Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Right Wing War on Halloween

While Liberals have supposedly been waging a war on Christmas, by insidiously and maliciously pointing out that millions of Americans don't celebrate Christmas and it would be a nice thing if we were all aware of this and were polite about it, some Right Wing Christians have actually been trying for decades now to stamp out Halloween.

It has something to do with Halloween encouraging devil worship and teaching kids that witches aren't evil. I'm not completely clear on it because every time the issue comes up my mind boggles. I can't get my head around the fact that there are grown-ups living in the 21st Century who believe in witches and are afraid of them.

They have a similar problem with Harry Potter.

At any rate, these folks are out there, they're sincere, and they're determined. In Indiana, a while back, a group of them convinced the principal at their kids' school to cancel the Halloween party. And I cheered them on.

I'm not anti-Halloween at all. I'm anti-them, and I thought this would be a great way for the Religious Right to show itself up and get the rest of the country to stop pretending they're reasonable people with deeply held beliefs that need to be respected and start laughing at them for the boobs and yokels they are.

Try to put an end to Halloween and the children of America will rise up as one and chase you back to your revival tents in the piny woods where you belong, I thought.

The anti-Halloween movement has not caught on the way I hoped it would.

But now professional Right Wing scold and hypocrite Mona Charen has found a whole new way to revive the anti-Halloween spirit.

Her take isn't that Halloween teaches kids that witches are good. It's that it teaches little girls to think witches are sexy.

Charen misread a New York Times article and came away convinced that this year gangs of pre-pubescent girls are going to show up on doorsteps all over America wearing little more than a black pointed hat, some gauze, and a lascivious grin.

And of course it's all the fault of feminism and liberalism.

This was so outrageously at odds with reality that, as Wolcott reports, even the constitutionally credulous Jonah Goldberg, who never heard an accusation against liberalism he wasn't willing to swallow whole like a chocolate-swirl cheesecake, expressed some doubts.

His daughter is going trick or treating this Halloween well-covered up in a princess costume, after all.

Charen harumphed back, ""The children's costumes are still okay. But just be aware that childhood now ends at age 8. By nine, some of her classmates will be dressing as sexy vamps. This is the wonderful world liberalism and feminism have purchased for her."


The ten year old's going trick or treating with one of his classmates and best pals, and his literary collaborator, they're writing a Digimon book together, and while he's going to be dressed as a cop--his damned liberal parents at work there---she's going to be...a princess.

I checked with Nancy Nall this morning to see what her daughter's going to be this year. Nance's daughter is about to turn 10, so she's another one like my son's pal who's two years past what Charen says is childhood's end.

Nance's daughter is going as Little Red Riding Hood.

No doubt somewhere out in this great nation of 300 million people---as of 7:46 AM EDT today---there are stupid and lazy and twisted parents who will let their little girls dress up in full Britneys or go out looking like cocktail waitresses at a strip club. But I haven't seen any proof of it show up on our doorstep or in our sons' schools' Halloween parades.

Mostly it's been princesses, traditional witches, Disney characters, animals, and a lot costumes that are just like the boys'---monsters, superheroes, soldiers, Jedi knights, aliens---along with gender neutral favorites like ghosts and hoboes and doctors and astronauts.

And this is because most parents let their kids pick their own costumes and little girls, who are little kids, tend to think like little kids.

To a little kid's way of thinking a witch looks like a witch, not like the October picture in a 1940s era pin-up calender.

When the same kid starts thinking she might get a kick out of looking like a calender girl, she is usually a few years past her the last Halloween when she went trick or treating.

She's a teenager.

And this fact is really what Charen's in a tizzy about.

It's not that childhood ends at 8 that upsets her. It's that childhood ends at all.

To make and believe her case that Liberals and Feminists have taken over the Halloween costume manufacturing business and coerced Wal-Mart into turning its toy department into a junior Victoria's Secret mini-store, Charen has conveniently erased the ages of 11-14 from the lives of girls and made high school a part of childhood.

In the real world, one year a girl is dressing up as a fairy princess and the next year she's staying home with her parents to hand out the candy or going to a party at a friend's house where they make fun of the friend's little brother's Darth Vader costume. This is her Halloween for the next two or three years.

