gender

On Halloween, why can't boys dress as princesses?

Oct. 27, 2010 at 12:13 PM ET

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Though considered the one day in a whole year when you’re allowed – if not actively encouraged — to try on a different identity, why even on Halloween are certain gender roles still so rigidly enforced?  Sure, it’s perfectly acceptable for little girls to dress up like pirates, but just watch the reactions when a little boy confesses his plan to be a princess for Halloween. It’s not as uncommon as you might think.

The Chicago Tribune ran a story this week by Julie Deardorff, who wrote about her 3-year-old son’s love of princesses. In every other aspect, her son adheres to conventional little boy norms – he wears a tool belt, is fascinated by construction machinery, plays with trains, etc. But this little boy also harbors a prevailing fondness for princesses. When he asserts his plan to dress as one for Halloween, Deardorff and her husband privately reach out to neuroscientist Lise Eliot  to get her take on the situation. Eliot, in turn, advises the parents to acquiesce and not worry too much about it. In the end, Deardorff’s son ends up recanting, concerned about how he’ll be viewed and judged by his preschool peers. It’s a sad lesson that speaks to a larger question. Why is our culture as a whole so uncomfortable with defying stereotypes?

Again, Deardorff’s story is by no means a unique one. In recent weeks, TODAY Moms has posted stories about a 6-year-old boy who wanted to get his ears pierced, Dyson Kilodavis, the “Princess Boy,” and another little boy’s fixation with Snow White. Parents, have you ever had to address a similar situation? Has your child ever expressed a desire to deviate from what is popularly perceived as “normal”? How did you react? Share your stories in the comment section.

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