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Ghosts Aren’t the Scariest Thing About Halloween

Most historians trace back modern day Halloween to the Celtic holiday of Samhain, which marked the end of the year for those living 2000 years ago in the UK, Ireland, and Northern France. The Celtic year ended on November 1, and so the night before (October 31) marked when the veil between the living and dead was the thinnest. When the Romans invaded Celtic lands in 43 AD, they adopted some and added some to these traditions. The Romans integrated the holidays of Feralia (a day in October where the living commemorated the dead) and the day that honored the Goddess Pomona (whose symbol was an apple, can you think of the tradition that stemmed from this?– maybe… bobbing for apples?). We also see the celebration of All Saints’ Day moved from May to November 1. Yet, we see celebrations that honor the thinning of the veil between life and death in almost every culture, such as Dia de los muertos, Borgo a Mozzano in Italy, Daimonji in Japan, and many more celebrations that have not been properly recorded by Western cultures. 

So, how did we end up with Halloween that we know today? Well, like most things Halloween was brought to the United States by immigrants and then assimilated to better meet Western Standards. Halloween was not celebrated by the puritanical colonial settlers. There were harvest festivals where ghost stories were told as a way to teach moral lessons, but it was not until Irish immigrants fleeing the Potato Famine came to the United States that Halloween was celebrated as we know it today (coming from the words All Hallows Eve). 

Other cultures, other religions, other identities are not a costume for you to wear.

Now it is time to have the conversation that we must continue to always have. Other cultures, other religions, other identities are not a costume for you to wear. Going as Pochantas wearing a headdress is offensive and invalidates the lived experiences of the horrors that indigneous people have faced at the hands of Americans. It is not okay to darken your skin tone to better “look like” a person or to have a more authentic costume. You are taking aspects of another person’s culture and identity and using it to your benefit with none of the threatening and scary implications that it means to be a person of a marginalized community in today’s society. 

When you get home from a night out on Halloween, you can take your costume off and be safe and privileged. So while you have the time of your life wearing a headdress or a sombrero or your cornrows to imitate your favorite rapper, Black and Brown Children in Milwaukee have to trick-or-treat when the sun is still out, so that they are safe and can make it home. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself about your costume: Does the culture you’re imitating have a history of oppression? Are you benefiting from borrowing from the culture? Are you able to remove something when you get tired of it and return to a privileged culture when others can’t?

In Northbrook, Ill., Jess Lifshitz has her fifth-graders take a letter home. She explained to NPR that, “A couple of years ago I noticed that every Halloween, there were one or two kids who came in costume and for whatever reason the costume just made me uncomfortable and I worried it made others uncomfortable,” because it portrayed a stereotyped image of a group of people or it was someone dressing in a way that almost seemed as if they were putting on the identity of another person as a costume.

It may seem like a light-hearted matter, a once-a-year thing, but it is not. People die world-wide every year wearing their cultural clothes and fighting to be their authentic self for things that they cannot, nor should have to, change about themselves. So when you wear clothes that other people have been murdered for wearing you are disrespecting their legacy. Please think this Halloween of the people who have longed to show their truest forms of identity, but have not felt safe, nor allowed to do so. 

Read these articles below for ideas on non-offensive Halloween costume: 

 


Written by Cassidy Herberth, she/her, Education and Prevention Specialist

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

Resources

  • https://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/halloween-is-for-white-people/
  • https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/10/30/culture-not-costume/
  • https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/10/31/halloween-politics-racial-divides-milwaukee-221955/

Is This a Cat Fight?: Why is Hollywood always pitting powerful women against each other?

Nicki vs. Miley. Katy vs. Taylor. Joan vs. Bette. Elizabeth vs. Debbie. These are only some of the more famous female feuds of Hollywood. It seems that one of the narratives that is constantly plaguing the women of Hollywood, and the rest of the female population, is the one where women are constantly pitted against one another. Their whole narrative is surrounded by the fact that there cannot be more than one powerful woman in Hollywood. Now, why do we keep pitting women against each other? Rather than celebrating the successes, tabloids and news sites keep talking about how these women “despise each other.” The answer is too long for this post, but the short quick answer would be misogyny, the patriarchy, and beauty standards.

