Halloween: Let the Xenophobia Commence

Halloween is flat-out my favourite holiday. You get to dress up in stupid outfits and get free candy. What’s not to love?

As a child growing up in Canada, we always had two Halloween costumes: one to wear inside at Halloween parties and one to wear Trick-or-Treating outside when it’s -20c. Dressing up as a witch, skeleton or ghost was considered boring. Over the years, I’ve been a “punk rocker”, Strawberry Shortcake, Barbie rocker, a Ladybug, and a broken heart.* Halloween was a community event with local churches and clubs holding parties for whoever wanted to attend. We always had Halloween parties in school and were allowed to bring in 3 pieces of candy each day to eat at school. As we were not allowed fizzy drinks, crisps, candy or chocolate, this was a big deal! We would go trick-or-treating in massive groups, frequently changing costumes over the course of the night to hit up our neighbours again and again. 

The emphasis here is on community-orientated. Obviously, there are always people who want to ruin things for others by throwing eggs at windows and there are always going to be children and teenagers who, for a variety of social reasons, crave negative attention and act out in [self-] destructive ways but, as with everything, these are a minority.

Until I moved to the UK, I had no idea that Halloween was viewed as anything other than a kid-orientated holiday. Back home lots of people didn’t participate due to religious objections or concerns over the commodification of childhood; like with Valentine’s Day and Easter, Halloween is a just another holiday.

Then I arrived in the UK and discovered that Halloween is the celebration of evil children menacing adults for candy. It’s a horrid nasty holiday imported by hateful Americans who want to destroy the planet and do so by sending plane loads of teenagers to the UK for the sole purpose of causing havoc and destruction on Halloween.

The above might seem a little melodramatic but it’s a snapshot of posts about Halloween that are made on Mumsnet every year. The level of anti-American diatribes are so severe that I now deliberately avoid Mumsnet for the month of October every year. I’ve never understood why it’s acceptable to malign Americans using language that would be immediately considered xenophobic about any other culture or country. I’m not even American [and if anyone gets to be anti-American, it’s Canadians.** After all, we’re the only country to have defeated the US militarily on their own soil***].

I’ve gotten bored defending Halloween from people who have no idea what the origins of Halloween are [here’s a huge hint: google guising]. I’ve gotten bored reading posts by people who seem to think a child rocking up on your door saying trick-or-treat and singing a song is akin to having your knees capped for failure to pay off your gambling debts; although, to be fair, hearing me sing is probably on par with that. But, not 6 year olds.

There are always going to be people who ruin things for others but that doesn’t mean that Halloween itself is an inherently evil tradition. Or, that Americans deliberately invented it with a view to annoying British people.

It’s not acceptable to trash a tradition which is important to others just because you don’t like the country that the tradition originated in [ignoring the whole Festivals of the Dead, All Hallows Eve and guising stuff since they clearly don’t count****].

There are lots of valid reasons to criticise America:

  • imperialism
  • war in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • capitalism
  • racism
  • “War” on drugs 
  • genocide
Your neighbour’s kids being an arse on Halloween is not the fault of the American government or the American people. Frankly, it’s a reflection of the capitalist-patriarchal culture of the UK which others huge swathes of our children. It’s our fault and it is the price we pay for treating our kids like dirt.

And, hey, if you don’t like Halloween, just don’t celebrate it. There is no law that says you have to attend Halloween discos or take your kid guising/ trick-or-treating.

It’s another tradition: celebrate it or not but don’t use offensive language or  ahistorical constructions of reality to dismiss it

*Bonus points for those who can guess what decade I was born in.

**After you’ve listed every country and peoples wherein American policy has resulted in genocide or civil war. But, details. Clearly.

*** Granted this was in 1812 and technically we were a British colony and the invasion of the US which resulted in burning down the White House and cracking the Liberty Bell involved British troops but that’s not really all that relevant.

**** If you like to believe in ahistorical conspiracy theories. Obviously.

Amazon’s Halloween with Side Order of Disablism

Mens Adult Psycho Ward Mental Patient Halloween Fancy Dress Costume Outfit + Mask
Amazon has joined Asda in the annual competition for : The Most Offensive Halloween Costume.

There is no excuse for selling these types of costumes. Asda’s apology and donation to a mental health charity is more than Amazon will ever do but it’s also too late once these products have hit the market. 

People with mental health problems are statistically more likely to be a victim of violence than commit violence.

The group who commit the most violence: men. Men who have no history of mental health problems.

If the idea of “killers” is such a great Halloween costume, then we should all go out wearing masks of random men. That would be far more accurate. Instead, people genuinely think it’s hilariously funny to dress up as a “psycho” or a “mental patient”.

Honestly, if you think this shit is funny, you’re an asshole. It really is that simple.

Halloween at Asda: With a Side-Order of Disablism

Everyone will be running away from you in fear in this mental patient fancy dress costume. Comprising of a torn blood stained shirt, blood stained plastic meat cleaver and gory facemask it’s a terrifying Halloween option.

