From the Griffin’s Nest: On Halloween Sluts and Feminism

I think experiencing Halloween Samhain-style in Edinburgh this year moved me to write again to the Griffin, responding to an op-ed by an old friend, about what she felt was the the “slut” culture of Halloween, and how that (again, in her opinion) works against feminist progress.

I didn’t really need much of a spur, here – I’m consistently appalled when men and women, some waving the stolen banner of feminism, label a stubborn, creaky patriarchy as “progress,” or the status quo as “all we hoped for” or all that the movement can achieve.  And I’m even more incensed when I hear people complaining about “sluttiness” on Halloween.

Samhain – a torch-bearing procession through Old Town, Edinburgh, and an elaborate pageant outside the National Gallery – was a refreshing reminder that Halloween is really all about death, sex, and drunkenness.  Good ol’ paganism.

So, when so-called feminists, or anyone, really, criticize women who dress provocatively on 31 October, they’re either misunderstanding feminist aims or demanding that the world acknowledge their restrictive set of gendered expectations – but beyond that, they demonstrate their total ignorance of the holiday’s history.

Halloween in Edinburgh looked a bit like this. Oh, and there were plenty of women wearing nothing but tree bark and body paint.

I regret that I haven’t written much f late; I’ve been engaged in my course readings, and a (final, I hope) revision of my novel, R.S.V.P.  Expect more posts in the first week of December, though, because my backlog’s been building steadily: I’ll have reflections and pictures from Bonfire Night, Edinburgh Castle, the local folk music scene, and university life.  And, of course, there are a few adventures from the tail end of my stay in Germany that slipped through the cracks – most notably my sojourn in St. Annaberg, Poland, and a learning how to open a wine bottle against a tree by the Rhine in Köln, on the night before my flight to Edinburgh.

As the Scots say (for everything, always): Cheers.

In the meantime, enjoy this pictures from Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes Day.  #Deathtotyrants

The view of Stockbridge, Leith, and the Firth of Forth from Calton Hill.


From the Griffin’s Nest: Op-Ed on Post Referendum Possibilities

I was pleased to return last Friday to the pages of the Griffin newspaper, which, under the leadership of new Editor-in-Chief Jourdon LaBarber, has only grown in stature as a new power player in Western New York media.

News Editor Kevin Daley (full disclosure: a close friend of mine and fellow member of the Schuyler Colfax Thinking Club) reached out to me earlier last week to talk about running straight coverage of the Scottish Independence referendum.  Timing precluded this – the Griffin’s print deadline was just after midnight EST, and the referendum results were announced a few hours after that, about 6:30 UTC.  But, I managed to contribute an op-ed about the waning of the cynical Scotland (typified so brilliantly in Trainspotting) and the nascence of a new, politically engaged, hopeful, and forward-thinking populace, encompassing both the independence and the unionist vote.

Scots voted to stay in the union, of course, but my thesis didn’t depend on the outcome.  Almost a week later, I still hold that, while Americans have bankrupted “Hope” and “Change,” warped the words beyond recognition, Scotland has an opportunity to deliver on both camps’ promises, and work together to align policy, in a constituent nation of the United Kingdom only growing in its powers, with the values they share.

The University has (rightly) reigned in my regular posting, but you can count on further coverage as Scotland moves past the vote, and toward policy change and new powers.

From the op-ed:

Six years ago Barack Obama campaigned on a promise of Change (“I’ll be anything but”) and a platform of Hope  (“I promise”).  Today, if you’ll permit the simplification, one side of the country sneers at him and the other looks away in bitterness; the rest of us give up and play Sudoku; Hope and Change are like worried pennies worn faceless and worthless in our pockets from anxious thumbing.  I don’t blame Obama – sometimes it feels that we’re just too big, to spread-out, like a cold universe, to care or to do anything.

And that’s why living in Scotland has been so refreshing.  There’s anxiousness, of course, buckets of it; and there’s bitterness and hyperbole and tensions are strained.  But put down the newspapers, click Alex Salmond’s face off the telly, and look around: you see that there are two things tying Yes and No together: a common hot bloodstream of Hope, and a shared belief in the possibility of Change.

Each path has its challenges; each path has its burdens, each choice its share of pain.  But no matter what happens this morning, Scotland will be a different country – tomorrow, next week, next year.  There will be 5 million hands reaching out to shape it.  The Scots believe that now – they will believe it tomorrow, next week, next year.  Perhaps that’s a truth tonic enough to wake this world from its disbelief and its stupor.