Kate Cohen writes that the most terrifying costume on Halloween is a little boy who dresses up as a Disney Princess or Wonder Woman, at least in the minds of his parents or other adults in his community:
Would you let your son be Frozen’s Elsa for Halloween? Care.com reports that 65 percent of people it surveyed (note: this could mean 20 people) said “no” to letting a boy wear a girl costume. Or, as a CaféMom commenter put it, “NO WAY AND HE WOULDN’T WANT TO ANYWAY.”
I wish I could dismiss the horror-struck momosphere with sympathetic condescension—man, it must be hard to live in a red state—but I can’t. My dining room table is a progressive enclave within a liberal bastion within the state of New York, and yet, it was there that my 5-year-old son’s declaration that he wanted to be Wonder Woman for Halloween was met with the shocked gasps and nervous laughter of our dinner guests. No one spoke. And then a friend—trembling but determined, like the one kid in the horror movie brave enough to move toward the scary sound behind the door—ventured, “Wouldn’t you rather be Spiderman?”
Sadly, I’m sure she’s right. I have a nephew who was bullied by neighborhood pre-K toughs because at age three he liked to play dressup and sometimes wore a dress. Age three!
Liberal Americans congratulate themselves too much for being gay- or trans-friendly if the notion of five-year old boys dressed as Wonder Woman causes anyone to say anything other than “She is AWESOME! Who wouldn’t want to be Wonder Woman Which accessory do you like better: the bulletproof bracelets, or the rockin’ boots?” (I’ll take the bracelets for daywear, but who can resist those boots?) The only costumes these days that scare me are those asinine male superhero costumes that are padded to make preadolescent children look absurdly muscular. Would most of us permit our preteen girls to wear giant false boobs in their costumes? The fake muscles are the masculine equivalent, I say.
I’m the older sister of a brother who regularly dressed up in girl costumes–or just as a woman–in the 1970s and 1980s, and I don’t recall any nervous efforts to redirect his interests to dressing up like Luke Skywalker, the Hulk, or Dr. Zeus from Planet of the Apes. Then in high school, he was the first to volunteer to be a cheerleader for the PowderPuff football game (in which the girls played ball and were cheered by boys in short skirts on the sidelines.) The visibility of gay or trans-people has made straight peoples’ anxieties about these identities come to the surface, especially around something as innocuous as child dress-up play and Halloween. Back when being gay and trans people were mostly closeted, parents probably gave their boys more liberty to play.
Adults these days, in addition to infantilizing themselves (as I suggested in the last post), seem determined to ruin play for children too. Can we all just get a grip on some appropriate boundaries? I dressed up as a fairy princess, a gypsy fortune-teller, a pirate, and a skeleton, and grew up to be none of these.
Maybe taking off the adult costumes and letting the kids dress up as whatever or whomever they want is would be a great place to start.