8 Empowering Halloween Costumes
By Amanda Grossman-Scott
I went to my local Halloween costume store with my kids recently. (Huge mistake- just take my advice and don’t do it! Order online or make it easier on yourself!) I told my daughter I thought she should be something besides a princess or a witch this year.
“Don’t you want to be something different?” I asked.
“Like what?” she wants to know.
“I don’t know. A hero?” I’m thinking Amelia Earhart. Rosie the Riveter. She’s thinking Cat Girl.
“How can she possibly fight crime in that tight suit?!” I point out. She rolls her eyes at me. When did my 6 year old learn to roll her eyes at me?
I notice nearly ALL the costumes in the Halloween shop, even the ones meant for little girls, are really sexualized. How are these going to help young girls develop self-worth or worth in anything besides their developing bodies? I tell my daughter we will have to find a costume somewhere else. We head over to the boy’s section to shop for my sons.
Ugh. Seriously? Do they have to put fake blood on everything? Even if the school allowed them to carry a fake weapon with their costume, would I feel comfortable letting my sons tote around a bloody hatchet? And these super hero costumes. Is it really necessary to stuff the chest and arms to make huge muscles? Is there nothing more to being a super hero than large pectorals and biceps? It’s no wonder so many boys struggle with low self-esteem when they have these unrealistic role models to compare themselves to beginning at such a young age. (Side note: I remember buying a Spiderman costume years ago and after one laundry cycle the “muscles” shifted and my son appeared to have cleavage instead of pecs-just sayin’.)
This could go on forever. It’s indicative of the time we are living in, I know. But I’m still disturbed by it! So I went searching for costumes that were more original and less sexualized, less hyper masculine and less violent. Here are some ideas I came up with.
- Costumes from Other Cultures. This is an opportunity to learn about another culture and pick a fun costume. Think about the things your kids have studied in school or will be studying this year. How about a Native American tribal costume or a Spanish matador? An Indian Sari, a Mexican Mariachi costume, or an African caftan. There are so many options here to explore.
- REAL Action Heroes! How about a modern day soldier, a firefighter, police officer, astronaut, or spy? What does your child want to be when he or she grows up? Their future aspirations could provide inspiration for his or her costume.
- Animals. I long for the days when my kids were cuddly dragons and sweet little sheep! If your kids are still small (or easier to persuade than mine) animal costumes are fun, non-sexual or hyper-masculine and easy to put together–put on an ears and tail and you’ve got a dog or cat!
- Everyday Heroes. Doctors, Nurses and dentists perform small miracles for us every day. Why wouldn’t our kids want to emulate them? Or how about someone who works behind the scenes like a zoo keeper or chemist?
- Historical Figures. Your daughter may not have the desire to dress up as Betsy Ross or your son as George Washington but there are plenty of adventurous historical characters who might be fun. Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks, Sally Ride and Jane Goodall are examples of brave women of history. William Wallace, Albert Einstein, and Nelson Mandella are admirable men to emulate.
- Storybook Characters. Robin Hood and Red Riding Hood were both storybook characters who cared for others and acted bravely in their stories. Great examples!
- Everyday People. Grandma, business people, chef, teacher, Mom or Dad. These people are heroes in their own right and unsung for their every day jobs. But you can remind your kids that they make a huge difference in everyone’s lives.
- Positive Pop Culture. There are positive role models in our current culture who might provide inspiration for a creative costume. Oprah, Amy Poehler, Condoleeza Rice, and Tina Fey; Presidents Obama and Bush, any of the presidential candidates or journalists who put themselves in danger to tell the truth for starters. Choose wisely!
My daughter finally settled on a Spanish matador costume. It covers her, it’s cute, and she’s also learning a little something about another culture. Not everything has to be a lesson, I know. But Halloween doesn’t have to be an exercise in “how much can I get away with?” either. If we help them to choose wisely, Halloween can be a time when our children decide to pick Halloween costumes that boost their self-worth instead of costumes that make them wish they were someone else.
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Amanda Grossman-Scott is Board Vice president for Educate and Empower Kids. She studied Journalism and Communications. Amanda is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and now lives with her husband and three children in San Antonio, Texas.