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'You Can't Be a Princess'

New TV show looks at public reaction to boys who like “girl’s” Halloween costumes…

It’s that time of year again – where, despite the chilly weather, and fading memories of summer, it’s fairly acceptable to wear the skimpiest of outfits and generally transform into your chosen diva for one hell of a spooky night. Halloween, you’re back. Thank goodness. For adults, obviously, it’s all about the shock factor. Choosing an outfit largely depends on what will get you noticed (and what’s easy to take off should you pull a fittie). Of course, it’s so much easier for kids: they just pick something fun and scamper off to trick or treat, right? Sure. Just not when gender gets in the way…

In 2009, a five-year-old American boy named Boo made headlines after his mother let him dress up as Daphne from Scooby Doo. Mom swiftly came under fire from outraged parents, but she told the haters to suck it; declaring, quite rightly: “No matter what he turns into as a grown up, if he’s left handed or right handed, these things don’t matter to me because he’s my son.’ (The pointless furore is mocked in this satirical piece How To Find A Masculine Halloween Costume For Your Effeminate Son.)

This all begs the question; isn’t the point of Halloween to dress up as something you’re not? To adopt a persona that is ludicrously effervescent and beyond ideas of what is ‘normal’?

Dressing up and experimenting is a natural and healthy part of childhood. You wouldn’t think it though judging by the controversy around My Princess Boy, a book by Cheryl Kilodavis about her son Dyson. Dyson, you see, dresses up in “girl’s” clothing (whatever that means) to express his individuality. But why does it even need to be an issue? Earlier this year we saw the case of Sasha, a five-year-old Brit who was raised, up until a few months ago, without knowing if he was a girl or boy. Sasha’s parents said that, had they told him about his gender earlier, it would have hindered his real personality from shining through. Will raising children gender-free like this be seen good parenting in years to come?

Of course, there’s the issue of bullying. Let’s face it, at one age or another we’ve all been the victims of bullies – whether it happens in person or online, being different usually comes at a price. We must remember, though, that bullying is the real problem, not our children’s failure to conform. After all, why should we put young boys in a ‘boy box’ and tell them they can’t wear things made for girls? Would we limit expression in girls who wanted to wear outfits intended for boys — and what would the public reaction be then?

This clip from ABC's What Would You Do? (which we love for investigating all types of prejudice) provides insight into the politics of choosing Halloween costumes intended for girls and boys. Take a look at what most parents’ reactions were. Do you know people who adopt the same rigid attitudes towards gender? Clearly, some people shut their doors firmly at Halloween. And some just shut their minds.

Words: Balraj Bains with Paris Lees

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