Calgary Community and Residents ‘Take Back Halloween’

Feminist Halloween party features documentary, costume contest

Dale Lee Kwong House of Gender Scary-O-Types

Seeing a “cutie cop” costume for a five-year-old featuring pink handcuffs and a fascinator gave Pam Rocker one reason to shake up Halloween.

With costume options for women ranging from sexy witches to provocative nuns, Rocker led an effort in Calgary to make Halloween less about sex and more about empowerment.

Rocker, affirming and creative co-ordinator at Hillhurst United Church, and Jacqueline Russell, Urban Curvz Theatre’s artistic director, hosted Take Back Halloween, a feminist Halloween party.

A Take Back Halloween song and puppet show: “Don't Call Me A Witch”

A Take Back Halloween song and puppet show: “Don’t Call Me A Witch” (Photo: Dale Lee Kwong)

The event drew about 100 people and attracted 15 performers/artists.

“The inspiration came from wanting to offer something fun and unique as an alternative to the usual Halloween fare,” Rocker says.

“We wanted to bring awareness to the fact that most Halloween costume options for women are all about sexualization and we noticed the increased trend of these sorts of costumes being marketed to even younger girls. Instead of focusing on the negative, we wanted to do something positive.”

Organizers created a patriarchy haunted house, providing a humorous look at issues that are “truly terrifying” such as the wage gap, glass ceiling and the building of the “perfect” woman.

The evening featured live performances from Calgary artists and actors, a screening of the documentary Wonder Women, which is about female super-heroines, and a feminist costume contest.

“This event was about providing a space for people to dress up in creative, empowering costumes,” Rocker says. “Sexuality and sexualization are different. One is natural, important and should be expressed in any way a woman chooses. Sexualization isn’t a choice. It’s being done to us by the mass media machine and what is driving it is commercialism.”

The evening featured a patriarchy haunted house, which included a glass ceiling.

The evening featured a patriarchy haunted house, which included a glass ceiling. (Photo: Dale Lee Kwong)

Rocker says the best thing that happened was seeing people get involved with the event through their thoughtful costumes. Some were hilarious, others inspirational, Rocker says.

Choices ranged from Gloria Steinem to Frida Kahlo to the Paper Bag Princess. “Calgary is full of creativity and it was amazing to see how many people harnessed it to create their own interpretation of a feminist costume.”

The evening was clearly meaningful to people. “The media attention and feedback we received highlighted to us that this kind of event was a long time coming,” Rocker notes.

“Seeing how people jumped into the experience and embraced their own idea of equality and felt safe to do this in this space was a huge marker that we were on the right track and filling a need that has been long hoped for.”

If you have feedback on this article, please e-mail Natalie or call Axiom News at 800-294-0051.

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