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Hallowe’en: trick and treat culture

October 31st, 2008     by piKe krpan     Comments

I want to point your attention to Thea’s great post on racism at Hallowe’en over at Racialicious:

“Mainstream North American culture likes to define itself as cultureless, but Halloween is a very cultural practice. Not only is it a little weird (Just look at it from the point of view of an outsider. Send your kids out to strangers’ houses and tell them to ask for candy? Decorate your house like a graveyard? Dress up like a sexy version of a public health worker?) it is also based on difference - the point of Halloween is to dress up as “something different.” So how do people who are often made to feel visually different - you know, like people of colour - experience Halloween? The average Halloween costume tells us a lot about what we culturally consider to be abnormal. It tells us that dressing up in an overtly sexy way is taboo - in other words, that we’re a pretty sex-negative people. It tells us that we are obsessed with strict gender categories - because most little boys and girls have to choose very gender-coded costumes, but also because for many young people Halloween is the one time they can experiment with gender in a socially sanctioned way. And if dressing up as “something different” can typically involve wearing geisha make-up, a Native headdress, bling, or a turban, Halloween tells us that our cultural norm is a middle-class, North American, white person.”

Go over and read it. And Thea, where did you find that photo of the child dressed in terrorist costume? Unbelievable!

I hate and love Hallowe’en at the same time. This year, I am going to be myself in the past: on my worst day in Grade 7. Or, to the casual passerby, I will appear to be a menstrual accident with blood dripping down all over my white jeans. Costumes that challenge some part of me that I’m afraid to show on other days are starting to appeal to me more and more for many of the reasons that Thea describes. I wonder why blood is acceptable on Hallowe’en but only if it signifies death and gore? How will I wear that period blood as a badge of shame and life, of reaching out for that 12 year old dork I sometimes still wish I had never been?

Over at the Toronto District School Board, administrators have decided to repurpose the day into “Black and Orange Day” (excuse the link to the National Post). While I can’t say that the School Board’s approach opens up conversations on the issues that Thea so artfully raises, it’s pretty telling to see National Post readers in the comments thread begin defending “their Canadian culture” from the “politically correct” and some nameless “they” - by which I assume the comment posters mean “immigrants.”

By the way, has anyone ever identified as a PC (Politically Correct) Person? Only if you are a school board administrator, government official, or community leader: and only because it is in your job description. I think it is really interesting how efforts to make things “politically correct” do a really good job of squelching debate. I hate the word, and I hate how people in positions of power sanitize the arguments and positions of marginalized people, reducing powerful voices into these kinds of policy decisions. I like Thea’s and the Asian Arts Freedom School’s costume ideas much more. I hope those costumes start some real conversation!

Tags: in my opinion..., queeriosities, race and racism

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