My favourite holiday of the year is Halloween. As a child I would have nightmares in the summer about it being October 31, and not having a costume. Luckily, I had a mother who could handle any costume request I had, with her arts and crafts wizardry. Never once, however, did I ask her to make me a slutty nurse’s outfit. Or ask if I could go as a French maid. Never did I think, ‘I’ll get her to make a short dress and I’ll put on wings and call myself a fairy.’ Or add a headband with ears and be a cat.
The commercialization of Halloween can be traced back to the first mass production of costumes in the 1930’s. There, on department store racks were costumes of ghosts, monsters, witches and devils – things that scare, things that are unimaginable! Nothing that was, well, this:
Enter Ms. Lollipop!
History (or at least my Google search) did not record when costumes for girls and women, went astray. And it isn’t just women’s costumes. On a recent trip to a Halloween outlet store, there were lots of costumes I saw in the adults section, made into smaller versions for kids. Is there a need for an elementary school girl to wear an off the shoulder short dress, with wings, to her class party?
I have to wonder how that is producing strong, independent, confident women, when their classmates are (hopefully) in cloaks as Hermione Granger at Hogwarts, or a witch covered in green makeup with fake warts. Have we ever thought that the “cute, Lady of the Cards” outfit (which is again an adult costume of short dress, with an apron of card symbols on it, made into a miniature version for children) could be the gateway costume that has the same children, turning into a young woman and wearing this to a university party?
And I don’t blame the Halloween stores, they are doing their job – reacting to a demand for product. I do think we need to look inwards. I spoke with a mom who rather than fight with her preteen, let her go as a French maid, trick or treating.
What about the mom on “Toddlers and Tiaras” who thought it was cute to dress her young child up as the hooker from “Pretty Woman”?
We, the adults can make sure that young girls aren’t influenced by the costumes they see, or WANT. Halloween as we know it has always been a chance to be something we are not – we can’t be flying witches, or ghosts that haunt in the night. Only a select few will ever be princesses, and the chance to dress like a lobster, rabbit, mouse is hard to pass up.
If your daughter wants to be a policewoman, or nurse or astronaut this Halloween, let’s encourage it! But let’s not hike up the hemlines of the costume while lowering the necklines. Guides and Pathfinders are at a critical age self-acceptance, let’s not be the adults who would rather the “cute, modern, non-fight inducing costumes” be a cinder block in that pathway for them.
Join me in encouraging them that this one night is about the fantasy of being something we aren’t, while still being the strong, confident young women they are underneath!
Concerned about offending someone with your costume? This article about racist costumes is worth the read too:‘Racist’ Halloween costumes stir debate. CBC news. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
The author in her costume, a table, at age 10:
By guest blogger Guider Sarah of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Check out her own blog ‘Sarah Smells the Roses‘, as well as her blog posts for Girl Guides of Canada:
- Girl Guide Membership Expiry? Never!
- From Frazzled to Dartmouth Shore Area Special Events Team Member
- Princess Industrial Complex
- Bustin’ a Century Year Old Girl Guide Myth
- Review for GGC of the Coleman Camping Cookbook and Meal Planner App
- Why Every Brownie Should Have a Camp Blanket
- I Camp Therefore I Have My Camp Blanket