A Victoria mom who went looking for a firefighter costume for her young daughter says she is outraged by what she found.
Raina Delisle, whose daughter will soon turn four, said that when she checked out the costumes at her local Value Village store, she found gender-specific firefighter outfits — and she thought the difference between them was appalling.
'A little girl cannot even be a pumpkin without having a lace-up corset-like outfit. It's absolutely disgusting.' — Victoria mom Raina Delisle
"There's a girl's version and a boy's version. Now, the boy's version looks like the real thing. The model on the package has a hardhat, a jacket and even an axe," Delisle said.
"The girl's version, on the other hand, looks absolutely nothing like a firefighter. It's a skin-tight, black, shiny dress. It doesn't even have a helmet. It has a fascinator instead in place of a helmet."
"What those costumes tell me is that the boys can wear the real thing. They can be a real firefighter. The girls, on the other hand can't. They can dress up pretty and pretend to be a firefighter, but they could never aspire to be the real thing," she said.
Delisle, dismayed, looked at some other costume options. She found a police officer's costume being marketed for four-to-six-year-old girls, but it too was a dress with a short skirt.
Other offerings proved similar.
"A little girl cannot even be a pumpkin without having a lace-up corset-like outfit. It's absolutely disgusting," Delisle said.
She said she made several calls to Value Village, first as a concerned parent, and then later she made calls to the company's media relations line in her capacity as a freelance journalist.
Delisle told CBC News that she feels the "sexy" costumes can present a good opportunity to open up dialogue with children about what's appropriate to wear, but the store also has a role in the choice.
"It's really hard to steer your kids away from those costumes when you're in the store. they gravitate towards shiny and frilly … and they see that that is how firefighters are represented and how police officers — and pumpkins — are represented."
Delisle said the company has a corporate responsibility to live up to, and she would like it to respond by pulling the child-sized sexy costumes.
"By selling those costumes, they are in effect promoting the sexualization of young girls," Delisle said.
She said Value Village did not respond to her calls.
Company pulls costumes
On Monday the company issued a statement saying the costumes in question were being removed from store shelves.
"Every year, we select our Halloween inventory based on feedback and demand from shoppers," said the statement.
"We’ve taken the recent comments surrounding certain Halloween costumes sold in our stores very seriously, and as such, are removing this merchandise from our sales floors."
"We apologize to those who were offended, and as we move forward, we will evaluate all costumes and packaging keeping this specific customer feedback in mind."