Sunday, October 30, 2011

Is it offensive or just fun?

When I was a kid, Halloween was a time to play dress-up and collect candy with friends. What could be better? There was the added thrill of getting to run around in the dark and go up to strange houses.

My parents kept us sheltered from much of the scary stuff that is associated with this holiday. There were no horror movies in our house and by the time I was old enough to choose to watch them, I wasn’t interested. I’ve never developed a taste for fear and violence as entertainment.

But not having developed such tastes, the appeal of Halloween was dulled as I grew out of the trick or treat stage and into the drunken party stage. The more I thought about, the more I found something about it to be a bit off-putting.

Part of Halloween’s historical roots is the November 1st All Saints’ Day and the preceding evening being one of debauchery and sin. Might as well have something to repent if you’re going to have to spend a day on your knees. So from a sort of cultural-anthropological viewpoint I can appreciate Halloween as a chance to explore dark desires and fantasies within predetermined boundaries. I can admit that it may be healthy and cathartic to try on roles and identities that, for good reasons, society has suppressed.

But even if that is what it is – a chance on one night of the year to dress up and be daring or naughty – does this mean I can’t find it troublesome? Perhaps by its very nature it should be troublesome.

On, Emily argues that Halloween is a “holiday for sluts” and as good an excuse as any to “embrace your sexuality, flaunt your goodies and court sexual attention.” I’d like to point out that she is defending her choice to wear the ‘slutty nurse’ and the ‘Wonder Woman’ costume – and question whether playing up to male fantasies is really the best way to embrace one’s sexuality. Is this what feminine empowerment looks like - the right to walk into a party with your boobs hanging out of a cheap outfit dreamed up by a teenage boy?

To be continued...

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