Because we can’t possibly have Halloween without disablism. After all, everyone knows that “mental patients” are totally responsible for committing the majority of violence. Well, everyone who is completely stupid. 

The rest of us, in possession of with some basic critical thinking skills, know that people with mental health problems are one of the highest risk groups for being victims of violence.

This costume just increases the stigma surrounding mental illness. It also obfuscates who the real perpetrators of violence are. The vast majority of violence perpetrated across the world is by men: men with no history of mental illness.

Asda should be ashamed of itself.

They need to remove this product immediately and apologise.

A large donation to a charity wouldn’t go amiss either. 

This is Asda’s contact form. I will be sending them a complaint.

UPDATE: So, Asda has now apologised. Problem is this all too common now. Customers shouldn’t have to be pointing out how offensive this type of product or [or rape t-shirts or a million other horrible products available now]. Corporations need to start taking some responsibility before it gets to this stage and just stop making this kind of shit.

I mean, it’s not that hard to make a Halloween costume which isn’t offensive to anyone. Millions of kids manage it each year. How come adults are incapable of doing so?

Monster house: Reinforcing VAW in a Children’s Film

My kids have watched this film a few times while I’ve pottered about around them listening but not really listening. It is incredibly dire with the over-protective mother and emotionally distant father routine. Honestly, it’s like Feminine Mystique: The Animation. This Halloween, though, I actually sat down and watched it. And, whimpered. Followed, swiftly by rage. Lots and lots of rage. I haven’t actually binned the film as I don’t want other children to watch it so it’s joined Scooby-Doo meets the Harlem Globetrotters in my box of Evil Films.

The film starts with a young boy spying on his neighbours with binoculars. Now, technically, the boy is spying on his evil toy-stealing male neighbour but his father seems to be under the impression that the boy is looking at women with his binoculars. Apparently, it is totally normal for young boys to spy on women and then wank. It’s not at all creepy or, you know, sexual violence. I may have shrieked in rage at this point. After I said, WTF is that doing in a children’s movie. They don’t actually say wank but the implication is there.

Mom and Dad then piss off leaving the boy in the charge of a baby-sitter who hates him. Baby-sitters boyfriend, who is a pillock, rocks up and sexually assaults the baby-sitter. Yep, it’s a kids movie where the boyfriend pins his girlfriend on the couch to force her into having sex with him. Now, she does kick his ass out of the house telling the boyfriend that he lacks respect for women which would be good if the next morning the she doesn’t go looking for the abusive boyfriend because she loves him. We couldn’t possibly have a film where a sexually abusive boyfriend gets the boot. Permanently.

Then, along comes a new girl who is the same age as the young boy: about 12. There’s a lovely line where she responds to the boys confusion by asking if they are mentally challenged because if they are, she’s certified to teach them baseball. I may have been whimpering at this point in sheer rage.

Oh, and the basic plot of the film: house is possessed by the spirit of a dead woman who steals children’s toys which land on the grass around it. The old man is her husband and he is only “evil” because he’s trying to protect the neighbourhood children from his dead, morbidly obese circus freakshow of a wife. Because, you see, that is why is she is angry and frightened. This woman spent her life in as a freakshow act in a circus where people paid money to come and laugh and humiliate her. She dies by falling into the foundations of the house as its being built because she is paranoid about being humiliated; a fairly justified paranoia. 

FFS, the entire point of the movie is that the evil house is possessed by the frightened and angry spirit of an emotionally abused and tortured woman. The children destroy the house and the old man thanks them from saving him from his evil dead wife. 

I actually can’t believe that anyone could think this was a good film. But, then, I don’t understand why people watch reality TV. To me, that is nothing more than the 21st century version of a 19th century freakshow. We are invited to laugh and jeer at vulnerable people and we pay to financially support their exploitation. It doesn’t feel like much has really changed in 200 years; just how we exploit the most vulnerable members of our communities for our entertainment: in reality television, the music industry and pornography.

And, I can not stress how guilty i feel having allowed my kids to watch this without knowing just how awful it really is.

We’re a Culture Not a Costume:

I love Halloween. It is my favourite holiday ever. When I was a child, Halloween was about making the most original costume possible. Witches, skeletons and cats were dull. I have been a ladybug, a broken heart, a cabbage patch kid and a punk rocker; my mother being far more artistic than me. Unfortunately, the push to be creative at Halloween involved costumes based entirely on offensive and racist stereotypes. I frequently find myself with clenched teeth handing out candy to small children dressed as “Indians” wondering why their parents thought it was a good idea to dress their child up as a racist stereotype.

Last year, a group of students from Ohio University’s Students Teaching about Racism started a campaign called “We’re a culture, not a costume’ on this issue. These are some of the brilliant posters from this years campaign whose tagline is “You wear the costume for one night. I wear the stigma for life”. For me, this is a feminist issue. The Patriarchy requires racism as much as it requires misogyny to keep functioning. We can not destroy the Patriarchy whilst this type of racism remains socially acceptable.