Dad Dresses Up as Elsa to Teach His Son To Ignore Gender Norms
Move aside Kristoff, Australian dad Scott Stuart dresses up as as his son's favorite Frozen character: Elsa. That's right, like most 6-year-olds, Stuart's son Colin is obsessed with the Disney film and its ice queen. But, unlike many fathers, Stuart is empowering his son to lean into his Elsa obsession—and not pivot toward a fascination with Olaf or another male Disney character like Mickey Mouse or Buzz Lightyear. He's showing his son unconditional love and setting an example for parents everywhere.
"When my son was 3 he fell completely in love with Queen Elsa," said Stuart in a recent Instagram post. "He used to have this Elsa doll that he would take everywhere with him. One day he came home from child care crying, completely distraught because somebody had told him that Elsa was for girls."
In a Father's Day episode of Mom School with Kristen Kelly, Stuart talked more about how his son wanted to dress up as Elsa to go see Frozen II, but was nervous about what other kids might say. That's how Stuart came up with the idea for both of them to dress up as Elsa to show his son that he should embrace his interests—even if they defied gender norms, to be himself, and ignore what anyone else might say.
"As we were getting closer to when the movie was coming out, he was starting to get worried that people might laugh at him," Stuart said on the podcast. "We were getting feedback from everywhere, you know, 'you shouldn't let him do it.' And in a moment like that, you can either teach them to be themselves regardless of what other people might think, or you can teach them to change themselves to stop any potential harm from happening. So we went that first route. So to support him, [my wife and I] both dressed up like Elsa—I got the biggest Elsa dress I could find on Amazon—and we got massive support from everyone at the candy bar to other families who thought it was absolutely awesome."
Since his son first became fascinated by all things Frozen and to help him that first day he came home crying, Stuart's also written a children's book called My Shadow is Pink. Out August 1, the book follows a boy with a pink shadow that likes princesses and fairies—and wishes he had a blue shadow like his dad. Along the way he learns to love and accept his shadow the way it is.
"When my son first wanted to wear a dress, he was dressing up like Elsa and I said, 'yes, that's fine,'" said Stuart. "All my cultural conditioning, you know, I was raised in the country in Australia, which is, well, at the time, was not a super accepting place. So, we were walking down the street, I was feeling uncomfortable, he was having the time of his life. I was so overwhelmed with discomfort thinking that everybody was looking at us, thinking that everybody was judging me. And after a while, I just realized, this is ridiculous. I'm actually not even thinking about him in this situation. I'm thinking about what people are thinking about me."
Stuart realized that he was worrying more about how others were judging him than how they were viewing his son and never looked back. Despite growing up the "stereotypical dude," rugby team captain and all, Stuart and his wife knew that they wanted to instill confidence in their son and, with intentional parenting, allow him to be his true self.
Now, to go along with the book, Stuart is also creating an animated film out of My Shadow is Pink. A Kickstarter launching on July 14 will help support the project. "My #1 goal has been to show a boy in a dress on-screen, breaking gender stereotypes in a way that celebrates him and everyone like him," writes Stuart on the Kickstarter landing page. "I cannot be more excited."
Stuart may be doing all of this for his son, but Colin's the one who will look back later and be proud of his dad—different colored shadows and all.