Every year around this time, I hear a lot of coworkers talking about what their children want to dress up as or what they saw people dressed up as last year. Inevitably, there’s always a conversation about how women’s costumes are 90% slutty and how that’s not cool (Because it isn’t), but there’s also the unfailing conversation about gender specific costumes for children.
Last year, a coworker brought up that her son wanted to dress up as Jane from Tarzan. Her husband had left her in charge of costumes, so because that’s what he wanted, she got it for him. Apparently her son wanted to build forts and have forest adventures like Jane.
A male coworker was like “Why would you do that?” and I said, “If my someday son wants to be Jane for Halloween, I’ll buy or make him the costume, and we can have forest adventures and if he wants to find a forest husband, I will help him find one of those too.”
The coworker with the son who dressed up as Jane high-fived me and the other women around didn’t diss the idea, but I could tell the male coworker was a little confused. So let me break it down for you.
Children are shaped by what we tell them is okay or not. If you tell your son he can’t dress up as a female he likes (like the scientist/artist that Jane Porter is) or tell a girl she can’t dress up like a male she admires (such as G.I. Joe or Spiderman), what you’re telling them is “I made a box for you and your personality, and you must fit in it or I won’t love you.” You’re telling them that you agree with a society that limits our creativity and that has smaller boxes for your children than you do and will hammer nails into it every time your child wants to be original or independent until your child is old and the box is a coffin.
If your daughter wants to be a car or your son wants to be a pink loofah – just let them. Compliment their idea. If it’s inappropriate for where you’re going, still tell them how much you love the idea and then gently persuade them to pick something else.
Don’t limit your children. The world is going to try to do enough of that. Home should be the one place they feel safe to be who they want to be. As their parent, you should be the person they feel comfortable being themselves around. So encourage and don’t box them up.