A sexy version of the eponymous costume from Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale was removed from a popular Halloween costume and lingerie online store following social media backlash. Yandy put the "Brave Red Maiden Costume" on sale yesterday. The overwhelmingly negative responses poured in within hours.
The Emmy-awarding winning TV hit adapted from Margaret Atwood's famous dystopian novel tells the story of a future in which women's rights have been stripped away by a zealously pious, patriarchal, right-wing government. The series follows Offred/June (Elisabeth Moss), who like all of the few fertile women in a time marred by ecological disaster and plague, lives as a Handmaid - a woman purposed for breeding and replenishing the population. The series has received wide acclaim for the chilling resonance it's achieved by paralleling present-day political turmoil. Among the many protests that the iconic red dress and white wings outfit has been spotted at, protesters dressed as Handmaids showed up during Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearing earlier this month.
Yandy put out a statement that their intentions were to support the theme of female empowerment in The Handmaid's Tale. However, they've received a number of messages from people who feel that the costume sends a message to the contrary. Yandy said: "Our initial inspiration to create the piece was through witnessing its use in recent months as a powerful protest image. Given the sincere, heartfelt response, supported by numerous personal stories we’ve received, we are removing the costume from our site.” See the original costume below.
The costume was originally listed with a message imploring the wearer to "be bold and speak your mind." It was retailed at $64.95, alongside lingerie-style Halloween costumes based on other famous female characters, such as Wonder Woman, Disney Princesses, and Jessica Rabbit. Some commentators defended the costume as a fun and ironic approach to promoting sexual freedom and empowerment. Detractors quickly pointed out that portraying characters who undergo egregious sexual assault as voluptuous completely misses the point of the show itself.
Critics of the costume have expressed disbelief that Yandy launched the product, which can now be added to a long list of PR disasters resulting from tone-deaf advertisers in recent history. Kendall Jenner's 2017 Pepsi commercial was widely panned as dismissive of police brutality concerns, while social media was quick to jump on the "Lady Doritos," campaign as a vapid attempt to capitalize on conversations about gender equality. Costumes that are considered inappropriately exploitative have also long been contentious points of online debate. Season 1 of Netflix's Dear White People, for example, deals with college students dressing in blackface, and the exploration of racism in academic institutions.
It's probable that many people who've heard of The Handmaid's Tale have yet to watch the series or read the book. Especially as Hulu invests in more projects that have constructively tackled issues of gender inequity and violence, such as the Veronica Mars revival, perhaps more viewers will be encouraged to start watching.