Halloween costumes: the search continues

It’s that time of year again, when children of all ages come home from school each day to pore over the Costume Express catalog and change their minds about what they want to be for Halloween a hundred and fifty times.

After several days of hefty consideration, the boys have made their final decisions. Connor’s going to be Harry Potter, which is kind of a hack choice; I think half his class went as Harry or Hermione last year (same costume). I pointed this out to no avail. Still, it’s better than Seamus’s costume: 

Apparently this is some Star Wars character named Cad Bane. I say it’s Freddy Krueger meets the Sleestaks from Land of the Lost, and I can’t think of a less cute costume for my 6 year old, but adorability is not really what he’s going for. 

Maggie, no surprise, is having a much harder time deciding. And that’s my fault. She first said she wanted to be a “pink piggy,” but the only costume like that I could find was 1) $44.99 and 2) awful. NOT cute. And goshdarn it, my 2 year old WILL be cute on Halloween if it’s the last thing I do.

So I start clicking around the internet, and Seamus suddenly yells, “Mom! That’s perfect!”

And I mean, it is, isn’t it? But Maggie took one look and shook her head.

“Dat for boys,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Girls can be popcorn for Halloween.”
She looked at me like I was an idiot.
“No dem can’t,” she explained, “because the popcorn’s not pink.”

Where in the world did my two-year-old get the idea that if something isn’t pink or sparkly, it cannot be for her? Are all girls just hardwired to be obsessed with pink, at least until pre-K? I’m reading a book this week that would suggest otherwise. It’s an advance reader’s copy of a nbook by Peggy Orenstein, coming out in January, called Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture. First of all: best. title. ever.

Since it’s not out until January, I’ll wait to give you my review until it’s in stores, but here’s a sneak preview: this is a must-read for anyone with a young daughter. I have written before about my conflicted views on Maggie’s love affair with pink, and bewilderment as to where it came from. Peggy Orenstein has a few ideas about that, and I am regarding Maggie’s gender-selecting everything in her world with a new and heightened sense of dismay. Sure, I insisted on wearing a dress to school every day of kindergarten, but it didn’t have to be pink, or have a blasted Disney Princess plastered to its front. And I don’t think it entered my Halloween costume considerations at all.

After ruling out the popcorn, Maggie chose this costume–

which okay, I’ll admit, is freaking ADORABLE. But the pink is wagging the dog, here: if that cupcake had white frosting with blue dots, I don’t think she’d be gunning for it. 

Here’s the problem I see with the gender-sorting: Maggie thinks that anything that isn’t pink (or sometimes purple) isn’t for girls. That rules out many of the toys and clothes out there, to say nothing of the boardrooms at Fortune 500 companies and our nation’s institutes of higher learning. She’ll probably outgrow the pink obsession soon enough, but… do you see this “that’s for girls, that’s for boys” behavior in your daughters? And does it unsettle you? 

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Sean September 17, 2010 at 7:39 pm

I once bought some blue overalls, sized for a 1-year-old. When I went to the counter to pay, the sales clerk said,"Oh, what's his name?" I told her they were for my niece. "BLUUUUUUUUUUUEEEEEE?" she shrieked. Then she practically spat in my face.

I still bought them.


Roxane B. Salonen September 18, 2010 at 4:34 am

Amy! It's been so long since I've been here. I backed away from blogging for a while and only slowly have gotten back into reading more recently. It's so hard to keep up with it all. But…I have to tell you…I read a book this summer that totally affirmed the whole pink vs. blue thing being nature, not nurture. It will probably contradict everything you are reading now, but I have to say, after experiencing three boys and two girls in kid-raising, I am convinced they are hard-wired, give or take variations in individual children. There have been studies done in which girl monkeys prefer pink, boy monkeys, blue, and you cannot argue that they're affected by advertisement. Girls' brains and hormones are different than boys', and it affects how they perceive the world. The findings also showed that girl babies were much more intent on studying their mothers' faces, whereas boy babies, by and large, were inclined to look outward, at the outer world (the sky is blue!). And there are studies done, too, which show that boys are more action-oriented. This is not about a culture forming children one way or another (although certainly, there are influences there as well to enhance what's already in motion). The evidence was compelling and I thought of you as I read it, knowing how much it unnerves you that you're daughter is so taken with the world of pink. She's so normal and healthy! I think if you were to read the book I read, you wouldn't fret about it any longer, because you'd realize it really is ingrained. I'll be curious to see what the book your reading says, however. I'm sure we can find backing for both positions. But I was really amazed by what I learned, because it affirmed what I felt in my heart…and that is that boys and girls are inherently different. Equal in dignity. Different in how their bodies and brains work. Okay, sorry to get so long but I really did think of you when I read that and am glad to have the opportunity to share now!


Roxane B. Salonen September 18, 2010 at 4:35 am

Wow, that was long!!!


Mari September 18, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I have twin girls who are 3.5 years old. One is all girl: pink, purple, Disney princesses, twirly skirts, sun dress every day. She is going as a pink sparkly crocodile for Halloween ala Peter Pan. Her sister rejects everything "girl." She loves trucks, her orange Crocs (b/c they are a boy color), and her flannel Thomas sleeping pants. She shuns dresses and wears only shorts or pants. I potty trained her with boy panties, and she hates her Dora panties. She is obsessed with Leo from Little Einsteins, Thomas the Train, and Mickey Mouse. She has finally decided she will be Mickey for Halloween. I can't wait to see how this all plays out as they grow up.


Amy Wilson September 18, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Sean: what's interesting is that even ten years ago, you could buy a toddler a pair of overalls or jeans. Now there are "girl" overalls with pink sparkles, and "boy" overalls with backhoes on them or whatever. It's very hard to buy anything for kids that isn't gendered… I got this from my friend Pamela Paul's book, Parenting Inc., which is a very interesting and sobering read.

Roxane: so what's this book? I'm in suspense!


Anonymous September 18, 2010 at 7:28 pm


The day your pants-wearing daughter says, "No, Mommy! I want SENSIBLE shoes," and insists on bedtime stories authored by Camille Paglia, you'll know what you're working with.


Roxane B. Salonen September 18, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Amy, of course. It's called "You’re Teaching My Child What?" by Dr. Miriam Grossman. The gender studies are introduced in more detail toward the end of the book, though mentioned throughout. A really important read for parents in this age, I feel.


Anonymous September 20, 2010 at 2:03 am

My two-year-old daughter has only used the potty on the pink Disney Princess potty that my mom bought for her to use at her house. How's that for favoritism? She'll only pee on a PRINCESS! I am resisting running out to buy one like it for our house… she may never potty.


Anonymous September 20, 2010 at 4:01 am

Hi Amy, Thanks for the kind advance word on the book!! Exciting to find out people are reading it. I didn't know they'd even sent out the readers copies yet!

Especially glad you like the title.


Courtney September 20, 2010 at 4:42 pm

So far, my almost 2-year old has not decided she likes one color over another. She has little friends, though, whose mothers say their daughters like only "girlie" toys and clothes, and I do have to wonder – nature or nurture? My daughter plays with matchbox cars as much as she plays with her tea set and dolls. I don't think in your case you are only pushing pink! But, in many cases, I do think that parents unconsciously (or consciously) stress gender-specific clothes and toys.


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