I have a peeve I just need to get out there. On Halloween, Zoey dressed up as Spiderman. She found the costume almost two months before Halloween and just had to have it. She really doesn’t know much about who Spiderman is; just that he is a superhero who shoots webs and helps people. That was enough for her: she had to be Spiderman for Halloween. She wanted it badly enough to overcome some serious sensory issues with the mask.
So here’s the thing. We went trick-or-treating and, at about half the houses, the homeowners would give the usual exclamations of “Oh how cute! Look at all of you! Here have some candy.” These comments were aimed at the entire group of toddlers swarming their front porch and, in my opinion, very normal. Then you had the other fifty percent of the houses where the homeowners make an effort to comment on each child’s individual costume. Something I recognize as polite and certainly kind, to try and acknowledge each child. We all know how proud children are of their costumes.
My issue comes with the blatant gender stereotyping heaped upon my daughter that night. Almost every person that attempted to verbalize her costume stuttered and stammered over it, ending with something like, “Spider…girl?” or “Spider…woman?” Always a dubious, questioning tone. It’s hard to tell when something affects Zoey, because she often does not wear emotions on her face clearly. However, it was very clear how she felt at the one house that recognized her for who she was. It was a house with several twenty-something guys living in it, who opened the door and exclaimed, “Spiderman! That’s awesome!” Zoey just beamed.
Now, I’m not faulting these individuals for not recognizing my child’s costume and naming it correctly. I appreciate that they made an effort. I’m not worried about them hurting my precious little snowflake’s feelings. What bugs me is the norms in our society that make it impossible for most people to accept that a little girl could be Spiderman. Why not?! If she dressed up as some inanimate object, say a banana, they would have no problem saying “She is a banana” even though that is just ludicrous. To stretch it further, if a boy dresses up as a girl (something tweens and teens often did in my day) it is deemed as funny and creative, and it is well-recognized. If a boy dressed up as a witch with a black dress, broom and warty nose, I doubt people would refer to him as a warlock or even a wizard. They would know he was a witch and call him that. So why can’t they recognize a wildly popular male character when it is worn by a little girl? Why can’t she be Spiderman?
The twenty-somethings in that one house give me hope. Considerably younger than the rest of the homeowners in the neighborhood we visited, they inspire me to believe that future generations are more open-minded and accepting when it comes to gender roles. I hope this holds true. My little Spiderman could sure use the support.