You know how you’re never supposed to read comments?
I broke the rules. I read a comment.
It was on my post from several days ago, about taking Rose to the Halloween store. Most everyone talked about how much they enjoyed celebrating Halloween, and whether or not they liked The Exorcist. But someone else was concerned.
I would have thought this was a joke if it was written by anybody else, but I recognized the name, and this person does not joke. If he asks me if I’m afraid because my daughter wants to dress like a man for an evening, he means I ought to be afraid. I have seen this person participating in homophobic combox dogpiles before– and I don’t mean “Faithful to Catholic teaching” when I say “homophobic.” I mean, quite literally, dogpiles of commentators who fear gay people, or anyone who doesn’t fit a perfectly crisp Leave-it-to-Beaver version of gender roles for that matter. I tried to ignore him, at the time. He called me a “traitor to Christ” before, when I rejected the notion of a culture war. I tried to ignore that as well.
Someone pointed his blog out to me at some point. The very first article I read is his approving re-telling of a Medieval legend about a statue of Jesus that literally nailed a woman’s head to the floor.
And now he wants to know if I’m at all afraid that my daughter wants to be a man for Halloween.
No. No, I’m not.
As I read his comment, Rose was scuba diving in the living room, using her race car backpack as a scuba tank. She said that she was “Rescuing her bears from a flood.” I’d shown her news photos of Hurricane Harvey and the devastation in Huston; I pointed out the rescue teams carrying people to safety, and reminded her how important it was that people find ways to help each other. Now she was paddling around the living room carpet, rescuing bear after bear and placing them safely on a cushion raft.
Awhile ago, she played that the bears were writing “messages of peace” and dropping them out of airplanes on a war-torn land, to inform the king that everyone wanted the conflict to end. That was a version of a scenario she saw in a Mr. Rogers episode, the very first black and white season, which she watched on Amazon Video. We have a Prime account, and get several seasons of Mr. Rogers for free. I let her watch as much Mr. Rogers as she likes, because I admire his pacifism and how he encourages people to always look for ways to help.
Yesterday, when I first tried to write an answer to his question, Rose had gone with her father to see the Halloween Store again. Her father found a Captain America slap bracelet and dog tag in one of the clearance carts and bought them for her. She came back wearing them, just as I started to write. It must be the hundredth thing she owns with a Captain America logo. She loves superheros. She loves them so much that I was surprised she wanted to dress as Mr. Rogers for Halloween this year. Usually, she goes Trick-or-Treating dressed as a superhero or another licensed character. She was a musclebound Spider-man two years ago; last year, she was a Transformer. She doesn’t like female superheroes because she knows a con when she sees one– and, in the superhero cartoons she’s watched, the female characters were thrown in as uninteresting tokens. Rose doesn’t want to be a token. She wants to be a hero. Her action figure games are peppered with “rescues” from burning buildings and sinking ships, defending weak people from bullying monsters and caring for the helpless. Most of her games start with the Avengers figures finding a lonely toy and adopting him as their brother.
No, I’m not afraid she wants to dress like a man.
Rose likes to come with me to bring treats to the homeless guests at the Friendship Room. She likes to slice fruit with her butter knife and make me a healthy snack. When gluten-free croutons are on sale, I buy them for salads, but she takes them to use to play Divine Liturgy with one of her bears as a priest.
I am not at all afraid that my daughter wants to go trick-or-treating dressed like a man. I’ve got plenty of other things to be afraid of. I am afraid that my daughter will grow up to feel that women are supposed to be tokens instead of heroes. I’m afraid she’ll grow ashamed of the things she admires, because of an arbitrary standard of which heroes are appropriate for girls to admire. I’m afraid she’ll come to think that there are masculine and feminine virtues, virtues for her and virtues for somebody else, instead of striving to live a life of virtue in every way she can. I’m afraid that she won’t live the unique vocation God has planned for her, because she’s not sure if that vocation is conventional enough. That she’ll stop loving, nurturing and protecting so fiercely for fear that she loves, nurtures and protects in a way that doesn’t conform to a stereotype.
And now, thanks to that horrible blog post, I’m also afraid that she’s going to run into someone who will misrepresent Christ to her as a man who likes to nail women’s heads to the floor.
But I’m not at all afraid that she wants to dress like a man.
Thanks for asking, though.
(image via pixabay)