I, like a zillion other moms, have a three-year-old who wants to be a Princess (yes, with a capital “P”) for Halloween this year. And I’m sure I’m not alone in being somewhat irritated by her unwavering obsession with dressing up and being “beautiful” and ad nauseam discussions of her prince and how he will “kiss her awake.” But I also stop and shrug sometimes because, well, she’s three and all the other kids are doing it. Apparently my initial instinct to hide the princess propaganda was right on target and now I also need to worry about my seven-month-old boy before he starts asking to be extreme Rambo, because nofreakingway am I going to encourage aggression in my son. If only it were all harmless dress up. But as the authors of Packaging Boyhood point out on Babble this week –
Fantasy for children is about trying on new roles or imagining the unusual or impossible, and Halloween is a chance to be whatever wild and crazy identity captivates him in the moment. After seeing costume after costume, he may desperately want to be Super Scary Special Forces Ninja Bounty Hunter Fighter World Saving Man. After all, marketers know the promise of all that action and power can be irresistible, especially to boys who don’t get the chance to feel that way very often (which is to say, most boys). But, given a real choice — a choice that builds action, fun, and adventure around other options — he may not. If we don’t offer the alternative, how will we know?
And this is what’s been bothering me about the princess obsession –
According to these costumes sold in department and drugstores, in catalogs and online, girls get their power almost solely from their looks. They just are — “puuurfectly coordinated,” “darling,” full of “lightness and beauty.” If they act at all, it’s to “sizzle,” “slither,” “rock the stadium,” or “stalk the stage in zebra stripes.” They are lotus blossoms and beautiful princesses. (And have little to do and no sense of direction. “Which way to the castle?” asks one girl featured in a costume catalog.)
Ugh. I really wish I didn’t have to think so hard on the one holiday of the year that requires neither religion nor a family gathering – just plain fun. However, I wish even more that our kids weren’t bombarded with lame gender expectations from birth. Is anyone else as discomfited by these observation as I am? Or are you suiting up your kids in whatever you can grab off the shelf at Target?