In years past, my daughter's wishes to dress as a witch or mermaid or princess were pretty easy to fulfill. We went online, found a suitable girls’ costume that would be warm enough for a chilly night of Trick or Treating, and ordered it. This year, though, the game has changed. Big time.
According to the costume manufacturers of America, once a girl child reaches double digits, it is officially time for the Halloween hoochification process to begin.
If it were me, I would tell my daughter, "Go ahead and dress as sexy as you want -- just, you have to build the costume yourself."
But aren't you afraid of sexualizing your daughter?
Aren't you afraid of what message you're sending?
So, disclaimer. I'm totally not even close to being a mom. But, from my perspective, it seems like there is no way you're going to squash your daughter's desire to be sexy.
So what message should you send your daughter this Halloween? How about,
It is fun, and totally possible, to be both smart and sexy.
Halloween is a chance for you to show your child that they can be boring, bland and interchangeable. She can buy some silly costume out of a box... or they can build something totally interesting and awesome creative. She doesn't have to be something someone else thought of. She doesn't have to be something someone else could be. Halloween is a chance for you to help your daughter see the world a little differently.
She can take things into their own hands and be whatever she wants. She can use her imagination, her sense of humor, her interest in science or pop culture or anything she wants... and build a costume around it.
Halloween is a chance for your daughter to learn how to use power tools. To practice brainstorming different ideas and ways to solve a problem. To start seeing things not for what they are, but for what they could be.
For example, your daughter could be a Sexy Gumball Machine:
If she's a first-time maker, be available to help. Help her brainstorm. Hook her up with a hot glue gun or a ride to the hardware or fabric store. I mean, hopefully by now she's learned the most important vocabulary word a child could possibly know, and you've spent a lot of time talking about "prototypes" and "testing." But, if not... it's never too late to start.
But aside from using Halloween as a time to foster her creativity and curiosity, this could also be a great time to have a conversation about sexuality, social norms, and a woman's true value.
Instead of shaming her for wanting to (the first big step on the road to victim blaming and rape culture) or forbidding her from doing so, talk about why your daughter wants to show a lot of skin. Is it because she loves her body? Is it because her favorite female icons do? Is it because she thinks that's the only way to make people like her?
Talk about attracting the right kind of attention -- about valuing yourself for who you are. If you base your self-worth on your sexiness, how can you expect others to like you for anything but that? Acknowledge that it's fun to feel beautiful, like all eyes are on you. But what are the other reasons she wants people to like her? Do a self-affirmation exercise. Have your daughter write down five things that she loves about herself -- that aren't about how she looks. And then, maybe, brainstorm a few costume ideas that exemplify that. For example:
I notice you wrote that you're artistic. Can you tell me more about your favorite ways to create art -- and how you could use them to make a cool costume?
I love that you're politically aware, too! Are there any political causes or figures that you found especially interesting this year? Maybe that could be a good costume idea!
You certainly are athletic! It seems like you improve every time I see you play! Are there any female athletes whom you see as role models?
"Good at teaching." That's fantastic! What are a few things you enjoy teaching?
And, you know, make sure you have a talk about the importance of being rude. Talk about easy words and phrases they can use to assert their boundaries. Talk about why most people suck at saying no - and how they can start improving. Talk about how they're worth spending time with just for the person they are (and not for sex) -- and that male kindness or attention never needs to be reciprocated with sexual contact.
Because whether you dress your tween in the costume on the left or the one on the right, there are people in the world who think they are entitled to your daughter's body. Rather than policing her clothing, teach her the confidence and communication skills to tell these creeps otherwise.