The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hallowe'en Eve Rant

by Tricia Dower

You may have heard about West Hollywood window decorator Chad-Michael Morrisette decking out his house for Hallowe’en—an effigy of John McCain emerging from a flaming chimney, and Sarah Palin’s likeness hanging from the roof, a noose around her neck, her hands apparently tied behind her back. Morrisette said it reflects his view that McCain’s and Palin’s politics are “scary.”

This link (which somehow turned into a video) started out as a newspaper article reporting on the efforts of neighbours and the mayor to persuade Morrisette to remove the effigies. Morrisette had to be persuaded because his display violates no state or federal law, despite some people reporting it as a hate crime. The noose around Palin’s neck seems to offend people more than does McCain emerging from a flaming chimney, understandably so. McCain might escape his fiery torture chamber, but Palin's a goner.

I have trouble defending Morrisette’s right to show such a violent expression of a political view. But what equally disturbs me is something Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, said in an earlier article: that, if the same display had been made of a Barack Obama-like doll, it might be considered a hate crime. "That adds a whole other social, historical hate aspect to the display and that is embedded in the consciousness of the country,” he said.

I suggest to Mr. Whitmore that misogyny is likewise embedded in the consciousness of the country, if not the world. That violence against women is so commonplace it's accepted as inevitable. Why did Morrisette hang Palin and not McCain? Could it be she’s another “uppity” woman like Clinton who has to be shown her place? I find Palin’s politics scary, too, but I don’t want her hung in effigy or degraded in any other way.

I posted this article on Silent Girl Speaks about what Hillary Clinton experienced and the need for women to speak out. I hope Morrisette does the right thing and dismantles his Hallowe’en display sooner rather than later. And I hope he asks himself if it reflects not only his political sentiments but a hatred of women so deeply embedded in his consciousness he may not even know it's there.


Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

I was thinking about the limits of expression today while reading about the radio-show host in England who recently resigned after abusive calls to a senior citizen. It's so much better when people self-monitor by bringing other values into balance with values of free expression. To make laws limiting expression feels scary. But then, like you, I have reactions to some of the things I see, and wish they weren't there. If a person aims to be tolerant, does that mean we have to be tolerant of intolerance, for example? Questions for our time. Thanks for the thoughtprovoking post, Tricia. Happy Hallowe'en!

Thu Oct 30, 02:14:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Jacqueline said...

Good point, Tricia.

It is interesting that Palin ended up hanging. But then if she had ended up in the chimney wouldn't that have seemed like her being burned at the stake? Six of one, half a dozen of the other if you ask me.

Either way is in poor taste.

She scares me too. But then a lot of politicians do.

Just because she's a woman doesn't mean she's going to be any more enlightened (unfortunately).

Thu Oct 30, 03:23:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger T. Lee said...

A thought-provoking post, indeed. We do need to question the motivations behind ours and others' actions. Andrew's point about having to be tolerant of intolerance has been on my mind a lot lately, too. And Jacqueline's suggestion that it's six of one... is also something to think about. We can turn anything to have a meaning or intent we want (writers are well aware of this), but trying to peel back the layers of systemic racism and sexism has been, in a way, the best part of the US election. There's no doubt about the sexism against Hillary, but what of the attacks the Dems, women included, flail at Palin? Are these true colours we're seeing in people? A media-fueled frenzy? So many questions and things to consider. And your post (and others on you Silent Girl blog) add much-needed depth to the discussion. Thanks, Tricia.

Thu Oct 30, 03:44:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks for the thoughtful responses Andrew, Jacqueline and Tamara. I certainly don't want to muzzle dissent but I think it can be respectful. Tamara: the reaction of other women to Palin has, indeed, been interesting. Her nomination smacks of sexism to some -- find a good-looking "babe" type who doesn't think too deeply about the issues. Others have responded to her positively as validating their own lifestyle choices. She's introduced at many of her rallies with the song "Rednecked Woman." Check out the video of that song for its sexual aggression. Indicates why Palin appeals to men, too.

Thu Oct 30, 04:07:00 pm GMT-4  

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