Columns, Opinion

SHEA: The feminine mystique

The Halloween of my fourth year, I dressed up as Pocahontas, my favorite female figure at the time. I wore traditional Native American braids, moccasins, a tunic and her signature necklace, which was blue with a white stone. I liked to run around the forest, completely surrounded by nature, and pretend to go fishing and hunting, and even daydreamed about rolling around in leaves with the super attractive John Smith, although I believe Disney created a different story for its juvenile audience.

When Halloween finally came, my mom took me to a party with other kids my age, and I was so excited to show off my costume. However, the reaction I received from my peers was not what I had expected at all.

About every other girl at the party was wearing a pink princess costume of some sort: pink sparkles, glittery wands and rhinestone tiaras. It was like a miniature Versailles. I felt so insecure in my casual attire and looked totally out of place among the other Marie Antoinettes.

I found the wands intriguing, however, and asked one of the princesses if I might have a turn at holding it. She rudely said no, and then commented on how my costume was not pretty at all, at which point I started crying.

But she’s pregnant now, so joke’s on her, really.

Anyways, after this particular Halloween I insisted upon being a generic pink princess for the next seven years. The idea of such a glamorous icon was appealing, but I also think I wanted to avoid another horrifying altercation.

Boston University is an environment in which many of my peers constantly discuss gender roles, something I don’t think about very often as I’ve always identified with the most archetypal female stereotypes possible. Someone once told me he thought I had the most estrogen of anyone he’d ever met.

But when I remembered the Pocahontas story, I had to wonder if social norms had any influence on my pink, glittery, heteronormative aspects, which I value very much. While it’s true that I had been an avid ballerina and played with Barbies since I was three, a year before this happened, it’s interesting to wonder if I would have turned out differently had this incident not happened.

My parents always encouraged me to try out more masculine things, such as Little League and fishing (I won first place in a fishing derby when I was seven and got a trophy larger than me at the time), but unless something involved a tutu or a pom-pom, I was indifferent.

It wasn’t until middle school when I accepted icons such as Twiggy and Coco Chanel as my personal saviors and felt comfortable not wearing something pink or sparkly to feel complete. Pants, I learned, were actually the best invention ever.

Maybe this year I’ll be Pocahontas one more time, and while I’m at it, drop by my preggo friend’s house to let her know how my freedom is going.


Sydney L. Shea is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].

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