Oct. 7, 2014 Update I realize I’ve been ‘deconstructing’ Halloween for years with pushback on the societal sexploitation of girls as we fiercely try to “Take Back Halloween” by mythbusting “market demand”…
But the little boys’ lens of how some of the girls costumes land on them is one to watch too, instilling critical thinking early on…in this case, two posts by SheKnows.com talking with boys as young as 5 about the trouble with girls’ costumes, and defying gender roles and rules.
I’ll reprise this Part One and Two about Packaging Boyhood beyond the cliché…as Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s upcoming 2015 film “The Mask You Live In” poignantly conveys, media stereotypes perpetuating roles and rules DO have a colossal impact…on BOYS too.
Halloween’s fun fest is the perfect time to deconstruct this stuff with kids to ensure “The Mask You Live In” doesn’t rub off with any permanent residue…Critical thinking for the win! Happy haunting…
Original Post Oct. 27, 2009 It’s the Tuesday before Halloween, perfect timing to wrap up part two of our Packaging Boyhood post about gender clichés, costumes, and ‘Saving our Sons from Superheroes, Slackers & Stereotypes’ as the book’s title says.
Moreover, we have tips & tactics for those eager to hear how to best play dodgeball with ambient influences.
We’ve all heard those exhausted “NOW what?” frustrations from media literate parents confronted with pester power and exposure to “what’s perceived as cool” even if the wee one has never “seen the movie, show, or media attached to it.” (THAT is ambient marketing, my friends)
Media and marketing are so ubiquitous with saturation on so many emotional levels of ‘peer acceptance’ that if you try TOO hard to veer elsewhere you may land smack dab into ‘forbidden fruit’ territory…one step forward, three steps back. So the first given that the Packaging Boyhood authors impart is to try not to ‘over-react’ and make such a ‘huge’ deal out of it all in wide-eyeballed, ‘omg, what are you even thinking!’ mode.
Truth be told, I used to predict a direct correlation with the playground posse…the more sanctimonious the parenting style, “My child will NEVER be seen with a ____ gun, weapon, Barbie doll, makeup, Lunchable, piercing, tattoo, etc. (insert item du jour) the more likely that very same child would be the one coveting said item the most.
I include myself in those life lessons, as I blew it by giving TV more power than it ever could’ve wielded on its own simply due to the ‘heat’ I inadvertently had bubbling up on the issue.
Not saying you wanna let lil’ Johnny be a pimp at age 4 decked out with bling and thugwear, just saying that sometimes the ‘wannabe’ of Halloween gets muddled in the satirical/older sibling media mix and the wee ones get caught up in the imitation without attaching any ‘meaning’ to it…
Tiny tots may not even know where the cues came from much less why they ‘wannabe’ something…and this is something I think we should ALL take a closer look at, from a social responsibility standpoint…
I say pick your battles, hold your values, and surf the everchanging tides of those ‘lines in the sand’…by lifeguarding your sons (and daughters!) with critical thinking skills, creative alternatives, and a healthy dose of self-determined ‘cool’ regardless of where you finally end up on the costume conundrum.
Oh…and when it seems ‘all too much’ think back to what YOU wanted to be for Halloween to gain some perspective…um, right? 😉 Banzai!
Here are tips from the Packaging Boyhood authors who have analyzed this to a farethewell in their important work and from The Dad Man (Joe Kelly) who has championed change for decades, heading up Dads & Daughters. As this USC college student, Bryn writes in her blog about boys cues AND girls cues this Halloween, it’s readily apparent you don’t have to be ‘a parent’ to be concerned with some of the more toxic cues landing on kids these days! Clearly, all ages and stages agree we could use some ‘deconstruction’ on the social responsibility/pop culture front…
Ten Tips for Choosing Halloween Costumes
For Your Son
By Drs. Lyn Mikel Brown, Sharon Lamb, and Mark Tappan (authors of Packaging Boyhood: Saving Our Sons From Superheroes, Slackers, and Other Marketing Stereotypes) and The Dad Man, Joe Kelly
1. Help him think outside the scary ninja, fighter, superhero box that equates being a boy with full-throttle, over-the-top aggression. Imagination and creativity help boys break out of gender stereotypes, increase their resiliency, and provide great practice for reality.
2. Encourage him to be anyone or anything for Halloween–and the rest of his life. Help him to be inspired by real men doing fun, clever, cool things that go beyond showboating, super powers, wielding big weapons, or seeking revenge.
3. Listen to his ideas and encourage all the possibilities. Don’t assume he buys into the message that he must be some version of Super Scary Special Forces Ninja Bounty Hunter Fighter World Saving Man. Let his costume choice surprise you!
4. Discuss and work on Halloween costumes together. It’s a great learning and bonding experience. Hey, boys enjoy a little sewing, too. Help him recall the best costumes he ever saw, and share some favorites from your childhood.
5. Add his own twist to action and adventure, and have his character do something other than control, dominate, look tough, and fight. Help him imagine an action hero who plays the ukelele, scales mountains, sings, or goes on eco-adventures.
6. Sit down and let your son create his own character and story. He can raid the family closets or dress up box to become the wildest, funniest, or coolest character ever! And he can keep using homemade costumes to play the part of great characters all winter long.
7. Tap his love for scary stories and the history of Halloween; help him go “traditional” and be Frankenstein, a ghost, or a skeleton. Avoid those pumped up costumes with the fake muscles sewn in. Use your own imagination and create a fun backstory to go with the scary, ugly, and awful look.
8. Draw on his favorite book or character. Reread the book with him to plan what he’ll need to Clancy of Clancy The Courageous Cow, Ron or Hagrid from the Harry Potter adventures, or Bilbo Baggins.
9. Is your son an athlete, a history buff, into science or music? Halloween is a chance to act out the activities he loves. The list is endless. He could be Jackie Robinson, Joshua Chamberlain, Albert Einstein, Albert Pujols, or Bono. And don’t rule out famous women – remember it’s about what he loves to DO. His Jane Goodall can carry a stuffed gorilla; his Van Gogh can wear a bandage on his ear. Once you start brainstorming, ideas will flood in.
10. Halloween is all about being what you aren’t for a night. Help him try on new roles and be whatever wild and crazy identity captivates him in the moment. Teach him that it’s false advertising when stores label police officer, marine, and firefighter costumes as “for boys” or cats, colorful butterflies, singers, and dancers “for girls.”
Halloween is a day of imagination-a perfect opportunity to show him that he can be anyone and anything! Take this opportunity to widen his world when all those marketers out there are pressing him to narrow it.
Packaging Boyhood: Saving Our Sons from Superheroes, Slackers, and Other Media Stereotypes is an eye-opening look at the narrow version of boyhood that media and marketers sell to our sons—and what parents can do about it.
The authors serve on Shaping Youth’s nonprofit advisory board, and I’m thrilled to begin a series focusing on ‘Packaging Boyhood’ throughout the remainder of the year blogging on the topic every Tuesday.
Want A Copy of Packaging Boyhood? Comment on Tuesdays!
Join in the conversation! We’ll be giving away a hardback copy once each month, through year’s end, and every time you leave a comment on our Tuesday posts you’ll be entered to win.
So for this post, tell us about YOUR Halloween costumes…Most/least favorite, creative, insightful/foreshadowing, regrettable, whatever you want to sound off about on the topic of ‘packaging boyhood/girlhood’
Stay tuned every Tuesday for ‘All Things Boy’…what they’re reading, wearing, gaming, liking and how today’s pop culture is impacting boys; from the hundreds surveyed in the new book.
Here’s a mini-roundup from Shaping Youth Archives:
Other Great Resources We Like For Boys (add more!)