Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chinese Princess (Editorial)

Halloween is fast-approaching. About a month ago, Margot declared that she wanted to be a Chinese princess for Halloween. She wants to wear a dress that we bought for her in Thailand a few years ago, and we picked up some matching shoes in Chinatown last weekend. That's the extent of her costume (at least in my eyes).

When I picked her up from school yesterday, her teacher asked if I would wait a few minutes to talk about something. She shooed Margot away, and the conversation went like this (imagine it fast, and slightly accusatory):

Teacher: "What is Margot planning to be for Halloween?"
Me: "She wants to be a Chinese princess."
Teacher: "What is she planning to wear?"
Me: (wondering where on earth this is going) "Uh, a dress we bought in Thailand a while back and some shoes we got in Chinatown last weekend."
Teacher: "Is she dyeing her hair black? Because that's not a costume, that's dressing as someone of another race which is not ok."
Me: (Laughing) "No, you thought I would let her dye her hair black?" (I mean, c'mon! She's five!)
Teacher: "Well, I couldn't know. She told the class she was dyeing her hair black for Halloween. I had to make sure it wasn't offensive."

This raises all kinds of issues for me. First, I feel kind of sad that it's ok for society to support Margot if she wanted to be a blond princess like Cinderella, but because she wants to emulate an Asian princess that it's not acceptable. Margot sees beauty in Asian-style clothing and wants to wear it. She's not making a mockery of the culture - she admires it! And shouldn't we encourage her to do so? She gets enough twisted messages from Disney about what is supposed to be beautiful (thin, blond, and busty come to mind). Here she is, genuinely admiring another, real, established culture, and her ideas are squashed.

Of course, she is unaware that her ideas are being squashed.

I now know she pictures herself with long black hair for Halloween, but that, obviously, is not going to happen. It never was going to happen. I'm sure she'll be walking around in her Thai dress and red shoes and no one will have any idea of what she is supposed to be. But, in her heart, she will be a beautiful Chinese princess. Some people may project their own issues with race upon her, but I assure you her intentions are innocent. And I think allowing her to dress this way for Halloween will encourage her to be a global citizen, instead of a Disney zombie.

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