Welcome to our second day of Halloween Week, for which we begged some of our best lady friends to write about the holiday.
Annie Rebekah Gardner is currently having a nervous breakdown over her Master’s thesis in Cairo, Egypt. She dabbles in Critical Migration Theory, fashion, menstruation and the Internet. Kelsy Yeargain is bongo.
The sexy costume and male gaze has been more or less overdone (and, plus, Dan Savage says to stop being a prude and embrace it, so!), and talking about Halloween’s transgressive origins and the feminist pagans of yore and Samhain and the Moon will make my internet persona exponentially weirder. So, rather than bitch about sexy-fill-in-the-blanks or talk about how I’m really into The Mists of Avalon right now, I thought I’d reflect a little on masculinity and Halloween, or, what’s up with dudes and costumes? To do so, I solicited the participation of my housemate and hetero life partner Kelsy.
Annie: Girl! Let’s talk about some ish!
Kelsy: Woop woop!
Annie: First I want to start with some lighthearted matters. What will you be going as this Hallow’s Eve?
Kelsy: Well, Annie, you are part of my group costume.
Annie: Oh yeah! I love group costumes! I haven’t gone solo since 2003!
Kelsy: Yes. If you recall, last May I had the idea that we go as Chomsky and Foucault, respectively.
Annie: It was a great idea! I was to wear a turtleneck and rimless glasses!
Kelsy: Yeah, and we were going to memorize the debates and you were going to talk in French and I was going to respond in English.
Kelsy: And pretentious. However, the opportunity arose for the four of us who live together to do one group costume, which, after four hours at a Chili’s on the Nile, we decided to be Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Merrit will be Papa Bear, I will be Mama Bear, you will be Baby Bear, and Matthew will be Goldilocks.
Annie: A dude in drag! Transgressive!
Kelsy: Gender trouble!
Annie: So, straight dudes in drag. I think that’s a good jumping off point to talk about. I feel as though there’s a pretty vocal portion of the dudely populace that likes to dress in drag, and I don’t think it’s always for the reasons that we’d like it to be, e.g. performativity, gender bending, and what-have-you.
Kelsy: When we were going to dress in male drag it was to play a character. But sometimes it feels like dudes do it to mock femininity. Like losing a bet and having to dress up like a lady kind of thing.
Annie: Word. And I can think of some funny times where some great dudes I know dressed as ladies, and we all laughed. My favorite was when my friend Drew went as Mrs. Doubtfire, which we all know is one of my favorite flicks. But I guess that was a man dressed as a dude lookin’ like a lady, so it has a different dimension. Have you ever been to Bridge’s restaurant?
Annie: Well! Neither have I. Speaking of dudes and Halloween, though, what about that one particular breed of killjoy who Just. Won’t. Dress. Up. That drives me crazy!
Kelsy: I hate people who get embarrassed easily.
Annie: I mean, yeah.
Kelsy: But there is something to be said about not being a creative, expressive person, and that’s okay. It’s not for everyone. But I do feel like there’s a larger proportion of men who hate dressing up.
Annie: Oh, I know. I dated one.
Kelsy: What? You?
Annie: Hell yeah, girl. Funny enough, when I was brainstorming for this piece I looked up some old Gmails because I thought it might be pertinent. I had a boyf who utterly despised theme parties, and I think a lot of the world wide web, or at least my Facebook friend contingent, knows how important that is to me. In, fact, I found an email to one of my besties bemoaning this fact and whether or not I should DTMFA because of this, and I quote, “IRRECONCILEABLE DIFFERENCE.”
Kelsy: Why do you think he didn’t like to dress up in costumes? Was it because he was shy?
Annie: I think he was just contrary. He was a little fruitcake so there’s no way he was worried about keeping his manliness in check. But I don’t know, maybe that played into it a little bit.
Kelsy: So do we think that part of this dislike of dressing up relates to men wanting to seem stoic and emotionless? There is something vulnerable about dressing up in a costume, to getting out of yourself. HOW AM I NOT MYSELF?
Annie: To which I say: Wear a sheet and go as a ghost, dummy! But, I mean, yeah, I think you’re right there. There’s something to be said for this typical association with costumes, theatricality as a non-masculine thing.
Kelsy: It’s kind of the same as dancing. A lot of dudes hate dancing, until they get drunk. And they’ll even say that.
Annie: Sidenote: why do I keep dating men who hate dancing?
