Recently I strutted over to the local Party City in high heels and wandered by the colorful costumes. At first glance, there was a clear distinction between the male’s costumes and female’s costumes. When the two suddenly merged, I stopped in my tracks.
There was the Captain America costume, but it looked a bit different.
Captain America had a tutu. It was pretty cute, too.
The Marvel section proudly displayed an adorable child’s costume: a dress with a red, white, and blue tulle skirt and a glittering Captain America shield on the chest, complete with a matching wand and crown, both equally Americana.
If this had been any other costume, perhaps a princess or a cowgirl, I would not have taken any notice. But as a young woman who quietly bought a Captain America hoodie from the boy’s section in Target, something personal drew me to the innocent, yet still potentially politically powerful tutu. There are no Marvel hoodies in the women’s section at Target. But there is a superhero dress for little girls at Party City. Though it is only a costume, Captain America’s tutu may be a step in the right direction for girls who might just adore superhero movies, or any forms of entertainment that are pre-dominantly marketed towards males.
While I wanted to say “four for you, Party City” and chant about equal access to superhero merchandise, I stepped back to ponder on the result of blurring the social lines regarding what costume is appropriate for which gender. Boys may start requesting to wear tuxedos with Angelina Ballerina accents, and girls may conveniently wear a colored skirt over otherwise “masculine” Power Rangers jumpsuits. Soon enough, boys and girls may dress up exactly like the characters they intend to emulate, regardless of their genders. However, what may be a cause for social shock and outrage about “enforcing experimentation on today’s youth” is most likely just dressing up. In the words of my inner five-year-old, “girls like superhero movies too, deal with it.”
The hoopla caused over mixed gender costumes leads me to believe that society has one big problem: its members read into behaviors too much, therefore causing unnecessary inter-gender friction.
Society says: men wear pants. Women wear skirts. It has been this way for literally hundreds of years. Now, women are wearing the pants… although hesitantly, and when someone calls “feminist” from the rooftops the women jump at the chance to call “male privilege” and “oppression.” Suddenly, we see the hidden power of the pants: we get a bit courageous and perhaps even too big for our new, un-tailored britches.
The same women who cry “oppression,” due to the fact they are frowned on for expressing masculinity, may need to evaluate their opinions on men, one day, wearing skirts. Would it be so wrong for men to express femininity? It may not be wrong, but by today’s standards, it is alien. This is where the supposed “gender gap” in equality really lies: between our meticulous interpretation of trait expression, both for masculine and feminine qualities. If it is so empowering for a woman to wear pants, it would be no different for a man to wear a skirt – if you believe in the true definition of feminism, anyway.
When men and women view each other as pants and skirts and judged solely on outward appearance, they give a lot of power to pieces of fabric. Suddenly, we are what we wear and have to conform to the expectations of our clothing. As we continue to read into what people wear, we prolong the nonsensical and nonexistent correlation between what kids wear and who they are. This creates problems that do not have to exist; dress-up time has turned into a social movement, whether you are on the “girls don’t wear pants” or “girls need to have equal access to pants” side of the picket line. It is all shouting in the end, and it certainly distracts from playtime.
I would want any girl to be able to wear the Captain America tutu, but not for feminist reasons or because she “should be able to” – only because she loves the Captain America movie just as much as I do.