Halloween has come and gone and I am sitting here slowly coming down from a sugar high. Our community had an elementary school Halloween parade and I walked with my daughter for two hours this evening. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and I enjoy seeing the creativity and the joy that the holiday brings.
I had started a blog post a week ago about gender roles but I never got around to finishing it. But after observing and watching young children today and tonight, I find myself reflecting on gender once again. While gender can be a complicated topic, I just want to focus attention on gender roles for the moment. Particularly, I want to encourage you to think about the messages that your children hear regarding gender and gender roles. More specifically, I want to focus on the messages that boys hear.
For example, earlier this week, I was shopping at Target and I overheard a woman talking to a boy in the next aisle. I overheard her say, “Hello Kitty? No sweetheart, Hello Kitty is for girls. You need to pick something else.”
Last weekend, my daughter was playing by herself on a blanket during a soccer game. I noticed a young boy looking at her dolls and watching her play. This boy had nothing to do, so I said, “Do you want to play with Amanda?” As soon as I said the words, the boy’s father appeared and firmly stated, “No he’s fine. Unless he wants to go home and have a tea party.” I am assuming you can imagine the sarcasm and criticism in the Dad’s voice.
In both of these situations, boys heard strong messages from people they love that they must conform and behave in ways that society considers gender appropriate. Boys constantly hear messages that make it difficult and challenging to experiment and behave in ways that society deems as gender non-conforming…unless it is October 31st. Halloween is the one day of the year when boys are given a treat- the freedom to experiment with gender roles. Today, I saw dozens of boys taking advantage of this treat and dressing like girls. They knew that the holiday gave them the opportunity to do something they normally cannot do- experiment and deviate from strict gender norms.
A video is circulating on social media that validates the idea that Halloween is a relatively safe time to throw caution to the wind. And yet, you can see it is not without worry or fear. Please watch this short 2-minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NjFBzeeeoE
We will continue to explore gender roles over time, but for now I encourage you to reflect on the messages your sons hear from you. Would you be comfortable with your son dressing up like Wonder Woman on Halloween? Why or why not? Overall, do you find yourself limiting the things your boys do? What impacts and informs your parenting decisions around gender roles? Is there anything you wish to change?