Sunday marks the traditional Fastelavn celebration in Norway, in which children cap the carnival season by dressing up in costumes. But for one daycare institution in Trondheim, the tradition will not be celebrated this year because the parent-teacher board felt that the costumes most typically chosen by children portray negative stereotypes.
“Many of the girls dress up as princesses and the boys are dressed like Spiderman. We don't want to reinforce gender stereotypes in the nursery and therefore we have chosen to change the format of the arrangement this year,” Renate Kvivesen, the head of the Vikåsen institute, told Adresseavisa.
In an email to parents explaining the decision, the institute wrote that “not all children experience the day as something positive” and that the holiday had become too commercialised.
“Many children come with costumes, for example princess dresses, that one finds in catalogues or toy stores. If someone doesn't have that type of costume, the other children will comment on it. We don't want that,” Kvivesen said.
Kvivesen said that parents' reactions to the decision have been split, with some expressing disappointment that children won't be able to dress up as in years past and others praising the change in course.
Norway's equal opportunities commissioner, Hanne Bjurstrøm, said that activities that reinforce gender stereotypes among small children can be problematic.
“It is unfortunate if we teach our children that boys and girls can't do the same thing. Toys and clothing that encourage different behaviour for boys and girls can give the children a very narrow framework for the person they can be,” she told Adresseavisa.
After the local daycare's decision made national news in Norway and was even picked up by the Associated Press, the institute wrote on Facebook that it was surprised by the reactions.
“Interesting that we have created so much debate and engagement around the theme of carnival. For us, it is not as much drama as it may seem – and it's not just about princesses and superheroes. We aren't against costumes and we use them as part of our daily routines, but for us this year's carnival celebration will be the conclusion of a project that we have worked on for several weeks,” the Facebook post stated.