Love letters from Ana


Gender and Halloween

I miss being little and celebrating Halloween. Getting in groups with friends with empty baskets or pumpkin buckets waiting for a year’s supply of candy to flood them. The parties where the punch was on dry ice and the scary movie du jour was “Hocus Pocus.” Being rewarded with enough mini Whoppers and Skittles packets to make a dentist squirm just for finding the apartments in your building who were willing to play trick or treat—well maybe that’s just a city thing. It was so simple. The best part of Halloween and being a kid was the infinite costume options—especially for girls. Whatever you picked was going to be adorable and everyone would just “oooh” and “ahhh” at your cuteness. What if however, you were a little boy who wanted to wear a princess costume? Would it be cute?

Paul Henson made headlines as a father from Virginia who praised his son for wanting to dress up as Princess Elsa from the movie “Frozen.” Henson wrote on his Facebook page, “Anyone that knows us, knows we generally let Caiden make his own choices, to an extent. Well, he has decided on a Halloween costume. He wants to be Elsa. He also wants me to be Anna. Game on…” This is a pretty cool story, but what shocked me was that it made headlines. Perhaps I projected my progressive gender views on the rest of the population because for this story to make headlines, Henson had to have been doing something out of the ordinary.

I feel like it’s easier for a little girl to dress up in a typically “boy” costume. It’s like boy costumes are pretty much gender neutral and girl costumes are just girl costumes. A little girl can dress like the old man from “Up,” she can dress like a storm trooper, she can dress like Harry Potter. A little boy, however, should not be spotted trick-or-treating in a princess dress. How does this make sense? Even as infants we put our children in their “proper” gender role. Our daughters have more flexibility in their femininity, whereas little boys are already put in this narrow gender role.

It seems like adults have no problem preaching gender progression, but may feel differently about their children’s gender assignment. If we take this to adult Halloween costumes, we see that once again women costumes are for women and men’s costumes can be neutral or sexualized to be feminine. I’ve seen sexy Darth Vader costumes and Pokemon costumes. Again, a grown man typically cannot dress in one of these female costumes and be socially accepted, especially if the man considers himself straight. So, we project these harsh gender roles on our kids for Halloween, but also ourselves. I know I sometimes feel uncomfortable going to a college Halloween party if I’m not, on some level, dressed cute or feminine. Perhaps this is rooted from childhood, where our Halloween costumes are incredibly gendered.

Hanson finalized his Facebook post by saying, “Keep your masculine bull**** and slutty kids costumes, Halloween is about children pretending to be their favorite characters. Just so happens, this week his is a princess.” I love that Hanson puts something that should be so simple, so simply, but if this is making headlines, we have a long way to go.