I hope everyone enjoys the podcast below in which Ella is interviewed by a London radio show about some hot Halloween topics.
Written Post: Karly Van Puymbroeck
To continue with Ella’s podcast, I am not adamantly against celebrating Halloween. I do, however, have two “bones” to pick with the costume aspect of Halloween.
Firstly, I do see Halloween costuming as a conducive example of the performative aspect of our intersectional identities, specifically the gendered and racial aspects of our identities. While much costuming is done for a dose of fair fun, there are some costumes that I think speak to underlying heternormative values and beliefs. Cross-dressing (dressing as both the opposite sex OR a different race than your own) is perhaps one of the most common motifs in the Halloween costuming world, and tends to come off as
parody of the sexes and racialized persons. However, through this act of parody, cross-dressing indeed becomes a larger representation of a heterosexist and cisexual society that sees crossing gender — as well as sexual and racial — boundaries as taboo. The fact that these costumes are comical I think speaks for itself – it shows that we live in a white heternormative society that is still heavily invested in maintaining a dualist gender and racial code. Also, I’ll take this point one step further and connect it with the fact that our gender and even our race is performed, in specific, predetermined ways on a daily basis. Halloween, thus, acts as a
night where we not only dress up for fun — we dress up as something not ourselves, and it is this difference that is highlighted, albeit in subtle ways. We are, perhaps, having an inward chuckle at the identities that are being portrayed because they are inherently different from any other ‘normal’ day. The sad part is, is that people who are, for example, cross-dressers, or for marginalized racial groups, any other ‘normal’ day doesn’t quite include them – no, for those whose identities are portrayed on Halloween for ‘fun’ and good humour, a normal day does not include them on the regular, heternormative agenda.
The second bone of contention I have to pick is inherent slut shaming that happens on Halloween. The phrase such as “Halloween is the only time girls can dress like sluts and get away with it” can be commonly heard in the context of Halloween. I do not come from a moralistic stance in terms of females dressing up in highly sexualized outfits, however, I do come from a feminist stance that has been trained to spot victim blaming and slut shaming underneath harmless conversation. Within this idea — that women can dress like sluts and get away with it— points to a highly problematic framework of
women’s sexuality that has worked, for many centuries, to firstly spot improper sexual behaviour of women (aka “acting like a slut”), and secondly to punish them for it. Women’s sexuality has consistently been monitored by some abstract white, patriarchal police for so long that we have become completely unaware of how cultural events such as Halloween are saturated in a suffocatingly narrow understanding of women AND men. To believe such a phrase as mentioned above is to indeed suggest that women’s improper sexual behaviour, such as donning a sexualized nurse’s outfit or cop uniform, is not acceptable on any regular day, as well as suggesting that outside society (men) should be punishing these women if they step out of line. Furthermore, this idea also points to a subtle form of victim blaming in that the phrase itself clearly outlines that, if women were to act like this on any other occassion, they would be asking to be punished: therefore it would be the woman’s fault for any physical, verbal or sexual assault that may come her way.
editor’s note: Ella Bradley is a fourth year Social Work/Women’s Studies double major at the University of Windsor. She is actively involved in the WSSA and adds liveliness and energy to any conversation. She has enjoyed being able to discover and come into her own feminist identity that is unique to her personal lived experience. She is an animal lover, an open-minded individual and a supportive, reliable friend.
editor’s note about the editor: Karly is in her final year of an English Literature and Women’s Studies undergrad. She is a feminist by day and a booklover by night. She is enjoying a practicum in which she is working to publish a book by a local author. She hopes to continue her studies in a Masters degree next year.