Look at this little girl Halloween costume. What do you immediately think? Aww, right?! Yea, adorable...that's what we're trained to believe. But what is really going on here? A little girl wants to be Spiderman for Halloween, and instead of embracing this concept of female bravery, we stick her in a tutu. What message has now been passed to her? Girls cannot be brave in the same way as boys. Anyone else think this is tragic?!
We are still pigeon-holing girls into engendered expectations, even in 2012. This Halloween costume is case-in-point. A girl cannot even dress up as a super hero on Halloween without also looking "girly" too. This is incredibly detrimental to a girl's psyche, and is how we train girls to view themselves as just a pretty face (what purpose does the tutu serve? A purely decorative one.) Instead, we need to be empowering girls to see themselves as brave and strong in their own right, to value their internal characteristics over their external ones.
Let's examine for a moment the images of female "super heroes" in the media, shall we?
- Wonder Woman
- Super Girl
- Bat Girl
- Cat Woman
- Captain America
- Spider Girl
- Charlie's Angels (original or remakes)
Let's deconstruct exactly what we are teaching our children through these images, shall we? What do they all have in common? Their "uniform" is either a dress or spandex suit, they are in heeled shoes, with makeup and great hair! Seriously, who fights crime in a dress & heels?! No one successful at it, that's for sure. Unfortunately, even when females are portrayed as brave super heroes, and given dialogue and behaviors that suggests they are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, inevitably they are also stereotypically feminine as well. The way they are drawn/created or the actresses that play the roles have a certain figure as well (the hour-glass shape.) It all adds up to create a VERY narrow definition of femininity...and female bravery.
Portraying girls as always "done up" perpetuates this notion that girls/women should first and foremost be concerned with how they look. (Because we can't save the world unless hair & nails are perfect first, right ladies?! ) The lesson is that you must be pretty to be successful in life, that how you look is more important than what you do. What an awful lesson to be teaching.
Why must we continuously denigrate our girls by reducing every brave impulse in them to girly-girl fashion?!
Why don't we instead encourage our girls to be brave for bravery sake? Let them dress as a superhero, even if that super hero is male (hell, especially if the superhero is male). Let them know that it is the behavior of the super hero that is important. That's why we are enticed by super heroes in the first place, their propensity for doing good.
Empower your girls....encourage them to express their bravery in non-gendered ways, show your girls examples of real-life heroes to emulate --police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, doctors, soldiers, real people with an array of body types, personalities, etc. in sensible clothing and foot wear, saving lives every day. (Why isn't this seen as attractive?)
Finally, get your girls involved in programs that reinforce valuing their inner beauty (when you can't be around to do so.) Girl Power!
Local Organizations Empowering Girls: