As usual this year I heard some debate about whether Jewish kids should be celebrating Halloween. In particular this year I enjoyed reading the point/counterpoint between Rabbi Aaron Starr and Rabbi Jason Miller on this question on Rabbi Miller’s blog. Without inciting a riot by saying this, I think it’s pretty innocuous, at least Jewishly. But this is the first year that the question of whether Jewish kids should be celebrating Halloween really had personal significance, given the fact that my husband and I have a 7 & ½ month old daughter, Samantha.
I found myself walking through Target’s little (ok — not so little) Halloween section looking at the costumes for babies. And what I realized is that, with a few exceptions, the costumes are already designed specifically with either boys or girls in mind. So I had cowboys, superheros, cops, and construction workers on the one hand, and fairies, pink dinosaurs, princesses, and ballerinas on the other. And though I did–of course–think about how Samantha would look pretty adorable as a pink dinosaur, I found myself wanting to get her a costume that didn’t box her in quite so quickly.
I am confident that simply through our lives and our family dynamic and the way we will raise our children, Samantha and any other (God willing) future siblings will be firmly rooted in gender equality. She comes from a long line of strong women. And in fact, though this was really a practical decision more than anything else, my husband is the one who is home with her during the day. (Tangentially, if one more person responds to this fact by saying, “Oh, he’s playing Mr. Mom!” I will kill myself…or maybe them. He’s being a dad, people.) But might Halloween costumes and the like send the wrong type of message from an early age? Maybe I should have gotten her a princess costume and had her go as “Dr. Cinderella” like Pam did on last week’s episode of The Office to balance the cuteness with positive role models of professional women.
It is probably worth me saying that I am a bit of a girly girl. I wear makeup every day and have since I was a teenager. I love a pair of cute heels. My favorite color is pink. I dress Samantha in a pretty ridiculous amount of pink for that matter—though part of that has to do with what clothing is just out there in general for baby girls. But something bothered me about Samantha already having to choose from a list of frilly, pink, mostly fabricated characters for Halloween.
I was reminded of that line from the Sex In The City Movie (1, not 2) about women’s choices for Halloween costumes. Carrie and Miranda are walking through Walgreens and Miranda is trying to find a costume because she feels she needs to dress up and all she can find are a witch and a kitten. She comments that these are “The only two choices for women: witch or sexy kitten.” Carrie responds, “You’ve just said a mouthful there, sister.”
And walking the aisles of Target seemed to confirm the movie’s observation. But here I was so excited about the innocence of Halloween—sweets, candy, It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and silly costumes—before it turns into an excuse for adults and college kids to shed inhibitions and go a bit wild. But I realized that even when my little Samantha is so young, there are choices to be made that are intertwined with the way women are perceived and treated. There is certainly a chicken-or-the-egg argument to be made about whether Halloween costumes are a symptom or a cause, but regardless… I wondered, is this choice of a Halloween costume one that has greater significance than I previously thought?
And also, if I were to get her a pink dinosaur costume, how could I then justify the purchase to myself and to my husband by saying that it is gender-neutral enough to use for future Baby Segals, male or female?
In the end I went with a lion costume, thinking, that’s gender-neutral enough, right? And lions are strong and mighty… and lions are a nice, full Jewish symbol—the tribes of Dan and Judah are compared to lions, and they frequently appear in ceremonial art and decoratively on our ritual items, right? (Yes, even in target, and even about Halloween costumes, I guess that rabbi monologue never really turns off.) Most importantly, I wondered to myself, “She’ll still fit into this for Purim, right?”
I guess I’ll have to come back to this question of gender-specific costumes next year when Samantha is a little more aware and I have had a little more time to process all of this.
Now I reveal the real reason for wanting to post about Halloween: sharing a picture of my little RK Lion! You didn’t think I’d sign off without doing the proud Ima thing and posting this picture, did you?