Kelsy: Because finding men that love dancing is difficult!
Annie: As is finding men who love to wear costume. Noted! I have so many hilarious Halloween stories of dude friends who were so furious with me because I was so bossy about them getting their costume shit together. Fortunately, the costumes still turned out successfully, but not without some pulling of teeth. (Sven, Dan Longino, David Angel, Adam Patch, Andrew Gardner, ex-boyfriend Kevin, this certainly is not applicable to you!)
Kelsy: Can I veer the conversation a little? I think we should talk about how it’s not as big of a deal for women to dress up, it kind of gets more normalized. I feel like I’m dressing up every day, especially when I’m dressing down. It’s almost harder for me to dress down then it is to dress up, because I feel like I need to portray a certain image of myself. That image is so tied to clothing.
Annie: Oh, amen girl. I have a few friends who always joke that every day is Halloween for me. One of them even said that my secret superpower is my ability to change outfits every five minutes. And even though not all women dress as ridiculously as we do, every day, I do think that point is pretty salient. Ladies do think about how they’re portraying themselves every day.
Kelsy: But men do too. It’s just more tied to this stoic, masculine, I don’t-give-a-shit kind of thing.
Annie: And costumes are anything but! Or so they say. Hey, I know I said it gets overdone, but can we talk about the male gaze anyway?
Kelsy: Sure. I have to deal with it everyday, anyway.
Annie: Ok. First I am going to share a favorite Hallow’s Eve anecdote about this time that my cousin and I were at a Halloween party dressed as Persephone and Artemis, respectively (girls, take note! I think Virgin Goddess of the Hunt is a very feminist costume, personally). What we were wearing doesn’t really matter. It wasn’t skanky or anything. Anyway, one of those classic party creepers was at this party (which was so crazy and so fun, by the by, even though Boyfriend took off his toga within five minutes of arrival, BUT I DIGRESS.) and I tried to throw him off by putting my arm around Cuz (I know, I know, it never works, and I never learn) and creeper is all, “YEEEEEEEAAAAHHH,” and so in typical Annie form I screamed, “STOP SUBJECTING US TO THE MALE GAZE!”
Kelsy: To which he replies, “I’M NOT GAY!” and storms off. You’ve told me this story at least ten times.
Annie: Well it’s a funny story! I’m not going to dwell on Halloween and the Male Gaze too much because it’s been done to death, but that whole sexy-fill-in-the-blank thing sort of embodies this very hetero, very sexist vision of the Feminine Ideal as this booby, subservient thing. Which, whatever. Dress sexy if you wanna. Personally I see no problem dressing sexy any day of the year.
Kelsy: But the problem with it’s such an obvious and kind of desperate attempt of women to be in the Male Gaze. I mean, I’ve worn some short skirts in my lifetime, but on Halloween it’s more pronounced, especially with everyone talking about the dress-as-Sexy-Blah-Blah.
Annie: Which can be hilarious. Off the top of my head, I can think of some brilliant friends (both male and female) whose costumes involved Sexy Jesus, Sexy Lumberjacks, Sexy Lobster, Sexy Hitler. My aforementioned beloved cousin is going as a Sexy Mop this year. Hey, I was wondering if you could share your Batman anecdote.
Kelsy: Why yes I can! The year I turned twenty I drunkenly broke my foot dancing to Kris Kross’ “Jump” song. I was on crutches for about six months, which included Halloween.
Annie: Broken foot on Halloween! Noooo! I was sick one Halloween and I vowed I would Robotrip through it if I had to.
Kelsy: I brought out my party crutches and wore the outfit that I had found earlier that summer, which was a boys’ size 14 Batman costume. It was a tad bit small, and there was some pronounced cameltoe, so I was a fourteen-year-old boy, with cameltoe, on crutches. I got hit on more in that one night than I have ever been hit on in my entire life.
Annie: Creepy! Why does one always get hit on most when one is dressed as a child, is my query.
Kelsy: Actually, I think it was the crutches. Throughout that six months I had too many men tell me they had a crutch fetish. I think it was the increased vulnerability.
Annie: Uh. Ew.
Kelsy: Maybe the cameltoe.
Annie: Possibly. Well, shall we wrap up?
Kelsy: On that note! I think cameltoe is always a good place to end on.
Annie: I couldn’t agree more. If you’re in Cairo, come to our Halloween party! Costume Contest! DJ! Photobooth!