Then she's 14 or 15 and she's invited to a Halloween party and the idea that going as a French maid or a harem girl or a witch who wears a black bustier and a garter belt with her pointed hat suddenly has some appeal. Doesn't mean she picks that for her costume. I didn't bob for apples with a real sexy witch until I got to college. But that's just the luck of the draw. I know guys whose teenage years were far more visually entertaining than my own.


At a certain age girls become interested in being sexually attractive and sometimes at Halloween they pick costumes that express that interest.

It's that fact of life that gives scolds like Charen the vapors.

Doesn't matter that there really aren't any 9 year olds trick or treating in the kind of outfit that if worn by a 30 year old on a street corner would get her a lot of attention from lonely men in passing cars.

What's got them clutching their pearls is knowing that in a few short years the 9 year olds will be 15 year olds who will look and often act like 30 year olds.

There are plenty of parents who just don't know how to deal with the fact that their children are going to grow up. I'm one of them. I think this causes some of us to panic at any attempt we regard as premature to pull them into the grown-up world. Sex ed in schools, the raising of certain topics---not just sex, but death, money, politics, religion also scare us---anti-authoritarian messages in movies and books, even if we are on principle anti-authoritarian, because we worry that our kids will rebel against our authority or, more frightening, decide they don't need us before we're ready for them not to need us anymore, some friendships, early love affairs, all these things can unnerve parents and make us think about installing outside locks on the bedroom doors.

Terror at the prospect of our babies growing up (and ourselves growing old) can make us treat future possibilites as present-day realities.

The realization that Some day little Susie may want to wear a bikini to the beach because she knows she looks good in one and wants to show off turns into Oh my God all Suise's little friends are wearing bikinis to the beach already, the little sluts! The world has gone mad!

Nance tells me that Charen doesn't have daughters herself. She is the mother of boys. So Charen may be thinking more along the lines of, These girls in their slutty Halloween costumes are going to make my sons start acting like horny young men before I'm ready for them to be horny young men!

The principle's the same.

But Nance suspects that what is motivating Charen is what she says motivates most middle-aged scolds, sexual jealousy.

They see the pretty young women in bikinis on the beach and then look in the mirror at themselves in their sensible one-piece swimsuits and hate the fact that they are no longer pretty young women in bikinis. They project their anger and disappointment and blame the pretty young women for reminding them of life's unfairness or, in Charen's case, blame the culture for allowing the pretty young women to go about reminding them of life's unfairness.

Middle-aged Liberals aren't any more immune to this than middle-aged Conservatives, although Liberals often have a vocabulary that allows them to deny their own sexual jealousy to themselves and trick themselves into acting, or at least talking, as if life's unfairness doesn't bother them.

But middle-aged men aren't immune to it either. There are plenty of middle-aged male scolds who blame the pretty young women for reminding of them of life's unfairness too.

They look at the pretty young women in their bikinis and think, Once upon a time I could have gone right up to a girl who looked like that and asked her out, and then they think, If I did that now she'd laugh in my face. How dare she be the unwitting cause of making me ridiculous to myself in my own imagination! The slut!

I myself am protected from this by the knowledge that when I was that age, if I'd gone up to a pretty young woman in a bikini on the beach and asked her out, she'd have laughed in my face then too.

But apparently lots of other men used to be irresistable to pretty young women in bikinis and believe they still ought to be and can't stand it that they are not and they blame the pretty young women for being desirable and they blame the culture for allowing the pretty young women to walk about freely being desirable.

Dressing the pretty young women in gigham and calico from neck to ankle would be a way of draping the mirrors in the middle-aged scolds' own heads.

And we could do it. We could keep our young women dressed like little girls right up until the brink of their own middle age, if it weren't for those damn liberals and feminists forcing our children into mini-skirts and spiked heels when they'd still rather be going trick or treating as fairy princesses.

The view from another doorstep: Amanda Marcotte makes the case that what really steamed Charen about the Times article is that it wasn't misogynistic enough:

The article is about how hard it is to find Halloween costumes for women that aren’t sexed up. It was a little unfair to set it up that way—it seems to have lured Charen in with the promise that the article would be a refreshing blast about how lady bodies are disgusting and women need to cover that shit up.

But the lure of hating on the female body was just the bait and Charen got a nasty switch...

...sneaky ass feminists. You think you’re in for a round of old-fashioned sex-hating and instead you get a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that the problem is the unfairness of sexual objectification...


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