Halloween and How We Dress Our Girls

Last year, for my daughter’s first Halloween, I dressed 9-month-old Lucinda as Rosie the Riveter–cute little denim jumpsuit from H&M that my mother ironed a “Rosie” patch onto while I fashioned Luci’s red-and-white bandana around her head in the trademark WWII factory we-can-do-it worker’s garb. I dressed the part as well, not because I am into the creepy “twinning” phenomenon that seems to be so popular with mothers and daughters again, but mostly because I wanted the opportunity to show my daughter photographic evidence that we have always been a fierce and fabulous duo. Some of the young people I taught had no clue who Rosie was when they I asked what I was dressing Luci as. I imagine some of them may have been expecting a pumpkin, teddy bear, or strawberry.

Down the road, I want Luci to know not only who Rosie the Riveter was, but also to know how her own paternal great-grandmother was a Rosie who helped the war effort in a way that forever changed the face of the American labor force.

Maybe this nostalgic, didactic eye to the future is a mistake, as who knows what my daughter will think is cool moving forward (I am sure our Halloween pictures will engender eyerolls, too), but I hope to show Luci well before she remembers that women are leaders, doers, movers and shakers, and are superheroes in their own right.

Also, as an auntie to five nephews, I desire this same equity for little boys who wish to explore more than Batman and Spiderman. I just know the path to girls’ Halloween costumes is a fraught one. Even now, American consumer culture commercializes and sexualizes young girls right out of the gate, and I want to make damned sure how I dress my daughter for Halloween emphasizes her inherent worth from the get-go. Idealistic? Perhaps. Worth the effort? I think so.

This year, for Luci’s second Halloween, I was tempted to dress her as the Honorable Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but I elected to save that costume for next year, provided Luci does not yet have ideas of her own, which, knowing my daughter, she probably will. I know my days are numbered as the not-so-subversive feminist momma who hopes, perhaps via osmosis, that my daughter remembers pioneers in American history who challenged the status quo’s understanding of what women, and by extension little girls, are capable of.

In the future, I will not discourage my daughter from going as a Disney princess, if that is what she wants, but before we get to that point, I hope to show her other options. Her mother, many moons ago, preferred scary costumes for her trick-or-treating days: I dressed as a three-headed skeleton (with two inflatable skeleton heads and gory face make-up my artist mother applied), a mummy (who learned going to the bathroom pre-wrap is essential), Dracula (the cape and teeth are everything), a farm girl who rejected Dorothy and went as The Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz instead, and, yes, a devil. Sure, there may have been a ballerina or an Ace of Hearts thrown in there, but I loved the power of saying “Boo!” with a costume that commanded fearful respect.

This year, 18-month-old Luci is going as Dottie, the title character from the 1992 film, A League of Their Own. While the Illinois farm girl was a fictional character, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was a very real organization. The female ball players played from 1943-1954, and the organization was not without its own problems, replete with a “charm school” and insidious racial segregation. But I hope that this racist history prompts Luci and I to discuss who Toni Stone was and how Stone, an African American female baseball player, crossed the gender line with the all-male Twin City Colored Giants well before the AAGPBL was created. Not since Stone has anyone else been able to cross the gender line of professional baseball.

Someday, I want the costumes Luci chooses to represent not only what she is capable of or is drawn to for make-believe, fun, and entertainment, but what all children, regardless of gender, are able to achieve and imagine.