Questions by Kennedy Hunter
Find the original post here.
Kennedy: Hi Tracie! I enjoyed reading your blog post this week, and it has such a powerful message about the way society views women. What made you want to write about this story for this month?
Tracie: Thanks, Kennedy. You know, I started writing several different stories and while in the middle of a very different tale, this one just sorta came out in the writing process. I had no intention of telling this story but that is how writing works sometimes - you just start writing and you sort of find out what story your hands want to tell.
K: You mentioned that you went through puberty a month before Halloween. Was this the very first time you realized that your body was being viewed differently, or did you have any similar experiences previously?
T: I started to develop breasts shortly before puberty but I didn’t think anything of it until one day during cheer practice I had to take off my shirt in front of other girls. Most of them weren’t wearing bras but neither was I. Unlike them however, they didn’t have anything to hide. I started wearing bras after that date. I do think Halloween 1995 was the first time I realized how I would be treated by others as a result of my change. Sadly I had many experiences similar to this from the age of ten to fourteen.
K: In your story you mentioned that it was fun walking through the preschool through third-grade classrooms for the Halloween parade, but once you walked through the fourth-grade classrooms and fifth-grade classrooms, you realized that the students viewed you differently. What do you think influences kids to view other peoples’ bodies differently? Do you think that the media kids are exposed to plays a big role, or is it something else?
T: Ugh, I truly wish I could answer that question. Schools are filled with children going through changes very publicly. I guess now I don’t see the responses as s result of over exposure to things of a sexual nature, though composure can’t be entirely dismissed, but a lack of dialogue with children on how to face their own changes.
K: Do you believe that many kids’ childhoods are taken away because of experiences like these?
T: I still had a childhood and I want to credit my mother and grandparents for that. While growing up is a natural part of life, there are clearly experiences that would be more preferable than others.
K: Do you believe that it is problematic the way that girl Halloween costumes are made versus boy Halloween costumes? For instance, girl costumes tend to be shorter and tighter than boy costumes, and the costumes are commonly given adjectives such as “cute,” “darling,” “sexy,” etc.
T: It certainly can be. ! When you go online to buy an Iron Man costume for a woman, it typically emphasizes the female form. I think we should be cautious about seeing it as entirely problematic. There can be very positive experiences in embracing the female form while not forcing women into societal ideals of femaleness. I think women get to express themselves in whatever way they want and if they’d like to emphasize their female bodily attributes, they should. Likewise, if they don’t want to, they shouldn’t. It’s the choice that’s being taken away from women with these costumes.
K: I love how your mom handled the situation when you got home that day. I loved that she still treated you like the kid that you were and still had you go trick-or-treating with your siblings. Although the thought of the Halloween parade didn’t leave your head, did you still feel like you were a kid for the rest of your childhood, or did you feel forced to grow up?
T: I think a bit of both. I was a child at home. I still played and acted like a child. I was also a child whose body was leaving childhood. This experience created many misunderstandings for me. I remember one time a man grabbed me on the street while I was walking with my sisters and a neighbor. He didn’t approach anyone else, just me. He wanted to interest me in being his woman and I yelled back at him, “I am only 11 years old!” This didn’t change his attitude but my yelling at least brought attention from the surrounding people that I was being accosted. I could tell he didn’t care about my age and despite being clearly upset, my sisters and neighbor laughed at my outburst. I pondered for a while what I said or did that was wrong or funny. Responses like this and the one at my school created a distrustful relationship with my environment for a while and caused me to feel forced to grow up. Thankfully, I have been able to work through any traumas related to this time in my life which is why I can speak about them freely today.
K: Where can our audience find you?
T: I’m doing a bit more writing for LYF this Fall so readers can expect a couple articles from me a month as well as book reviews in the newsletter. I’m not really on social media much but I do have an Instagram @TracieChavonne. Thanks, Kennedy!