the "ideology" of halloween

Here's a letter written to my college newspaper, dated today. It's a candid take on the relationship between feminism and morality, as well as the current atmosphere at college. It insists upon the right to dress however one damn-well pleases as being wholly consistent with feminism. In the process, it exposes many of the intellectual errors of radical-feminists. The letter follows:
I have a Women's Studies minor and a coconut bra.

This year for Halloween, I'm going as a midriff-baring hula dancer. However, I'm also going as what I've always been: a feminist.

Along with the proliferation of risqué costumes, you've probably noticed an increase in people speaking out against this clan of Playboy bunnies and short-short wearing referees. Not only are these criticisms guilty of stating the obvious, but they are also uncalled for. Given my belief in equality of gender and my interest in women's issues, you might think I'd be the first to show up downtown this year with a mission to personally demoralize all sexy kittens, naughty nurses and vixen vampires.

Having an attitude like this directly contradicts an ideology known as relative moralism. This belief system states that every individual is permitted to do whatever he or she wishes as long as it doesn't interfere with the well-being of anyone else. In keeping with this theory, unless one of the aforementioned sexy kittens physically assaults me this weekend, I have no right to remonstrate her and her fellow saucy Little Red Riding Hoods for their actions.

Last year, after a long night of Halloween festivities, I walked home from the last party of the evening at 7 a.m. It was a rainy Saturday morning, and I made the trek across campus in a Catholic schoolgirl outfit. To say that I received some judging looks is an understatement. But why? Later, when a friend of mine looked at photos of the night, she shook her head and said that I was promiscuous. Sure, I looked ridiculous by the light of the day, but both then and now I possessed healthy amount of self respect. I would never judge anyone for wearing an outfit I didn't care for, because I understand that we are not defined by the clothes we put on each morning and the costumes we wear each Halloween.

I have never chosen a Halloween costume because I felt that as a female I had nothing to offer society but my appearance. Though there might be people who feel this way, I'm sure that if you asked most girls about their decisions to be pirates with high heels, almost none of them would say, "Oh, I just felt like making myself into an object this year." Plenty of these girls, in fact, hold high G.P.A.s, respectable positions in campus organizations, and high ambitions about the future. They are also aware, however, that they are beautiful women, and they aren't afraid of being sexy and smart.

Sounds pretty feminist to me.
Why is it necessary to make this argument? Well, because other feminists disagree with her. On what grounds do these feminists disagree? Probably on the same ones I do: that some clothing makes it easier for others to think of women as objects, and that treating women as objects is wrong, really wrong, objectively wrong. Some "clothing" is not really clothing. It fosters an atmosphere of disrespect. And it degrades women and undermines their great dignity.

The catch is that the "ideology" that justifies wearing the risque costumes - moral relativism (her definition is a bit off but I'll take her to mean that morality is relative) - is the same "ideology" that justifies objectifying women. I think this proves that the "ideology" she espouses is deeply flawed, as all "ideologies" are. It also means her argument is flawed.

All this said, I'm sure the author of this letter would agree with me that objectifying women is wrong. So I think this is just a bit of confusion and the attempt of one person's conscience to rationalize their behavior.

What do you think?


Rob said...

-both then and now I possessed healthy amount of self respect.-

These are just words. That's the problem. In the university culture, all you have to do is say something and it's true! Sodomy is okay because we say it is. It doesn't matter if any medical doctor can tell you about the extreme health risks of the act. If I say I have self-respect, I do! It doesn't matter what I do, only what I say.

It's like I tell my kids about love: love is not a nice smile or pretty words - it is what you do. Parents sacrificing time, money, energy, will to bring their kids up right: that's love. It doesn't matter if I am tired and cranky all the time (LOL). My love is what I do for them and has nothing to do with words.

You are what you do. If you dress like a whore and act like a whore -you're a whore.

Zach said...

You're so right about what love is. It comforts me to know there are people out there like you.