It’s Halloween time again and I have been busy trying to think of costumes for my two older kids that would adequately cover a snowsuit because, Canada. When I asked the girls on the way to the store what they wanted to be, their first two responses were “Batman! Spiderman!”
Perfect. Those would hide bulky snowpants, no problem. Off we went in search of the perfect costume. Much to my chagrin, when we walked in to our local Walmart, this is what I saw as I approached the giant costume section.
“No can do, kiddos! You are girls and therefore must be princesses and fairies. Superheroes are not an option. They are only for boys.” Or so says Walmart.
I was immediately angry. I thought of my friend, Tamara’s, most recent post about onesies in Target that suggested girls only had the options of being the girlfriend to the superhero, and right in front of me was the same message for my own two girls. I was beyond angry. I was almost in despair. Let me contextualize this by telling you that I have always been vehemently anti-gender stereotyping. I am also anti-Disney princess in almost all their forms because of the messages they send little girls. Who is Walmart to decide what my girls, with their blooming and burgeoning imaginations, can aspire to be?
This is not unique to Target and Walmart. This is a situation that is common across most retailers and is quickly becoming more prevalent. When faced with clothing choices, activity choices, movie, character and costume choices, our girls are effectively pigeonholed into the supporting roles. Conversely, boys are being pigeonholed into the superhero and leading man role just as aggressively.
Follow me along the garden path that this situation creates, if you will: From an early age, young girls are taught by the powers that be that they are to prefer pink, ruffles and princess fare. They catch on to this as toddlers and it carries forward to the next phase of life – Barbies, Bratz and Monster High girls. At their worst, these characters tend to have a meek and passive approach to life and at the best, they are artificial and unattainable in terms of their look and aesthetic as they pretend to be a vet or a doctor. These characters and dolls are teaching our young girls that they should aspire to be pretty, above all, and that being a ‘girl’ is a very specific job. These marketing tactics trap our young children and essentially program them to think in ways that, I believe, are detrimental as they grow into young women.
And after Barbie, what is the next doll our young girls get to dress up? Themselves. Do you see where I am going with this? After being taught that a girl is to dress, walk and talk in a certain way, it would make sense that these youngsters would go out in search of similar fare for themselves. Short shorts, belly tees, makeup at a young age and so on. Why do they want to dress this way? Many girls would be hard-pressed to explain to you why they make such choices. They aren’t even aware that they have been groomed for this from toddlerhood.
Let me be clear – I am not anti-pink/ruffle/tutu etc. I am all for girls making their own choices about what they put on their bodies. If they legitimately choose to wear short shorts because they think they will look cool and they like the way they feel in them, go for it. The problem is, most girls don’t make fashion choices that way. They go for what is trendy, what is cool, and what is prescribed to them by the media and by the marketing machine that runs places like Walmart and Target and the overarching fashion industry that feeds those stores. Why do people wear pleather leggings? Because Kim Kardashain told them to. Why do people wear high-waisted shorts that expose the bottom of their butt-cheeks? I have no freaking clue, but that is what is on display in stores. I will be damned if I am going to let my children fall prey to these marketing machines at work.
So, we eschewed the girl aisle completely and went boldly down the ‘gasp’ boy aisle. We ended up with Spiderman and a dragon.
My message is the following: Go boldly, ladies. Do not give in to what people want you to believe – that you are meek, to be judged by your beauty and clothing, and that you are easily definable. There is more to life than being a princess and a fairy. Go and change the world in which you want to live and make choices based on what you want and think is cool. Be a princess one day, and be a damn superhero the next.
Be all the things! Go down all the aisles!