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Why we shouldn’t be shaming Women for their Harley Quinn Costumes

Over the Halloween weekend I’ve seen a lot of Harley Quinn costumes, but that doesn’t compare to the number of posts I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter shaming girls for their “basic” outfit choices. In a world where everyone is becoming more acutely aware of the blatant sexism that surrounds Halloween costumes, why do we still shame girls for their Halloween looks? Why do girls dressing up as a fun, feisty anti-hero inspire so much hate from swathes of men?


The problem men seem to have with women dressing up as Harley Quinn seems to be twofold, and this can be revealed by a quick Google search:

Source: Google

On the one hand girls are criticised for being unoriginal. For every girl who dresses up as Harley Quinn, the more people* seem to sneer at the outfit choice. A smiling Leonardo Dicaprio raises his glass to all the ladies who have chosen to dress as something other than Harley Quinn. How nice of him.

Source: imgflip

On the other hand, and much more frustratingly, men are criticising women who they believe shouldn’t be dressed as Harley Quinn. The supposedly “unattractive” women, who, we can assume, are ruining her sexual appeal for the die-hard DC Comics fans. This raises two issues: One, that men yet again feel they have the right to police women on their appearance, and two, Harley Quinn is a victim of over-sexualisation. Those who are not seen as attractive enough to be Harley Quinn are ridiculed by men who feel threatened by women, or ‘fake fans’ appropriating their precious nerd culture.

Source: Reddit

Furthermore, Hollywood and in particular the Marvel and DC Comics film franchises are noticeably stingy in their representation of women. In the comics themselves women are presented as disproportionately well-endowed, skimpy outfit wearing, feisty and “badass”. Often their characters are two dimensional and underdeveloped. Though she has a developed back story and (to an extent) complex emotions, the primary role of Harley Quinn’s character is as a love interest and it’s not much of a stretch to argue that her other main role is a sexy and sassy relief character for a male audience. For the fans of the comics, she was likely a fictional crush for those boys who admired the Joker**, and her psychotic antics are often compared to those “crazy” women men have such an issue with. For women who have been victims of gaslighting***, it’s all too obvious how damaging it can be to normalise the comparison of women to a character who is clinically insane and institutionalised.

Source: Reddit

Harley Quinn may not be a feminist role model, her relationship with the Joker is founded on abuse and she often gets her way by using her sexual appeal alone. However, women can’t be blamed for seeing her vibrant character on a screen and wanting to emulate that on the one day of the year where people can let their creativity flow and express themselves through costume.

This is an issue of representation as much as it is Representation is important, and lack thereof is still a huge issue in popular culture. For every Reddit and 4Chan user who spent their time making poor quality memes about Harley Quinn Halloween costumes I’m sure a tiny fraction of that number would have actually taken a step back and considered the wider problem of the lack of female characters all together in these films. When options are thin on the ground, it’s bottom line hypocritical for the same people who are keeping women out of the superhero universe to criticise them for capitalising on the little opportunity they have to fully involve themselves in a genre equally enjoyed by men and women.

Source: Attn

*For the most part, men

**For as many women who dressed up as Harley Quinn, I saw just as many men dressed as the Joker or the other much loved cult figure, American Psycho.

***To manipulate somebody, often psychologically, into doubting their own sanity.

Tash is the deputy lifestyle editor of Her Campus Bristol. She is a second year English student hailing from Landan town - Her favourite pastimes include browsing the internet looking for her summer holiday destinations and walking everywhere. She enjoys interior design and thinking about space.
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