Australians tend to have a disparaging attitude towards Halloween (or, as I prefer to call it, Hallowe’en. I love apostrophes). It’s too American, they say. It’s silly to dress up. Why can’t we just be a Christmas and Easter kind of country?
And although I am the Grand Poobah of Party Pooping — the prudish sort who tut-tuts at any kind of fun and pushes his repressed ideas about virtue and duty onto all and any who aren’t mobile enough to move out of earshot — I am completely complimentary towards Halloween. Indeed, I enthusiastically encourage it.
So what’s the deal?
I could write an extremely boring post all about the history of Halloween (and how it should be spelled with an apostrophe). In my dreary, oddly paced prose, I could inform everybody how it’s really a British event which was exported to the United States just to annoy the Puritans.
But I won’t.
If the last few weeks (particularly the ‘misogyny’ discussion) have taught me anything, we are too bogged down with ‘originalist’ approaches to culture. When Macquarie Dictionary decided to update the definition of ‘misogyny’ to reflect modern usage, we had Chris freaking Uhlmann opine that the definition of ‘misandrist’ should also be updated just to make everything consistent. It’s the same baldercrappy nonsense that has the marriage equality definition stuck so firmly in the past: oh, but ‘marriage’ originally meant between a man and a woman, thus it’s the only way it can be.
Conservatives need not be originalists. Indeed, they oughtn’t be. I feel that there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be allowed to call a Member of Parliament an idiot, even though the ‘original’ word means a person disinterested in public life.
So I won’t do that.
What I will do, however, is say that we’ve all become far too uptight and we are in desperate need of more festivals.
Festivals are the cornerstone of social engagement. Harvest feasts (of which Halloween was once a highlight) were entirely about building more than a society. They were about building a community. We don’t share bread as companions anymore. Instead, we have bred an enormous distrust between individuals. ‘Oh, you can’t let children play in the street due to paedophiles. You can’t walk across town at night because of murderers. You can’t discuss politics on Facebook because of libertarians.’ Most of our discussions about crime are geared towards victim blaming: ‘Oh, he shouldn’t have been walking at night.’
I would be hard pressed to know what my neighbours look like.
Trick or treating gets kids out into the community to build the networks they can rely upon for support. When I was a kid, mum was out and there was an almighty storm which knocked out the power. My brothers and I decided that the sensible thing was to go to the next door neighbours’ place — an elderly and extremely religious couple. They left a note for mum on the door and on the kitchen table to let her know where we’d gone.
I told that story to some friends about a year and a half ago, and their first reaction was, ‘Oh, you were lucky.’ The insinuation being, of course, that the neighbours could easily have turned out to be libertarians and indoctrinated us in their terrible Randian ways.
But if we engaged more people in a sense of community, we wouldn’t need to distrust each other nearly as much. I don’t distrust my friends, after all. Festivals and parties and the like makes friends of your neighbours.
As a kid, we used to celebrate the Guy Fawkes Night out on a nearby farm. Bonfire, potatoes wrapped in foil, people trying to make the bonfire larger by pouring petrol on it. Beyond providing entertainment for a night, it also meant that we knew who everybody was in the community. When a particularly nasty storm hit, ripping the roof off a nearby home, the family there didn’t have to knock on doors saying: ‘Hi, I just met you and this is crazy, but the storm just ripped my freaking roof off, could you help me maybe?’
The doorknocking aspect of Halloween is beautiful. It’s symbolic as the door is opened to others in the community and people begin to develop the recognition of each other. Thus, Australians should embrace the holiday and enjoy the silliness of costumes as a side benefit.
Which gets me to the second bit of this entry: ‘sexy costume shaming’.
I have lost count of how many of my RSS feeds have popped up ‘Have sexy costumes gone too far?’ links. I’ve already admitted to being prudish, but even I start to wonder about the mindset of writers who post dozens of pictures of skimpy women bemoaning all the cleavage. ‘Sluts! Sluts! Check out all the sluuuuuts! Why are people so slutty?! It’s a disgrace! OMG, I’ve found more pictures! Allow me to show them to you! You’ll be outraged by all the sluuuuuuuuts!’
If my favourite Jedi can show her bellybutton while battling nefarious forces with the Force, y’all can handle seeing a sexy Big Bird or whatever. In conclusion, getting faux-outraged and singing songs about how terrible it is that people wear sexy costumes is ridiculous.