Trick or Treat
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. The one day of the year when I am not only able to imagine myself in any role (think of the options!), but am able to dress the part without people doing a double-take.
And yet, trips to any costume store or section are sadly revealing … of what types or roles are available for girls and women. Allison Glock addressed this on a NY Times piece (that I bought on-line and haven’t been able to access, even after 24 hours … don’t even get me started) titled “Halloween on Heels.” Apparently she’d gone to a store to get some mouse ears to dress as a country mouse for her daughters. What she found were overtly sexy, “scanty costumes that were long on bared flesh and fishnets, and short on whimsy.”*
Or, as one character so aptly stated in the movie Mean Girls, “In the regular world, Halloween is when children dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In girl-world, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it. The hard core girls just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears.”
So what does this mean? On a day when one can be anything in the world, why do the choices seem so limited? Are women and girls interested in wearing only scanty costumes, or are they trying to conform to societal expectations? Do costumers and vendors only make and stock bawdy body outfits because those are the only ones that sell? How can we encourage healthier and more imaginative costumes for girls and women?
In response to Glock’s piece, 12 year old Julia Schwarz wrote that the options at costumes shops were, “too revealing … I could barely even get to my neighbor’s house without freezing in a costume like that.” Hmm … this is a heretofore unheralded benefit for having Halloween on October 31st (at least in the northern hemisphere). She ends by asking, “When did ghost and hippie costumes turn into French maids?” And even though I find it remarkable that a 12 year old reads the NY Times, and even comments on-line, I am glad to hear that there are girls asking these questions, and trying to find their own solutions.
However, it’s not enough to identify or remove ridiculous costumes. We need something good to replace them with. An appealing option, to encourage literacy and creativity, came from Raleigh Mayer (also in response to Glock’s piece), who wrote:
‘I have no talent or training for sewing, but my daughter and I have managed to pull together outfits for her representing one of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” from the Brothers Grimm, Ms. Frizzle from “The Magic School Bus” series, and Astrid Lindgren’s “Pippi Longstocking.”
Our inspiration for the character selections came from her school’s “Books Come Alive” event, which allows costumes to be worn on Halloween only if they represent characters from a book. Parents are invited to read stories in the classroom and participate in an all-school literary parade.‘
And, in a real world sense, I’d like to broaden the discussion to creating positive role models for girls and women. I would like to have a career-day-esque discussion of what we each do for a living. (I know, I know. This piece is already too long, but this could potentially be a great resource if we all chime in.) What type of job do you have? What did you have to do to get there? Perks and downsides. Insider tips on how to get into the field.
I work as a pediatric intensive care nurse. I actually got my undergraduate degree in a different (but related) field, then backtracked and got my ADN at a community college for a greatly reduced sticker price. I was lucky, because it was the first year they did the lottery for admission to the program, and I got in on the first try. Four semesters later, and I was employable all across the nation.
Benefits to a career in nursing: Flexible hours. Great job security and demand. Depending on experience and other needs, one can work 8 to forty hours a week. Career opportunities not limited by geography. Great potential for career growth (RN managers, teachers, multiple hospital/clinic/doctor’s office jobs, advanced practice careers such as nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists, nurse lawyers, consultants, etc).
Suggestions: Volunteer in a hospital to get a sense of what it’s like. Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center has a fantastic program (Care Extenders) for college ags students interested in allied health fields, to get into the hospital and volunteer in all kinds of places (ED, med-surg, OR, OB-delivery). Some people start working as unit secretaries while in nursing school, in hospitals where they hope to work. Gets you used to the flow of a place, and gets a foot in the door. And when you’ve finished nursing school, look for a hospital that offers a good on-the-job training program with a combination of hands-on and didactic training.
So, if you’re still reading, that’s my two cents (times a few). Now, share your story. Please?
*Quote taken from the Best US Columns section in The Week, 10/27/2006.