A Halloween Treat

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?

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Dimensions of Culture

Let’s continue exploring the question: What is culture? I hope you have spent time thinking about this important question and writing down those cultural dimensions of your life that have shaped and guided your worldview.

You’ll find that there are many different ways to teach about culture. One popular approach is to think of culture like an iceberg. The main idea is to remind people that the visible aspects of culture (food, clothing, language, skin color, etc.) often make up a small part of a person’s culture. There are also invisible aspects of culture that are below the surface and invisible to an observer. These dimensions of culture are more numerous and contain more depth. The key is to remember that people are more complex and complicated than we often realize. Assumptions based on the visible dimensions of culture often end up missing the depth and richness that culture bestows upon all of us. The iceberg may not be a perfect model, but it is another helpful way to think about culture.

Years ago, I developed a graphic to help illustrate 14 different dimensions of culture. Over the course of time and through many enlightening conversations, my list has grown and it continues to grow. I am aware that this old graphic is not all-inclusive. It does, however, provide a good starting point for our discussion about the dimensions of culture. Let’s start at the top and continue clockwise. As you consider each of these dimensions, be sure to ask yourself these questions:

Graphic with dimensions of culture

  • Ability: Do you have any physical, mental, developmental, or psychological limitations or disabilities?
  • Sexual Orientation: Do you identify as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, transgender or questioning?
  • Time of Arrival in the U.S.: How long have you and/or your family lived in the U.S.?
  • Age/Cohort: How old are you? What world events have occurred in your lifetime that help define the way you view the world?
  • Education: How much formal and/or informal education do you have?
  • Religiosity/Spirituality: Do you have any religious, spiritual, and/or philosophical beliefs?
  • Family of Origin: What roles and rules did you learn from your family while you were growing up?
  • Skin Color: How would you describe your skin color?
  • Gender: Do you identify as female, male, transgender, non-conforming, or something else?
  • Social Class: How would you define your socioeconomic background?
  • Migration Experience: Did you or your family migrate to the U.S.? Why? Was it forced or was it a choice?
  • Language: What language or languages do you speak?
  • Family Structure: Who is in your family?
  • Ethnicity: What ethnic group(s) do you identify with?

I wonder how this compares to the list you wrote down. I learn something new each time I do this exercise and am truly interested in your answers. Remember, you can’t be wrong. We’ll continue to talk about the dimensions of culture in the next post. Until then, here is my question: did you write anything down that isn’t included in this graphic?

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