A Tale of Two Purim Costume Ads

It’s only Tu Beshevat, but the marketing for Purim is ratcheting up with advertisements for Purim costumes everywhere.

A week or two ago, Hadassah Margolese, mother of 8-year-old Naama of Beit Shemesh fame, opened a haredi weekly distributed for free in her building’s mailboxes. She was shocked to find an ad for Purim costumes, with the faces of the girls blurred out:

Margolese posted the scanned ad to the Red Pirate chain’s Facebook page. A message posted by Red Pirate claimed that they had no knowledge of the altered ad, which was commissioned by an agency. The original ad with the girls’ faces appeared in several local publications. The chain apologized, saying that they would not agree to their ads appearing in newspapers that do not publish pictures of women.

The uproar over this incident had barely died down when the women’s organization WIZO protested a “pornographic” advertising supplement. According to the Jerusalem Post:

The catalogue was distributed for free last weekend in national newspapers and is readily available in toy stores and shopping malls throughout the country.

It features 23 colorful pages of costumes for babies, young children and teenagers and seven pages of adult costumes. Of the adult costumes, the majority display various professions, animals or television characters and almost all include fishnet stockings, microscopic skirts and revealing tops.

One of the costumes, described in the catalogue as a “sexy cat,” includes a bondage mask and whip, while the “sexy policewoman” includes a latex bodice and handcuffs.

Some people say that one leads to the other and that haredi extremism is a backlash against the sexy way that women dress. Others believe that both extreme approaches demean women and turn them into sex objects.

Readers, what do you think?


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  1. The Jerusalem Post article further went on to quote the costume designer as saying that she doesn’t see what the problem is. After all, she made some costumes for religious people and some for secular people.

    Well, tell me: why should a sexy costume be considered secular? Do all secular women want to dress in a sexy costume? Do none of them want to dress in a non-sexy costume – you know, have fun at a costume party without being a sex object? What a ridiculous assumption.
    And do religious women not have sex or ever want to feel sexy? I guarantee you that many religious DO want to feel attractive and dress attractively.
    Finally, is it not possible to be sexy without being sleazy (fishnet stockings and a whip?!)? Of course it is!

    Furthermore, the designer’s idea of costumes for religious people is… religious-themed outfits. So does she think that all religious people only want to dress up as Queen Esther, and never anything else? Is it so inconceivable that a religious woman might want to dress up as a cat, policewoman, or nurse?
    And maybe it’s possible that a secular little girl might wan to dress up as Queen Esther?

    The designer is wronging both secular and religious women, by pigeon-holing both.
    And yes, making only “sexy” costumes for women objectifies them! You’d think a female designer would realize this.

    Of course, blurring out the faces of little girls in ads objectifies them, as well. It’s like saying that it is perfectly normal to think of a little girl sexually, as if pedophelia was the norm and to be expected, therefore the editors must go out of their way to blur out the girls’ faces.

    I believe that both approaches are demeaning to women, and neither is a reaction against the other.

  2. What do I think? I think these people (that blur little girls faces) are nuts.

  3. If an advertiser/publication does not want to show faces of girls over the age of three, that’s their right, but they should have the decency to use mannequins or some other sort of frame, for the boys’ costumes as well. Blurring faces is insulting, especially when the boys’ faces are shown right next to them. I’ve seen many ads that do not use models for womens’ clothes and they are tastefully done. I read an article a few years ago by a woman lamenting that when she was a child there was very little difference in the costumes worn by the religious and the secular, and now sometimes the kids don’t even recognize each other’s costumes. The example given was the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel and Pokeman.

  4. Ohhhh. I have many thoughts on this. As a modest woman who doesn’t live somewhere “modest,” I hate costumed holidays. I like having parties with costumes, but I always make sure not to make them around Halloween here so everyone has to get inventive with a costume.

    I also think that the blurring out of women’s faces sexualizes them way more than leaving them in. The “secular” industry is guilty of this too, in a totally different way. In an ad where you only see parts of a woman, you are encouraged to think of them as objects– the same is true of blurring out girls’ faces. Psychologically we don’t relate to them as human any more and that encourages treating women like objects. If faces of women are objectionable, just put the costumes on a mannequin like one of the other posters suggested.

  5. Interesting post and comments!
    I find that secular Israeli society has much less of a sense of modesty than secular American society, e.g. advertising costumes for adults that in America would never be worn by women outside the adult entertainment industry. I wonder if part of the reason for that is actually backlash against all the religious coercion in this country – if modesty is associated here specifically with religious people, then perhaps secular women who don’t want to dress like sex objects get accused of giving in to the “dosim”…

  6. With the sexy costumes, I’m really uncomfortable with my girls looking at the costume magazines. I think the word sexy doesn’t have to mean slutty… But also as far as backlash, an Israeli fashion magazine has done a photo shoot to show an opposite view of “Hadarat Nashim”. It isn’t safe for work or if kids are around, and I found it a bit shocking as well. http://www.holesinthenet.co.il/archives/37889

  7. Well I think they’re right about the fact that they feel threatened because of the sexy women. But blurring little girls is going too far.

  8. 1)Taking distance from our issues. I have to say that girls costumes from Red Pirate look immensely better. While in mail version person hardly alters his looks (and looks hopelessly benign- in my humble opinion-rather inappropriate for a carnival) girls costumes clearly feature Nopera-bo http://cristyburne.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/the-yokai-without-a-face/ Japanese faceless demon- which is rather cool.

    2) Generally speaking, hiding women’s face during masquerade is a racy thing to do, worse than wearing provocative dress. Why?
    a)proclaimed anonymity (costume which shows you gender but do not show your face)-makes one loose her/his society boundaries and possibly act in frivolous promiscuous way
    b)wearing provocative dress during carnival is rather mild thing to do- as masks are to show opposites to ones real identity. so actually sexually explicit outfit probably ends up on some one who feels absolutely opposite-and hope it will look funny on them by the way of contrast

    3)Seems we are to stock on with burkas. HATE IT

    NB (as a matter of fact it is false advertisement- Red Pirate do not have girls costumes with mask hiding face)

  9. teen in america says

    I think it should be pointed out that the dressing up on Purim is only supposed to be the Purim characters, who certainly would not have been any of these things. S\Also, sexy costumes are appalling no matter who they’re being sold to.