Gender Norms and Halloween Costumes

Growing up, people are told that they can only be certain things for Halloween. Girls dressing up as princesses or fairies and boys dressing up as superheroes or pirates. Although, there are people who are willing to break through these societal barriers and be themselves. The world is starting to see more and more of blurring the lines from society’s “gender norms” through the simplest of things, like Halloween costumes; even when there are people in the world who will tell them that what they’re doing is wrong.  


Halloween is a holiday where people can express themselves when it may be too scary or unheard of to do in everyday life. Feminine masculinity and masculine femininity are becoming a big topic in today’s world. Girls and women can dress up in suits. Boys and men can dress up in skirts and dresses because after all, they’re just clothes right? They’re made for anyone and everyone even if they are presented to people with certain expectations. 


In Marvel Studios new Disney + series, What If, there’s an episode where the character Peggy Carter takes the super soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers, therefore becoming Captain Carter. She gains the superpowers that Captain America would have had, and in the episode has to fight to be recognized as a female superhero in a male dominated society. To many young girls and teens, this can open a whole new world to them. Instead of dressing up in princess, fairy, or mermaid costumes, it shows them that they too can be superheroes.


Michael Ryan, a professor of sociology, said in an interview with The American University of Cairo, “Halloween costumes have a fascinating way of over-exemplifying gender norms… Halloween creates a ‘super boy’ and ‘super girl’ by having girls costumes with bright pink frills and boys wearing muscle plates.” This way of thinking is “normal” to most people. It’s something that can be easily seen in the costumes that are chosen and worn by young and old at Halloween parties, school parades, and during trick or treating. 


People often find ways to express themselves through their clothing and fashion choices. In the 21st century, anyone can dress up as anything because there are younger generations who are willing to break away from society’s traditional gender roles. However, there are many people, like parents and other adults who say that breaking the “norms” is not okay. Parents are oftentimes reinforcing these barriers without even realizing it by having little girls pick out a costume from the “girls” section and having little boys pick out a costume from the “boys” section. What about the “everyone” section?


In an article for the Deseret News, columnist Erin Stewart said, “When we tell young, impressionable girls and boys that they ‘should’ want to be a certain thing because that’s the norm, we enforce stereotypes in small, subtle ways that stick with kids long after Halloween is over.” She explains that the main reason stereotypes like this exist is because so many people buy into them. Allowing everyone and anyone to choose what they want to dress up as for Halloween will lead to breaking the gender norms. “From personal experience, I’ve been not allowed to wear certain things because ‘that’s a boy’ or ‘it’s not feminine enough’. I think letting people wear what they want for Halloween, and not telling them that they can or can’t wear a certain thing because of the gender they perceive it to have, would definitely be a step to breaking the gender norms,” says Brynnlee Linton, a student at Copper Hills High School.


Stepping out of fashion barriers is a common thing at Copper Hills High School. There are even some students who feel free to express themselves through their clothing and costume choices. And the coolest part about it? They don’t even care about what others are going to think of them. Sage Jones, a student at CHHS, says, “For Halloween, this year I’m a Renaissance clown and I’m wearing six inch heels and a corset. Those two things are very feminine, but they make me feel more powerful and that’s a super important thing. Men in our society need to embrace that.” 


With Halloween right around the corner, there are going to be many people and students stepping out of their comfort zones and the gender barriers that can be seen in Halloween costumes. Dress up as whoever or whatever you want. The world and the people in it will learn that each little boy and girl doesn’t have to dress up as a princess or pirate.