Halloween dangers and double standards

Ah, Halloween – the time when you can be anything, as long as it’s slutty.

Don’t get me wrong – if you’ve waiting all year to express some element of your personality that you would regularly hide, and that part of your personality likes to show off its cleavage and wear super short skirts, then you should go for it!  But Halloween is still the time of the super double standard, as this website (contains a swear in the title, FYI!) so clearly demonstrates.  Men can be lumberjacks – women can only be sexy lumberjacks.  Or sexy nuns, astronauts, teachers, etc.

Even worse: the way that this holiday has been co-opted to reinforce gender stereotypes even for kids.  Even as our society continues to come to terms with the fact that some women might not dream of a wedding day with a white dress, and some men might want to wear a skirt now and then (I freaking love skirts, and can’t imagine people not wanting to get in on this fun!), or the fact that some people might like to make their choices about outfits, hairstyles, relationships, and bodies without fitting into some gender norm, I think that Halloween was supposed to be an escape from that.  A time to see if the skirt really does make you feel more like yourself, a time to imagine what it might be like to grow a beard, or have a cape and pretend to fly.

When I was a kid, my close group of girl friends and I took this to an extreme:

  • One year, my friends and I were Miss America contestants.  I was Miss Arizona because she reminded me of my summer camp counselor who was the best thing since sliced bread.  We bought 80’s prom dresses from the local thrift store and made sashes – I still have mine.  I wore sneakers under my long dress – how else could I be expected to get all the candy people were dishing out?
  • The next year, we were boys.  Just boys.  I can recall lots of boys coming to my house with their shirts stuffed and skirts waving, so it seemed only fair to see what the fuss was about on their end.  At this point, I had a super short haircut anyway (not by choice…), and our interpretation of being a boy involved flannel shirts, baseball hats, jeans, and fake black eyes made from the contents of our mediocre makeup kits.  Not sure why, but hey, it was fun!  We ended up in the parking lot of our elementary school after trick-or-treating ended, and I remember wondering if people passing by would think we were actually boys instead of dressed up.  Would it matter?

Answer: no.  It shouldn’t.  I really hope we can step away from stereotypical gender roles – as a country, society, community, generation, you name it! – and make Halloween back into something fun.  It could be an example of personal expression and acceptance.  There’s literally nothing to lose here and everything to gain.

On the bright side, there are already cool people like the parents mentioned on this blog who want their kids to have all the opportunities (and colors and stickers) available, instead of limiting girls to being butterflies and boys to being tigers.  And on the flip side, there are people like this:

Do me a favor: When you see an awesome kid trick-or-treating this Halloween, consider what message you can send them about who they are and how they show themselves to the world.  Are they clever, in addition to being pretty?  Are they “so cool” in addition to being strong?  Or are they just awesome for taking a chance and trying something new (especially if they skip the store and make it themselves??)?  Maybe all of the above.

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