By Leena Sen
With Halloween passing last week, all of us know that there are numerous costumes on the market and in our wardrobes: the cat, clown, witch and the more outgoing ones, like the Sexy Ebola Nurse costume that came out in online stores this year.
You may have heard of it. It’s the usual iconic “sexy” costume for women: a skin-baring, see-through yellow take on a hazmat suit, mask and boots abound.
While Ebola rages through West Africa, killing thousands, Americans have little to no reason to fear contracting Ebola, yet some will dress in a hazmat suit like the health workers treating the Ebola patients. Obviously, as everything, there is a “sexy” version of the costume. While the retailer BrandsOnSale is not the only company selling the Ebola costume, many have responded negatively (as we would hope) as the website stated the men’s version was the “most viral costume of the year”.
While the Ebola epidemic has killed over 5000 people and there are more than 13,700 cases of the disease, this is not the first time that an infectious disease has lead to inappropriate costumes, inappropriate meaning in terms of the sexual innuendos garnered from a serious topic, as well as pushing a sexist agenda.
For a long time, kids were the only ones to dress up for halloween. Not until the 1970s did adults really begin the costume trend, and diseases soon came into the variety. Lesley Bannatyne, the author of Halloween: An American Holiday, said “It wasn’t until adults got involved that we got costumes with satire, edginess, or humour,”.
A list of examples of other infectious-disease inspired costumes are:
- H1N1 couples costumes
- Swine flu: the creation of a pig nose and a surgical mask for Halloween costumes. It should be noted that between 2009 and 2010 the CDC estimates that there were between 8,870 and 18,300 H1N1 related deaths.
- Bird flu: Marie Lodi of Rookie Magazine glued fake birds with Xs on their eyes and fake blood on them to her costume.
An interesting fact is that Lodi’s costume was actually quite well received. The difference between Lodi’s bird flu costume and the Ebola costume is this: the avian flu is no longer a threat, but Lodi states, “Ebola is different- people are really scared of it, and it’s all over the news now.”
Ebola is a raging disease, a serious topic currently and has been in the past as well. While many see the Ebola costume as the Grim Reaper of the moment, or just another take on the infamous “plague doctor mask” – a mask filled with vinegar and other liquids that had been worn by 14th century doctors to counteract the smell of death- the sexy nurse costume has induced a variety of reactions; after all, it is not a new trend for marketers to turn a scary or uninviting idea into a sexist, “sexy” costume for women.