and Cream
      8. Abolish ICE Pumpkin Spice
      7. Amerikkka Was Never Grape
      6. Kill The Pigs Maple Bacon
      5. No Borders, No Wall, No Cup or Cone at All!
      4. Don’t Assume My Flavor
      3. AntiFudge
      2. Blueberry Wave

      And the #1 Ben & Jerry’s Democratic Party Ice Cream Flavor Is…

      1. If You Like This Cup You Can Keep This Cup! (disclaimer: you can’t keep the cup.)

  8. The costume isn’t just stupid. It’s also in spectacularly poor taste. The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel (and later Hulu series) about a rampant theocracy in which the titular handmaid is, in essence, a sex-slave. The costume is a “sexy” version of the outfit she was forced to wear due to her status.

    Given this, I’d say that it was unethical to sell the thing in the first place… and that informs my answer to the quiz.

    In essence, there are ethical and unethical reasons why they could have removed the thing. Their removal note is essentially uninformative boilerplate and tells me just about nothing about their motives in doing so… which leads me to answer with a rather uninspiring “maybe.”

    I can also say that the notice itself had issues — like, you know, being around as transparent as a barrel of mud. Given that, I’m not exactly inclined to be charitable…

      • There’s poor taste and poor taste.

        Ideally, of course, nobody should be selling costumes in bad taste — just as, ideally, nobody should buy them, be rude to others, ignore social conventions, or inconvenience other people when it can be avoided. Obviously, there are a lot of countervailing considerations and issues of priority (nevermind the subjectivity of things like taste or rudeness), but the rule still holds: one should at least try to be polite, considerate, and tasteful in one’s conduct, even if nobody’s perfect at it.

        The thing is, certain types of conduct make you stop and wonder if that person’s even trying. For instance, someone who’s sufficiently rude, especially on a regular basis, makes you think that they’re an asshole. Some sorts of conduct even act as signature significance, as Ethics Alarms uses the phrase: nobody who gives a metaphorical shit about the people they’re dealing with would ever act that way.

        That’s why I didn’t just note that the costume was in poor taste — I specified that it was spectacularly so. It’s well past the point of subjective judgement. It’s at the point where the immediate reaction is to wonder whether the people who thought up the idea ever read the book — or watched the series, I suppose — at all.

        Given that, there are a number of reasons to withdraw the thing that I’d consider ethical (“We’re selling what?!”) in addition to the ones I’d consider… less so. The thing is that their withdrawal notice is basically concealing boilerplate — meant to obfuscate their actual reasons and thoughts more than anything else.

        And if they’re willing to do that, to take a cowardly approach in that regard rather than admit what really happened and their actual thoughts, then I find it more likely that they’d be cowards — or assholes — in other ways as well.

        … all of which, come to think of it, is pretty much a restatement of my original comment/post/answer. Oh well. Maybe I made my point more clearly this time.

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