Oftentimes, when asked about these “famous feuds,” Hollywood women tell us that they are simply stories written by tabloids who are trying to sell a product. When asked about her feud with Brittany Spears, Christian Aguilera said, “It must have seemed as if we were competing with each other, but, in reality, Britney is someone that I used to hold hands with.” It seems that oftentimes these feuds do not actually exist, but are rather there to remind women of their place in the Hollywood world. 

So, why do it? Why does this narrative continue to break through the feminism of today? Well one of the reasons may be the narrative that women are simple vessels of desire. Meaning, their importance goes only as far as their looks. Therefore, it may seem impertinent to be the most beautiful person in the room. The result of this is that other women are viewed as competition. Someone you must beat out for that product endorsement, commercial, movie, show, and award. 

At the same time, another reason could be that at one point, like with many marginalized groups, there was only allowed to be a certain number. You wanted to be the one woman in the office, in the movies, in the “boys club,” and you had to make sure that no other female identifying person could beat you out of the running for that. As argued by the Harvard Business Review, “women see that there is one spot at the table, and are willing to do anything to keep that role. This burden is doubled, tripled, quadrupled for women of color, who experience being marginalized because of their skin color and their gender identity, therefore often being looked over.”

So, what do we do now? Well the first step is to stop pitting famous women against each other. Brittany and Christina are two different people, so why do we keep comparing them? The second step is to recognize, as Forbes writer Shelley Zalis puts it, women have more power when they are in a pack. That when we are mentoring women, supporting women, and showing that women are strong, we increase the amount of women in the workforce and place them in jobs of power. 

It is important that young people growing up today have the chance to see that women have more narratives, stories, and interests surrounding them than whoever they are “fighting” with; that there is more to young women than just the looks and beauty that they offer. 

I guess, in the end, it isn’t a cat fight, just a dog-eat-dog world. 


Written by Cassidy Herberth, Education and Prevention Specialist.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org. 

 

Kiner, M., 2021. It’s Time to Break the Cycle of Female Rivalry. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: <https://hbr.org/2020/04/its-time-to-break-the-cycle-of-female-rivalry>.

 

Mehta, D., 2021. Does Patriarchy Divide Women: The Importance Of Solidarity. [online] Feminism In India. Available at: <https://feminisminindia.com/2019/02/04/patriarchy-divide-women-solidarity/> [Accessed 26 August 2021].

 

Thrills, A., 2008. ‘Britney? I wish her all the best… honest!’ Christina Aguilera calls time on one of pop’s bitterest feuds. [online] Mail Online. Available at: <https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1083708/Britney-I-wish-best–honest-Christina-Aguilera-calls-time-pops-bitterest-feuds.htm> [Accessed 26 August 2021].

Zalis, S., 2019. Power Of The Pack: Women Who Support Women Are More Successful. [online] Forbes. Available at: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/shelleyzalis/2019/03/06/power-of-the-pack-women-who-support-women-are-more-successful/> [Accessed 26 August 2021].

Pleasure is Privilege

Girls just wanna have fun; but can they? In the world of sexuality, pleasure is privilege. 

 

Education

Women are not always taught that they deserve pleasure or deserve to ask for pleasure, nor do we as a society teach them about pleasure. The sex education programs provided in schools do not account for women’s pleasure, orgasm, or masturbation. A comprehensive sexuality education is needed, so that all genders fully understand the intricacies of pleasure.

