i, sandwich

by cathyjwilson
Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 5, 2010 2:37PM

Parents' ridicule of Halloween costume teaches intolerance

Rate: 11 Flag

A friend of mine posted a link to this blog on Facebook, which is a mom describing how her five-year-old son wanted to be Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween and was ridiculed not by his peers, but by those peers' parents:

[A mom] continued on and on about how mean children could be and how he would be ridiculed.

My response to that: The only people that seem to have a problem with it is their mothers.

This was the best lesson of the entire narrative, which detailed how her son was excited about his costume, but grew nervous about wearing it to school because his peers might tease him -- which wasn't even a problem considering that the moms were the ones so outraged and shocked by the costume. It's a classic example of how intolerance is not inherent or natural, but it's something that is learned from parents, family, and society in general.

The older the kids get, the more ingrained the ideas of intolerance are -- the mom who said it's a good thing he didn't wear that to kindergarten had a point (not the one she was probably trying to make), which was that kids become less tolerant as they get older. Though encouraging your own children to be more tolerant of difference is an efficient way to combat that intolerance, while expecting your own children to be intolerant is ... ridiculous.

It is obviously the parents who are painting a picture of gender roles and how subverting them is extremely problematic, while the kids are simply a blank canvas with no inclination that whatever the boy is wearing is somehow wrong or inappropriate. And it also shows that the parents are promoting a fear-driven lifestyle -- don't let your kids be different, because their developing their own sense of individuality isn't worth people pointing out their being different, and they need to learn that fitting in to avoid criticism are valuable qualities. Plus, the lesson of sameness as good and difference as bad is a great one for kids to keep with them.

That her son was five years old and already afraid of ridicule for being different speaks to the fact that his classmates probably were already showing signs of intolerance, which is also disheartening because people at that young age are likely having their creativity and personality stifled because veering away from typical gender roles or the status quo is seen as wrong -- and these parents are acting like they are trying to protect children from these "facts of life" while simultaneously promoting them.

If only those moms had seen this boy's costume and greeted it with bright smiles and compliments -- even if the kids were going to ridicule him, they'd take their parents' accepting of the costume to heart and likely follow suit because they mimick behavior at this early age. Parents need to take opportunities like this and turn them into learning opportunities and lessons for their children -- and I hope those shocked and outraged parents read this mom's blog reaction and take it as a lesson for themselves.

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High on the list of things that were different when I was young is how immature many parents seem. About a year ago there was a Mother who got arrested for bringing her son to the place he was supposed to meet some other kid for the proverbial behind the backstop fight. Not only did she bring him she coached him. And, how about the mother who made a MySpace account so she could torment one of her daughters peers. That woman didn't seem to have even the slightest bit of remorse when the girl she f'ed with killed herself. Seriously just because your child acts in a juvenile manner doesn't mean that as a parent you should as well.
The best thing about this whole episode was the mom's response. That blog has been widely quoted all over the interwebs, and is worth a read.
@GeeBee: It's a great blog. I loved the line: "I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off." And the author makes a lot of other good points, such as talking about the double standard of girls dressing like boys being OK but boys dressing as girls being taboo and wrong.
I read that mother's blog and saw the littlr boy's costume. All I can say is that mean children come from mean parents. Congratulations on your EP, hope your piece gets a lot of viewers.
As a parent and a teacher, I have often found it to be the case that children take their subtle cues from the adults in the room when it comes to viewing others with suspicion or contempt. It happens far more than people realize, I'm afraid.
I've also seen this on Facebook today.

What amazes me is that when my daughter was in preschool, she wanted to be Steve from the Blues Clues TV show. I thought it was cute. I found her a green rugby shirt, we added the extra light green stripes on the sewing machine, and found her some tan pants and a stuffed "Blue" toy. It was adorable. Everyone thought it was clever and creative that she wanted to be Steve.

Why is it OK for a girl to dress as a boy?
All I can say is that mean children come from mean parents.

i completely agree with FusunA - succinctly put and completely right.

and Cathy (whose post this is) - you said exactly what i feel in a much more eloquent way that i could ever manage. thank you for you post. :)
It's so sad how with so many things to really be concerned about regarding children, there are mothers who act this way. My son asked me last week to buy him a pink shirt because it was breast cancer awareness day in his middle school. He wore the bright pink shirt I bought him with pride and not one kid made fun of it. I was thrilled. Your friend's blog is great. I'm glad so many people are reading it.
Another weird aspect of this is that people are dressing in all kinds of identity-bending Halloween costumes these days, and are praised for their ingenuity.

A couple of decades ago a friend dressed in drag for Halloween, and really looked pretty good. Women especially loved it, and men gave grudging praise. He was such a character that his audacity intimidated people. If I remember right he won a contest.

As far as other parents freaking out, I think it depends on where you are. It's probably a fair guess that most parents are paranoid about their kids being different. For the psychologically weak their children are extensions of their egos, and they harm their children until their dying breaths. They live desperately unhappy lives.
This is the age where they either teach tolerance or intolerance. This may not have been my choice but that wouldn't be the point; this mother seems to be more interested in teaching tolerance while others that don't think things like bigotry can be changed have given up and go along with a program that teaches intolerance.

Good post
"Intolerance is not inherent or natural "..?! How could that possibly be proven in a rational way? Sounds good and PC, but is it true (or do we care?) Anecdotes are not evidence; it is quite possible that the kid, a unique individual, has tendencies, and is trying them on for size. For a person to have tendencies, likes, etc. is certainly natural, but so is the tendency of GROUPS to have similar attributes. It is the announcement that such situations are "bad " that is judgmental, but that has survival value too.
Great post; well said! It's so true what you say about how it's usually the parents who take more issue with the cross-dressing than the kids themselves (at least in the younger elementary ages). I have found this to be the case with my own gender nonconforming child as well; however, I should say that in many ways, I am in a very unconventional environment in that we are mostly met with acceptance and tolerance... and those who express views otherwise get a swift smack down by everyone around them. I love my little community, but I know it's not the norm.