We recently took a family trip to the local Halloween superstore for some supplies for my daughters' costumes. While we were browsing, my wife Patti noticed they had a "Boys' Career" section, complete with doctor, fireman and astronaut costumes.
We thought it would be interesting to compare the boys' choices with the choices the girls were given in their career section. Would they get equivalent options? Or would they be offered nurse, secretary and cheerleader instead?
The good news is that I was wrong. The girls were not saddled with nurses and secretaries as their only career paths. The bad news is there was no "Girls' Career" section at all. None.
They did, however, have an entire section -- I am not making this up -- labeled "Flutter Fairy." This was separate from the regular fairy section. I'm guessing because there is more "fluttering" involved.
What message does that send to girls about who their heroes are? About whom they should aspire to be?
Looking more carefully at the costumes, we compared the "Boys Fright" section the "Girls Fright" section. The boys were given some truly terrifying options. Freddy Krueger, Jason, "Bloody Skeleton," and more.
Over on the girls' side, there was literally nothing that was legitimately scary. From "Feisty Fairy" to a tutu-clad "Zomberina," real terror was in short supply. Instead, the emphasis was on looking adorable.
I said to my wife, Patti, "None of these costumes are scary in any real way. They all are cute."
A passing employee chimed in, "Most of the scary costumes involve a mask. Girls don't like to cover their face." She added helpfully, "They want people to see them."
The superheroes aisle was not much better. Spider-Girl wore a tutu and had a "princess wand." Batgirl was clad head to toe in hot pink (perfect for crime-fighting.) There were dozens of choices designed to help a girl look cute. But what if she wants to look tough? What if she wants to look scary? What if she wants to look professional?
It was easy for me to draw a line in my mind connecting row after row of costumes that tell little girls that the only thing that is important is that they look "cute" to the row after row of costumes that tell young women that the only way society values them is if they look "sexy."
Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love the spookiness, the costumes and the creativity. I've dressed up in costumes that ranged from silly, to creative, to scary. Hell, if I could pull off sexy, I might go for that, too -- but I really appreciate the fact that when I go to the store, I have other choices.
I hope that someday my girls will be able to say the same.