Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On the Social and Cultural importance of Slut-O-Ween

An Introduction:

"Halloween has its origins in the ancient
Celtic festival known as Samhain (Irish pronunciation: [ˈsˠaunʲ]; from the Old Irish samain).[1] The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture, and is sometimes [2] regarded as the "Celtic New Year".[3] Traditionally, the festival was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, now known as Halloween, the boundary between the alive and the deceased dissolved, and the dead become dangerous for the living by causing problems such as sickness or damaged crops. The festivals would frequently involve bonfires, into which bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown. Costumes and masks were also worn at the festivals in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or placate them.

Thank you Wikipedia.

For some, Halloween is a time of revelry, a time of imagination, of sugary reward, fantastic costumes and of harmless trickery. For others it is a time of pint-sized monsters terrorizing perfectly peaceful neighborhoods, forced generosity and an overabundance of mis-used eggs.

And then there are those for whom Halloween is a golden opportunity to unleash amply assisted décolletage and generally show some - a lot - of leg.
It is for these, these intrepid, these courageous, some may say shameless, masses, that the powers that be have coined the term "Slut-o-Ween." (Personally, I believe that said powers were scraping the barrel a bit with that one. I mean, did no one throw out "Hoochie-ween?" Because "slut-o-ween" sounds like "slut-machine" which has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Halloween.)

Slut-O-Ween. The time of year when feminists, mothers and the traditionalists come together and take up arms against the sinful, evil and carnal display of flesh, crying out in dismay at the racks of costumes for women which all seem to have been misplaced from the little girl's section and been re-labled with the word "sexy." The time of year when the spirits of the dreams of every middle-aged pervert, whose "gentleman's magazines" are anything but (n/p), manifest themselves in high heels. The time of year when there is more twisting of the word "trick" than there has been since 1936. The time of year when we question the sexualization of the next generation's prostitots and when we discuss the limits and constraints on female sexuality in society.

But are we missing the point? Does Slut-o-Ween serve a bigger and more important purpose than to open the arena of discussion on social topics that we'd all just rather avoid during the rest of the year? I say yes, yes! Yes with raised arms and a heroic and faraway look in my eyes!

Don't get me wrong. I don't advocate slut-o-ween for my own selfish purposes. I am not one of those brave saviors who strut about in their heels and tiny armor. I am far too much of a perfectionist with my costumes to wear high heels if it is not perfectly authentic. (One year, as the waitress on the American Graffiti poster, I wore roller-skates. Ginger Rodgers may have done everything Fred Astaire did, except in heels, but she never tried to go trick-or-treating in roller-skates. Let me tell you.) In fact, I usually look down upon the armies of Slut-o-Ween with disdain, because it's really not original if you and every other girl out on Halloween is dressed like a hooker.

(You'd think I've also dressed as Mother Theresa one year, from the way I'm preaching, but in fact, I have not.)

But this year, I was forced to re-think this judgment. Fear not Gentle Reader, for I am not attempting to defend said women for selfish reasons; I am not becoming one of them. However, my experience abroad has, as is to be expected, broadened my horizons. It began with a logical explanation for the short skirts and high heels, and then morphed (with the help of the web of wikipedia) to a completley new perspective and respect on and for Slut-o-Ween.

See, what I could never understand back home was the pressure that the nightclub scene puts on women. In most clubs, you get turned away for not wearing appropriate (read: high, pointy and painful) shoes. And once you've transitioned to the club scene, you've obviously left the trick-or-treating scene. The modern purpose of one's costume is no longer to impress generous neighbors into giving you more candy. The modern purpose of one's costume is to continue to celebrate a holiday intended for all, not just children, while simultaneously impressing the bouncers to let one into the club. So here where I start to think that maybe we can see Slut-o-Ween, not as an excuse to dress risque, but as a coming together of normal going-out attire and the spirit and celebration of Halloween.

And then here's where I really start thinking. If the modern purpose of a Halloween costume involves inappropriate clothes in appropriate settings, then what was the traditional purpose of the Halloween costume again?
Aha! Thanks to wikipedia we learn that it is to "mimic and placate the evil spirits."
Well then. Are not the armies of hoochie-ween doing just that? Embodying the sinful, evil and carnal spirits? And if these are some of the most dangerous spirits threatening our youth today, are not these women taking up the front line on Halloween, protecting young girls and teaching them to defend themselves against capture by the true evil spirits? I, for one, believe that they are doing such a fine and accurate job of mimicking said spirits, that the rest of us needn't worry.
With such mighty warriors roaming the streets of every city that celebrates Halloween, I believe I shall feel quite safe on Hallowe'en night when the boundary between this, our world, and that of the underworld fades away.

For the record, I plan on dressing as a shark one night and the Absinthe Fairy the next night. Because, among a large group of American teenagers who are, shall we say, overexcited at the prospect of easy access to the fabled green liquor, I should think that the Green Fairy will really need some placating. And I will be more than happy to fight the good fight (especially if it's an excuse to not drink the stuff. I hate licorice.)
Plus, I'm really excited to dress up like a fairy again...

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