I'm booked to face paint at events almost every single weekend. Without fail, each weekend I'm involved in a potentially awkward exchange with a parent who may be offended by me doing my job. I bet you’re wondering, “Who can be offended by such amazing face painting?” Truthfully, it’s not the execution of the face painting design provoking the offense but the design choice of the child.
Boys Like Glitter Too!
The smiles and giggles are contagious as I flip my mirror around and everyone joins in the oohing and ahhhing. It’s his turn. He requests, “Spiderman, with sparkles.” Mom or dad responds, “Boys don’t wear glitter.”
Are you sure you don’t want to be a princess?
The opposite scenario involves the little girl whose favorite cartoon is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Mom sees every other girl requesting butterflies, and princess designs. Her daughter confidently states, “I’d like to be Donatello” as she hops in my chair. Dad lights up and fist bumps his future Ninja Turtle and mom, politely whispers, “Are you sure you don’t want to be a princess like the other girls?”
Stuck in the middle
These scenarios are repeated week after week, year after year. Different families, different events, different locations. It really isn’t a big deal until I’m forced to decide who exactly I listen too. Do I listen to the kid who innocently has chosen a design they like. Their childlike innocence blind and unbiased to gender labels. Or, do I listen to the parent whose opinion and response to the service I provide can make or break my business?
There really isn’t a clear cut solution. As a business owner I have to remain unbiased and can’t allow my personal beliefs and values on gender labeling and stereotyping influence how I engage with my customers. Usually I smooth the situation over with a compromise that considers both the parents opinion and the child’s imagination. Spiderman gets silver titanium webbing (glitter) & Donatello gets a pink mask or maybe extra glittery lips.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue as it’s one that is heavily debated in the face painting community.