I find so much encouragement in reading the press. Watching our labors in the world come to fruition pleasures me greatly. Usually, though, I find only a few delightful indicators in an article. However, today’s “Is Your Child’s Halloween Costume Sending the Wrong Message?” in Yahoo Shine makes for a veritable feast to refreshen the spirit. There is so much to enjoy therein.
A Marvel Spider-Girl costume — consisting of a silver mask and a pink polyester dress with a spider on its chest — is just the latest gender-stereotyped girls’ getup to hit shelves for Halloween. . . .
While some kids, of course, might really want a pink Spider-Girl dress, the problem, experts tell Yahoo Shine, is that this costume and countless others like it — including the pink Batgirl tutu, the police girl uniform that’s skirted, an inexplicable Joker dress for girls, and this other bizarre version of the pink Spider-Girl — send reckless, disempowering messages to both girls and boys.
“I think it says to girls that everything they do has to fit in one small box—because even if they don’t want to be a princess, the Spider Man costume looks like a princess,” developmental psychologist Christia Spears Brown, author of the forthcoming book “Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue,” tells Yahoo Shine. “It says, ‘Your gender is more important than the costume,’ and ‘Being a girl is the most important thing about you.’”
The real Spider-Girl is fierce (Marvel/Wikipedia). “To boys,” she adds, “it says that girls can never be equivalent, which is a message that’s just as dangerous when we want to have boys and girls be friends and interact with one another. But with this, they learn that even if both are interested in Spiderman, it just can’t be the same.”
When boys see these costumes, New York child psychologist Jennifer Harstein, author of “Princess Recovery,” tells Yahoo Shine, “it makes it challenging for them to see girls as equals.” The costumes also contribute to the overall pretty-obsessed ideal for girls, she adds.
“This is another example as to how girls are encouraged to focus on appearance, rather than on what they might want,” Harstein says. “When they are not given options, it makes things that much more challenging.”
A Mighty Girl, a blog and online girl-empowerment marketplace, has heard over and over again this season from parents who are frustrated by the lack of “princessized” costumes and who can’t necessarily deal with building a costume from scratch. “The concern we have with the trend is that costumes have become very one-dimensional: They have to have either an accepted feminization element, or they are sexualized,” . . .
“Parents have to be OK buying the regular Spider-Man costume [for their daughters],” notes Spears Brown. “Sometimes they’re afraid to cross the gender aisle in Toys R Us, but marketers aren’t going to do it for us.” As she tells her 9-year-old daughter about hypersexualized tween costumes, “Just because that’s what others may be wearing, and just because it’s being sold and marketed as an appropriate girls’ costume, doesn’t make it OK,” she says. “I think parents have to be comfortable exerting that control.”
Finally, Harstein notes, “children are children, and toys are toys. Creating such a separation is damaging to both genders, and leads to challenges as they grow and develop.”
Whenever lassitude begins to affect our souls, we should consider such uplifting stories that unequivocally testify to our recent success. It is devilishly motivating.