4 Tips to Stop Gender Stereotyping Halloween Costumes

Spider Girl by Digital Sextant

Halloween is approaching! This is an excellent opportunity to embrace and celebrate our inner beings, alter egos, and true selves with gusto, confidence, and flare. Too bad Halloween doesn’t happen more often, right?!

As the kids in our lives ponder who or what they want to be for Halloween, let’s consider helping them think outside of the gender binary. As of late, it appears that many kids may not need much help; the National Retail Federation reports that princess costumes have fallen to the #2 spot, just behind superheroes. Princesses were the top costume for 11 years in a row. Now, it looks like we’ll be seeing more of Wonder Woman and Batman trick-or-treating this year!

If a parent does a quick Google search in hopes of breaking their kid free from gender stereotypes for costumes, it seems promising at first.However, gender bias in “boys” and “girls” costumes is just a few clicks away. What’s wrong with this? Do gender roles really hurt us? In a word: yes. While this blog is not wholly about the negative impacts of gender roles (scroll to the bottom for more resources on this), it is about how to help the children in our lives think more inclusively in a society where the default is still binary gender roles.

We’re seeing more parents and families share photos via social media of their kids who are, perhaps unknowingly, challenging the pink vs. blue divide. Two years ago, Buzzfeed posted a collection of kids’ “gender bending” costumes. This is fantastic and now, not so out of the norm – woo hoo!

But wait! Is a girl wanting a princess costume bad? No! Is a boy wanting a superhero costume bad? Also a resounding no! What can be harmful is supporting the stereotypes, especially when it’s not what the child wants. We want to encourage kids in their choices and interests, for gender and beyond.

Perceptions about gender are changing rapidly. Let’s have some fun allowing our kids choices and freedom in selecting a costume they are excited about!

Some Tips:

1. Encourage a range of costumes that correspond to their hobbies and interests. Does your child like cooking? Swimming? Pets? Martial Arts? Pinterest is arguably the best place to find creative, DIY costumes, including those that avoid gender bias and stereotypes. If you make the costume together, it can be a wonderful bonding moment.

2. Think about your own biases. We have them and it shows up in our thinking and ultimately our actions. What messages are you sending to kids in your life? For example, if your son is excited about trying on a pink ballerina costume and it makes you uncomfortable, could you instead focus on the strength, athleticism, and artistic expression of being a ballerina? Challenge yourself to join in your kid’s excitement!

3. Reinforce behaviors and attitudes that challenge the gender binary. Put the focus on something other than beauty and masculinity. If you have a trick-or-treater at your door about to grab a handful of candy, instead of letting her know she makes a pretty Batman, compliment the character, hobby, intellect, creativity, or her superpowers.

4. Encourage. Support. Love. Halloween is about sharing these costumes with others in places like parties, in classrooms, or trick-or-treating in neighborhoods. Let Halloween be about the spooky fun, and empower our kids to be themselves; creatively and uniquely.

Some resources on gender and gender roles:

Earlier this year, National Geographic released the “Gender Revolution” issue, along with a 90-minute documentary, plus photos and videos from around the world. These pieces provide an in-depth, elaborate look into gender around the world and its rapid evolution.

National Geographic’s “Gender Revolution” issue: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/01/

National Geographic’s “Gender Revolution Guide”: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/pdf/gender-revolution-guide.pdf

National Geographic’s “Through Their Eyes” short video about gender through the eyes of nine year olds throughout the world: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/01/children-explain-how-gender-affects-their-lives/