Here’s My 8-Year-Old’s Halloween Costume
Ha! I’m just messing with you. Over my undead body would my kid be wearing this Clawdeen Wolf Monster High costume, available at Toys’R’Us, in sizes “recommended” for 4-6 year olds. So all that rot you Monster High fans are telling me about how the line isn’t MEANT for little girls? Tell that to Mattel. Or to the 4-year-old rocking a Frankie Stein costume.
Or the kindergartner who wants to dress as Cleo de Nile:
Now THAT’S scary.
Look, I don’t mean to pick on Monster High. These images just happened to come across my desk today.
A reader recently sent me this one:
It’s no secret that little girls’ Halloween costumes have gotten sexier. The topic comes up in the media every October. But the issue is so much bigger. Two of the world’s wisest women, Deb Tolman and Lyn Mikel Brown broke it down for HuffPo last year. Among their observations:
The constant visual cues suggesting there are only two options for what girls can be, not just on Halloween but every other day of the year, reflect a media and marketing machine that pits one type against the other, even as it sides with the consumer version of sexy. The reality, of course, is that there really are more choices. Girls can be whatever they want to be, but they have to be encouraged to find out what that is, and the media messages with which they are bombarded make that a harder task each passing day.
But for various reasons, we as parents have not said “no” to the retailers, because too often in this ever more consumer-driven society, we do not say “no” to our children. We’re afraid of what can happen when our children don’t conform or we resist too much, like the six year-old kicked off her cheerleading team in Michigan because her parents protested a sexualized cheer.
It’s easy for moralizers to blame parents for saying yes and to blame girls for wanting and wearing. Placing the blame on individuals deflects attention from the rampant commercialization of childhood and the pornification of products marketers peddle to younger and younger children. Sure, we can say no. Many of us do. But we’re up against corporations willing to invest billions to cultivate our child’s desire for the right look and heighten their anxiety about not matching up.
Halloween can be just one more reminder that a girl has to be all sexy or she’s nothing, or it can be an opportunity to explore what lies between the extremes. Help her discover all the amazing options available. Challenge her to come up with the most fun, fascinating, silly, scary costumes she can imagine. Unleash her creativity. Make it a contest, make it a party, make it a school challenge. Like the Connecticut cheerleaders who refused to wear skimpy uniforms that undermined their ability to perform, like the Texas teens who decided not to wear makeup to school, encourage her to make news with a protest, a petition, or a video that can go viral.
Raising a daughter with a chance at sexual health and sexual literacy is difficult enough; when sex is overused to oversell, it can feel like a Sisyphean task. It is more urgent than ever that we encourage girls to use their power to pull back the curtain on the paucity of what has been marketed as “choice” and reclaim what it means to be a girl.
So the problem is not Halloween. It’s not Toddlers & Tiaras. It’s the messaging that surrounds girls in much more mundane ways EVERY SINGLE DAY that reduce them and define them by their bodies. Yet, there are certain times, like Halloween, when those messages grow more intense. So how about it? Rather than bemoaning what’s happening yet again, let’s us adults do our job and get together, talk to one another and say NO!
Of course if you know my motto–fight fun with fun–you know “no” is not enough. How about telling your daughter to (or helping her to or challenging her to) make her own costume? I suck at crafts, truly, but I overcame last year and got out my safety pins and glue gun and some muslin to make a reasonably credible Athena costume. And the year before that, heck, my girl tossed on her karate gi and stuck a wooden sword in her belt and said she was a “martial arts girl.” It wasn’t the most inspired costume out there BUT SO THE F*CK WHAT???? She is a KID. It’s Trick-or-Treat, not Project Runway (though speaking of runways, maybe a pilot??).
It would be invading her privacy to give away what she’s going as this year (though she’s been talking about it since 12:01 am on Nov 1 2010). But I guarantee you this: her costume will be warm enough to wear outside without a jacket.