He’s small, but he’s made a statement.
While Sycamore Livingston’s older counterparts were gearing up their Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and Avengers costumes for the annual night of trick-or-treating last week, the 12-week-old’s parents — Kate Livingston and Sam Affholter — were planning to dress Sycamore as their personal superhero.
Thus, Ruth “Baby” Ginsburg was born.
“Before (Kate) finished putting together the costume, she was like, ‘I think this costume is going to make our baby Internet famous,’” Affholter — a former Ph.D. candidate at Ohio State in women’s, gender and sexuality studies — recalled.
“And it totally did.”
Since the picture was taken and posted on Kate Livingston’s Facebook last Wednesday, the image of baby Sycamore dressed as the associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court — captioned “I dissent.” — has gone viral. BuzzFeed declared that Sycamore won Halloween; Jezebel claimed that the very image would “Make You Ovulate So Hard”; and Time.com suggested that “Every Infant Should Dress as Ruth Baby Ginsburg for Halloween.” Sycamore’s costume also made appearances on the websites of “Today,” Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Elle, Cosmopolitan and MSNBC, among others.
Internet notoriety wasn’t the original intention, though. Livingston and Affholter really just wanted to put together a costume for Sycamore’s first Halloween that their friends and OSU’s Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies — where Livingston is a Ph.D candidate, lecturer and former academic adviser — would get a kick out of.
And they did — along with many others on Twitter and Facebook.
“There was a moment when it first started catching on that I was petrified (Sycamore) would turn into a meme or that people would say mean things about him,” Livingston said. “But the response has been overwhelmingly positive.”
The costume — created entirely by Livingston — was assembled with thrift-shop finds. Livingston sewed the white ruffle piece onto a baby’s black T-shirt, disinfected a wig that resembled Ginsburg’s typical hairdo, used buttons with a strip of weak double-sided tape as the earrings and completed Sycamore’s look with a pair of oversized glasses similar to the judge’s signature specs.
Livingston and Affholter said they didn’t think twice about dressing their infant son as a female figure.
“A lot of the imagination people have, like the imaginary set of costumes for boys, would be very boy, superhero, masculine-style animals, like bears, tigers, whatever else, and oversized baby costumes, like pumpkins,” Affholter — who is currently the administrative assistant for the Program for Young Children at the Columbus School for Girls — said. “We thought it was something different and cool, and a different kind of superhero, and a very important figure, while also looking hilarious.”
To Livingston and Affholter, Ginsburg — who is known for her progressive opinions on issues such as women’s reproductive rights — truly is a superhero, they both said.
However, Livingston said that some people on the Internet were inquisitive to the reason she and Affholter would dress their baby in a costume that carried political connotations.
“People aren’t really seeing that all costumes that parents are dressing their kids have a political element. It’s not just political figures that have a political dimension,” Livingston said. “When parents are dressing their baby boys as superheroes, I would say, (it) communicates ideas about boys and masculinity and about strength and power, but you don’t hear people on Twitter chastising parents for dressing their kids up in superhero costumes.
“I don’t really see it as a huge deal — or something that is unique — that we dressed our baby as a woman political figure,” she added.
Despite those criticisms, Livingston called Sycamore’s moments of Internet fame “a really great experience,” one she said she and Affholter plan to document with computer screenshots of all of Sycamore’s web appearances.
Livingston is currently on maternity leave but is set to return to teaching at OSU for Spring Semester. Her class — an intro course in the women’s, gender and sexuality major, called “Gender, Sex and Power” — will frequently touch on pop culture topics.
“I think it will be interesting to talk about my own kid, who became a pop culture phenomenon,” she said. “We’ll definitely talk about that in class.”
As for Sycamore’s first Halloween, Livingston said he slept through all of trick-or-treating, leaving his costume debut for another year. A sequel to Ruth “Baby” Ginsburg, though, might be a tough act to follow.
“I don’t think I could repeat what we did, honestly,” Livingston admitted. “So (Sycamore) might be a one-hit wonder.”