First off, I have to say that this post is a blatant excuse for me to be able to post up pictures of my kids on Halloween night. Yes, I said it.
Here’s the first one, in which the girls pose to get their picture taken for a costume contest at the local candy boutique store.
You will notice WonderGirl on the right there is dressed up as Dora (okay, we substituted her Dora heels for frog boots and purple Boots monkey for our puppet monkey and the Dora backpack from a hand-me-down from SuperGirl, but you get the picture. Gender appropriate…and so stinkin’ darn cute, if I may say so myself). =)
And, on the left, SuperGirl. But instead of being dressed up as SuperGirl or any other gender appropriate costume (“gender appropriate” is a term I plan on discussing below), my lovely 3yo daughter has been in love with Captain America all summer and desperately wanted to be Captain America for Halloween. And so she was.
I have to admit, I was a little surprised that we didn’t get questions on Halloween as we went trick-or-treating through our local downtown during the day or around the neighborhood at night. Questions on why she wasn’t dressed up in a more “gender appropriate” costume. She was definitely the only girl I saw dressed up in a “boy” costume. And I think only one person the entire day referred to her as a “him” (I guess the long hair wasn’t a tip-off). For the most part, everyone oohed and ahhed over her as you would expect, and some people I think even got a kick out of seeing a girl wearing a “boy” costume.
Still. As a mom, although I was perfectly happy letting her dress up in whatever costume she wanted, as soon as we were out among strangers–especially women–I kept tensing, waiting for someone to ask about her costume, why she chose to wear the Captain America outfit.
I know–who the heck cares, right? Still, the tension remained. Me, waiting, believing I would have to defend my 3yo daughter’s femininity.
Such a beautiful girl, even in her Captain America costume. (And look at those pecs and biceps! )
It made me think of those parents you hear about every few years. They have a child and no one knows the gender except immediate relatives, and they cut their hair and dress them in such a way that it’s truly a guessing game whether they are a boy or girl. Even the child doesn’t know. Until they have to go to school. And then…
And then, honestly, it must be torture for that child. Because here’s the thing.
Barring the entire argument about kids and at what point they explore their sexual orientation, I know some people let their girls play with army men and their boys play with Barbie dolls and even let their beautiful little girls dress up as Captain America for Halloween (like me)–just because, hey, why not let the kid enjoy something if they think it’s fun? Imagine and play, yes?
But I think the actual *encouragement* of the child by the parent to lean toward the opposite gender–not where you’re letting the child choose how to act or play on their own, but where you’re actively directing them away from their own inclinations–and where the parent purposefully refuses to identify the child as a specific gender to the child or to anyone else–is wrong.
Wrong? I know, it sounds harsh. How can I be the judge of another parent? You all know how imperfect I am. It *is* just my opinion, but I feel strongly about it.
Because when we leave out any religious or moral issues, things I know we all have strong opinions on, it seems that most of us would agree that setting our child up to be strong, independent, but also in a place where they can flourish socially on their own, is what we strive for as parents. And in a world where we still relate to one another based on our perceived gender identities, it’s very important that our children are able to determine who they are and who they want to be for themselves. Parents should not be experimenting on their children for the purpose of social justice and gender equality!
I believe all of this. Letting my children just be children is important to me.
So yes, SuperGirl wore a Captain America costume. Not because I felt like she had to break the gender box and show the world that she’s woman and she can do anything she wants! Not because I’m steering her toward exploring her masculine or tomboy side because I don’t want her to look back on her childhood when she’s an adult and regret that her parents only gave her Barbie dolls and play jewelry and that was it. But because, on Father’s Day this year, our family went to Comic Con, my husband wanted the girls to pick out a little wooden figure each to take home and, because SuperGirl’s favorite color is blue, she picked out Captain America–the only blue wooden figure.
My daughter likes blue. Hence, a Captain America, gender-defying, in-your-face, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar Halloween costume. =)
Seems rather silly for me to have tensed up about needing to defend my daughter’s femininity now, doesn’t it? Makes the entire discussion on “gender appropriate” seem ridiculous, doesn’t it?
While we adults go on worrying about how we can encourage our children in their interests while at the same time worrying about how the world will perceive them–and, then, of course, us as parents–they just want to wear their favorite color.
While I still believe the gender discussion is important, it makes me wish that I could see the world in such uncomplicated terms, too.
(By the way, my favorite color is red. You know, the color of sex and passion. Does that make me a harlot? )
I’m Elise Rome, AKA Midnight Mama because I’m usually burning the midnight oil. If SuperGirl (3, with a speech delay) and WonderGirl (1, my very own hip attachment) aren’t getting up in the middle of the night, then I’m busy working on writing and writing-related business until morning…usually 5 am or so. Both my husband and I stay home with the girls (he’s a writer, too! www.lukasholmes.com), but usually I’m focused on them throughout the day and only get started working until after 8pm when they’re both in bed. I’m a former Texan now living in Colorado who desperately misses no-snow winters, and my parenting goal is to raise my daughters to be strong, intelligent, and independent women…much like the heroines I write, as a matter of fact. I’m a recovering perfectionist, recovering procrastinator, and perpetually aspire to keep the house clean (because it never actually is). When I’m not chasing around my daughters or adoring my cooking/cleaning/diaper-changing husband of 8 years, I write historical romances about women who fascinate me and men who somehow always remind me of Rhett Butler, the first literary hero who captured my heart. www.eliserome.com