Halloween: Is It OK for a Boy to Dress Like a Girl?

November 4, 2010 at 1:06 pm , by

I just read the most amazing blog post, written by a midwestern momdsc_0007-e1288401371463, a cop’s wife, whose 5-year-old-boy wanted to dress up for Halloween as Daphne, from Scooby Doo, just like his best friend, who’s a girl. That’s him in the picture. Now, if you can’t wear something silly and fun on Halloween, when you’re five, when can you? But as Cop’s Wife discovered, you can’t, not ever, no sir, not if you’re a boy. She and her son ran into schoolyard bullies, bent on enforcing sex-stereotypical costume choices. Only it wasn’t her son’s classmates who were the bullies, not yet–it was the other moms, whose faces twisted  in disgust at seeing a preschooler wear the “wrong” Halloween costume. And we wonder why we have such bad bullying problems in our middle schools and high schools, where any kid who’s different–too fat, too skinny, too smart, too slow, too effeminate, not the dominant race, too poor, not dressed in the right labels–gets harassed and pounded? Where do those mean kids get their ideas from? Hello, mirror!

75122_450677623182_736913182_5417784_1624315_nMy little boy, age 4, loves to dress up, too, especially in his tutu-like black tulle skirt. Like Cop’s Wife’s kid, he happens to have some close friends who are girls, and they’re into the princess thing, and really, what is not fun about a tutu? He’s also obsessed with our good friend Nelson, aka “Cherry L,” who lives in the neighborhood and happens to be an amazing reggae/dancehall/hiphop singer. My boy currently refuses to wear anything but jeans, because that’s what Nelson wears. But sometimes he likes to mix it up: Here’s my main man in dinosaur pjs and the tulle skirt, doing his rendition of one of Nelson’s rap songs, “You Check  It.” Pretty hardcore/masculine, don’t you think, swaying tulle aside?

For Halloween, though, no tutus–he wanted to be a cop. I was relieved, frankly. And I got to crossdress, as an escaped convict, complete with beard. Since I’m a girl, no one cared. But what if my son had really, really wanted to be a princess? What should I have done? Read Cop’s Wife’s blog and then post your comments/thoughts below.

13 Responses to “Halloween: Is It OK for a Boy to Dress Like a Girl?”

  1. In most ways, I completely and wholeheartedly agree with “Cop’s Wife,” but there’s one niggling little thing about her post that bothers me a lot: the kid repeatedly expressed a change of heart about that costume, but she pooh-poohed his anxiety. It’s hard for me to believe that this mother truly didn’t understand that kids really *might* laugh at her kid if he dressed up like a girl. It’s hard for me to believe that she wasn’t, at some level, spoiling for a confrontation with the other moms. Which is not necessarily bad– I can be all Mama Bear myself when it’s called for– but it worries me a little that she’s become this national mother-hero when maybe she really ought to have listened to her a child a little more closely and respected his interpretation of his own social climate. Isn’t that what we REALLY want for our kids– not to turn them into poster children for relaxing rigid gender roles but to be able to read social cues and *then* decide if *they’re* ready to flout the “rules”?

  2. I agree, Margaret–that is the one doubt I have too. I do find it a little hard to believe she didn’t realize he was right about the teasing. I chalked it up to surprising–even touching–naivete, and that she wanted to encourage him to be courageous the same as she would if he were having a bout of stage fright about playing a tree in the school play. But maybe she was kind of playing dumb in service to a cause. I know when my son wanted to wear a skirt to preschool, the very first thing I did was to talk with him about the teasing he’d likely get. I told them I thought those ideas were silly, that people should be able to wear whatever they want, but I made sure he knew what the social rules were and what the likely consequences would be for breaking them. So I really can’t imagine not realizing that a boy in a girl costume might get mean comments. It’s sad that that’s the case, but it is reality.

  3. If my 4 year old son wanted to dress like a girl for Halloween, I would discourage it unless he was old enough to be making a parody for a very good reason. (Irony is a good reason.) Why would a small child even want to dress up as something he should not yet relate to: a sexualized version of himself, male or female? Do we want to encourage gender bending in young children so we can all live in a willy-nilly sexualized everything-goes universe in order to push who we are and what we think on everyone else? I think so.

  4. Interesting point, Tracy! Maybe we should all ban princesses and Daphnes and cowboys and police officers for the preschool set, girls and boys, since all of those are based on fully sexually developed teens and adults, so based on your argument a 4-year-old in a princess costume is a sexualized version of herself, certainly not what most parents would want! Dora and Diego, Scooby Doo and Strawberry Shortcake are probably more appropriate, when you put it that way.

  5. Ah yes. But a parent encouraging a child’s primitive expression of gender to be the reverse of what that gender is, is sexualizing the choice for the child by definition. What’s wrong with giving a kid some guidance and guiding him or her in the most obvious direction? Is it BETTER to be a little boy who wants to identify as a little girl? No it is not better. It is STRANGE. Is it strange when your son wears a tutu and high heels for Halloween? It is not to be preferred. I am with the people who consider this kind of counter-intuitive gender-bending part of an agenda to normalize lifestyle choices that are not to be preferred. Which by the way, does not mean that LGTG groups should be in any way mistreated under any circumstances ever. But it is a marginal, not a mainstream, lifestyle. And dressing your little boy as a little girl and luxuriating in it–as though this would be a good thing for him to explore–is odd. And lest I get a blast for this, I will state that I am a liberal democrat who voted for Hillary! :) )

  6. I guess, like Cop’s Wife, I see Halloween as a silly occasion where you can be something you’re not, just for fun. I don’t want to be a man, and certainly not a convict, and I’m not interested in signing on to “the criminal lifestyle” or the “convict agenda.” But I also think that telling girls they shouldn’t be too good at sports and boys they shouldn’t like the color pink is silly and oppressive. I’m glad we’re edging away from those rather arbitrary rules. Anyway, good discussion!

  7. Yes to all. And btw: Bill Clinton once walked over to my husband at a fundraiser and complimented his baby pink Versace tie, and asked where he could get one. The next weekend, we saw him on tv campaigning for Hillary in South Carolina wearing the same tie! Just had to say that. Thrilled us to bits.

  8. Hi Louise. Just catching up on blogs after being out on maternity leave. LOVE (love, love) the video of your little man in the black tutu. I must get one of those for Sammy. I did enjoy that mom’s blog post when I read it before Halloween. I was glad Sam decided on Spiderman, but since he’s in daycare with a lot of little girls he often comes home with pony tails or painted fingernails. And more than one mommy in my area has told me his long hair is “interesting.” That’s Minnesotan for “I hate it.” I have to say that one of the things that is great about being a single mom without a daddy in the picture is that I don’t have a spouse whose manhood might feel threatened by his son wearing a skirt.

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