By Lindsay Gullingsrud
As I walked down the aisles in search of a Halloween costume for my toddler, I quickly realize they are defined by gender. The “boy” aisle has a wide range of costumes to be a superhero or some other male “hero” that displays power with the use of weapons and muscles etched into the costume. The “girl” aisle has a wide range of costumes to be any type of princess you can imagine. From Princess Belle to Tinkerbelle—even a princess butterfly—regardless of the character all the “girl” costumes are pink with some type of variation of a tiara and wand. Why is there little to no room for a girl to be a superhero without the requirement of a skirt? Why is there little to no room for a boy to be magical without the requirement of a weapon? Why do we box in our children’s creativity and self-expression according to their assumed gender at such young ages?
Out of pure curiosity, I walk down the next aisle. This is when I realize my future dilemmas and potential disagreements around Halloween while raising children. Starting in about middle school, the costumes are no longer a witch or a police officer; they become a “sexy” witch or a “sexy” police officer for girls. Boys appear to maintain similar themes from younger ages with the addition of choosing between a “pimp” from the 70’s or a “pimp” from the 90’s. At such young ages, why do we sexualize our girls and apply a hyper-masculinity to our boys? Why do we limit children’s creativity and self-expression to either being exploited or being the exploiter? What messages we are sending?
As adults, it is time to demand the change with the gendered and often pornified choices for Halloween costumes for not only adults, but also for our children. As adults, we can honor whatever costume a child chooses to wear. Instead of saying, “You’re too cute to be a monster” or “You’re a boy. Don’t you want to be superman?” you can choose to support that child and say, “That is so cool!” Parents can also choose costumes for the entire family that are fun and festive without feeding into the normalization of sexual harm and the pornified of culture. Let’s demand the change to this trend during Halloween and inspire a change of heart toward costumes that are fun, festive, and require a little creativity.
Schools in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada, are demanding the change by banning “pimp” and “ho” costumes at their school parties. We can follow the lead of our northern neighbors and demand the change right here in Minnesota. This is a talk-able as well as teachable moment for all of us — children and adults. How are you going to choose your child’s costume? What kind of conversations will you have with your child or the adults in your life about Halloween costumes? What are you going to choose for yourself? We all can demand the change on an individual basis as well as inspire a change to the environments around us during Halloween. As adults, we all can connect with our local schools and provide a teachable moment with solutions as they prepare for Halloween. We can host parties that create a fun, creative, and festive environment that does not feed into the normalization of sexual harm and support the current pornified culture. What type of environment for Halloween parties will you choose to support as you go out? How are you going to demand the change?
For more about the schools in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada, please click here.