If you could be anything, anything at all…: Are Halloween costumes getting better at providing a range of possible selves?

As Director of Women’s Studies, I usually use this blog to amplify others’ voices. But today, I want to use this venue to follow up on a blog I wrote long before I became Director. After all, ’tis the season.  –Alison Reiheld

Several years ago I wrote a widely read SIUE WMST blog entry on sexism and Halloween costumes including pictures I took of the local Target Halloween section, myself.  In that blog I argued that boys and girls were presented with limited visions of imagined selves, and that girls’ were distressingly likely to be sexualized or otherwise feminized.  You can find it here, for comparison.  Why comparison?  Because I want to sound a hopeful note.

Homemade costumes have always been a source of invention for something beyond the commercialized mass produced costumes. And while commercial presentation of options is getting somewhat better, there are still problems. As has long been the case, homemade costumes can provide a model for doing it differently, and even for doing it better. Check out the first results for Pinterest on girls’ Halloween costumes, which include one for a main character from the recent film Zootopia (a kickbutt female police bunny) and several just made from imagination, some from scratch and some by combining commercially available bits and pieces.

pinterest-girls-costumes-2016

This year, as Halloween has slogged toward us like an unstoppable beast, I came across a delightful cartoon about a homemade costume, and a truly exciting actual homemade costume. These inspired this follow-up to my original blog entry on this topic.

Lindsay Sherman (@LindsayWSherman) got her kiddo the costume of her dreams as Holtzmann from the Ghostbusters reboot. And baldocomics.com hits home with a comic about a little girl who wants to dress up as a different kind of hero:  Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Consider this: if you could be anything… anything at all… what would you be for Halloween?  Ask your children. Ask yourself.  And find a way to make it happen. My mom did it for me.  Behold the author, about age 5 or 6, as a “witch” “doctor” (my love of puns is neither new nor sophisticated; the stethoscope is from a doctor’s kit and the hat is homemade from construction paper):

alison-witch-doctor

Giving kids the Halloween they deserve doesn’t require Pinterest, a sewing machine, and Goddess-like construction skills.  It could involve those.  But a kid and a cardboard box and a spray can and some duct tape can work wonders. So can combining the things you already own in interesting ways. Commercial options are also available if you don’t mind spending money and want a complete look. For more on feminist-friendly mass-produced Halloween costumes that provide a range of selves to choose from, see as always A Mighty Girl.  Or maybe even your local department store. But I urge you to always do Halloween with an eye to expanding kids’ options for imagined selves beyond the tiny constrained boxes of masculinity and femininity norms.

So, I ask again.  If you could be anything… anything at all… what would you be for Halloween?

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