Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Sexualization of Halloween (Part 2)

The article I linked on my first post on the sexualization of Halloween mentions the fun of a masquerade ball, and I had a thought while browsing the Halloween store the other day. Dressing up is fun, and there's a wide variety of costumes to choose from. But not all of them are scary. I was looking through the costumes, and I thought to myself, man, it would be a whole lot of fun to pretend I'm a ninja. Or, I'd love to dress up like a princess for a day. But neither of those costumes are very Halloween-y. Halloween is supposed to be for witches and vampires and ghosts and zombies and the like. Not faeries and superheros. But hell, there should be a day for kids (and grown-ups!) to dress up like non-scary things, because it's just plain fun! Maybe we need yet another costume holiday in addition to Halloween and Slut Day - Call it Fantasy Day or Make-Believe Day!

And another thought came to my mind while browsing that Halloween store. Some people complain about how sexist it is that women's costumes are sexy and men's aren't. Well, that is kinda sexist. But when they bring in the 'sexualization' issue, they like to complain about how young girls are encouraged (or even "forced" by alleged lack of alternative) to dress like sluts. Well my experience was that the 'sexy' costumes were restricted to the adult section. Yes, there were a lot of "cutie" costumes in the little girls section, and a lot of "sweetie" costumes in the tween girls section. And maybe it's similarly sexist to expect little girls to be cute and sweet, when little boys are free to be brats and hooligans.

But the fact remains, the whole 'sexy Halloween' phenomenon seems to me to be a way to get adults more interested in a holiday that has traditionally been more for the kids. And I don't see any problem with that. There's no reason why Halloween HAS to remain a holiday JUST for kids. And if it's the case that, if you invite a bunch of adults over to a costume party, they will be more likely to want to dress like sluts, just because it's fun, then who cares?

However, it's still true that this is taking away the emphasis of Halloween as a SCARY holiday. Actually, I think there is much about Halloween that can appeal to adults, without making it a sexier holiday. Halloween is all about the horror movies - the scariest of which children aren't even allowed to watch! Then again, maybe it was the slasher formula of mixing sex with violence that ultimately inspired Halloween to become a sexier holiday. In a classic slasher, you frequently have sexy, half-dressed teens running from homicidal psychopaths. And isn't that pretty well reflected in adults' Halloween costume choices? I'll admit, it's still pretty sexist to expect the woman to be meat and the man to be monster, but if it's just a role you're putting on, and you allow for transgression of the boundaries (i.e., monster costumes for women, and sexy costumes for men), then where's the harm? It's all good fun, if you ask me.

So I don't think sexualizing Halloween is necessarily a bad thing. On the other hand, I'd like to have a holiday where I can afford to be scary without feeling like I'm missing my only opportunity to be sexy (as a person who loves being sexy), and I think we still could absolutely use a holiday like Slut Day. Plus, the purpose of Slut Day is not simply to dress sexy and have a good time - it also contributes to social justice by creating awareness for the very same ideas that SlutWalk was created, by emphasizing that a person's dress or behavior does not make them sexually available to anyone they do not consent to have sex with; that they are not a free target for assault or harassment. Mixing sex up with a holiday that traditionally glorifies violence works at a cross-purpose to that...

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