As reported by the New York Post, Halloween is still a few weeks away and it is already a problem. For some people. From the Post:
An article on raceconscious.org by Sachi Feris has been making the rounds on mommy Facebook groups. Feris writes that her 5-year-old daughter declared she wanted to be Polynesian Disney character Moana, which she worried would be “cultural appropriation.”
You can read more about Ms. Feris, her social justice neuroses, and the breathless conclusion as to what culturally appropriate costume her woke 5-year-old finally selected at the link above. I did and I feel dumber for having done so.
When one of my daughters was four she became obsessed with another Disney character, Mulan. It is based on the story of a young Chinese woman immortalized in the poem Ballad of Mulan. As the only child of an aging father, Mulan pretends to be a young man and ends up in the army when a man from every family was conscripted to fight Genghis Khan and his invading force.
When I say obsessed, I mean she watched it at least once daily, sang the soundtrack constantly and actually insisted we call her Mulan. She was four. So we did. Mulan was the equivalent for me of what Frozen has become to mothers of young girls now. The soundtrack can still give me a headache.
When Halloween rolled around, as you might imagine my daughter wanted to be Mulan. Simple enough to create with things I had around the house and a cheap black wig. A relief to me as a young mom still completing her degree. Why would I tell her no? She had become obsessed with a strong female character who had a fierce love of her family, an independent spirit and the heart of a warrior.
You see, I was far more concerned with the behavior and attributes of the role models my daughters chose. I was thrilled when they were a bit older and never really thought Brittany Spears was something to aspire to. Even more thrilled they became wary when Hannah Montana became Miley Cyrus.
So my daughter dressed as a strong Chinese girl for one night. She looked adorable, wore the costume daily for the next several months and acted out every positive characteristic Mulan displayed in her own imaginative play. The only thing she appropriated was independent thinking and an inner warrior to face life’s little disappointments.
So Ms. Feris, I suggest you be thrilled that your daughter has selected an equally independent and strong character to identify with. If she wants to emulate her for one night, instead of her ethnicity, why don’t you emphasize how happy you are she has picked such a wonderful character to idolize. Reiterate all the things about Moana’s character and personality that make her worthy of emulating.
We raise strong women by encouraging young girls to select good role models and imitate their best qualities. For young children, this includes imaginative play, dress up and “pretending”. So if your child wants to be an amazing young Polynesian princess for one night just relax and let her. And tell her why she made a great choice.