 

Patriarchy

The experience of pleasure is often limited to those in control; in a patriarchy, it is men who control the pleasure. Many women worldwide are mutilated in the name of circumcision; men get to control women’s pleasure (Posner, 2018). In further frustration with the patriarchy, most women in heterosexual relationships have difficulty with orgasms, whereas lesbian couples often find more pleasure (Posner, 2018). The couples who are able to explore sexuality outside of society’s norms, where men control sex, are the couples who find pleasure more easily.

 

Pleasure and Pain

The brain reacts to orgasms most similarly to seizures (more so than any other activity measured). There is a close connection between pleasure and pain and it is not fully understood (Posner, 2018). As a rape crisis center, we also know that too often sexuality is experienced as abuse, as perpetrators justify that the other person actually enjoys it. Too many youth learn about sex only through abuse, learning only the pain rather than the pleasure of sexuality.

 

Inequality Post-Pleasure

Access to medical services is limited for many Women of Color, rural women, and women in subcultures that frown upon women’s reproductive health choices. Women’s health clinics are often too far of a drive or do not offer women choices about pregnancy, STDs, or reporting abuse (Ewing & Grady, 2010).

 

Maternal and postpartum health in the U.S. remains problematic, especially for Women of Color: 

  • Suicide and overdose combined are the leading cause of death in the first year postpartum (Zahlaway Belsito, 2021). 
  • Approximately 700+ women die in the U.S. from pregnancy related causes in a year (CDC, 2020).
  • Black and Indigenous women are over 3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women (Zahlaway Belsito, 2021).

 

Recommendations

  1. Communication between partners is key to pleasure with a partner.
  2. Comprehensive sexuality education is needed for all socioeconomic levels, especially for addressing pleasure, orgasms, and masturbation.
  3. Female circumcision needs to end.
  4. More funding is needed for sexual abuse services. Donate to your local rape crisis center.
  5. Access to medical care needs to be an important investment in all socioeconomic areas. For ideas on how to get involved in women’s health advocacy, see the Advocacy toolkit.

 


Written by Kristin Jones, EdM, PhD, Outreach Supervisor

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

Center for Disease Control (CDC). 2020. First Data Released on Maternal Mortality in Over a Decade. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2020/202001_MMR.htm

 

Ewing, H. & R. Grady. (2010). 12th & Delaware. (documentary.) https://www.hbo.com/documentaries/12th-and-delaware-doc

 

Posner, J. (2018). Explained: The Female Orgasm. (documentary series.) Season 1, Episode 16. https://www.netflix.com/title/80216752

 

Zahlaway Belsito, J. (2021). Women’s Reproductive Health Forum. (online.) Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance.

Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in Relation to Sexual Assault Survivors

Although we have an understanding of the importance of mental health awareness in the month of May, we need to differentiate minority mental health in July to signify the intricate hardships that minorities may face from stereotypes, sexism, systematic oppression, and classism. The objective is to accentuate the attention that needs to be considered for minorities battling mental health adversities. Mental health disorders do not discriminate against age, gender, race, ethnicity, or identity. The unfortunate reality is that we need to focus on emphasizing mental health for various minority groups. Additionally, individuals who need mental health assistance contributes significantly to sexual assault statistics at staggering numbers. Even more so when investigating minority groups. 

 

The Context of Minority

A person who identifies as a minority is one who does not consider themselves a part of the dominant culture in society. Who might be a minority? Well, it can simply be anyone whose identity does not align with white, higher income, male, heterosexual, Christian, and able-bodied individuals. The word minority also may represent the differential of power between majority and minority groups alike, and can make individuals who identify with such groups feel a sense of inferiority compared to those of the dominant culture (Bryant-Davis et al., 2010). 

 

Why Does Minority Mental Health Matter?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, gay men experience higher levels of risk of adverse health problems such as mood disorders, suicide, substance abuse, and anxiety (Messih, 2018). This can become problematic if individuals who need proper mental health care feel as if barriers are hindering them being able to have access to quality care. Furthermore, there are conceptualizations in unrepresented communities about causes and cures of mental illness as well as the stigma that follows being diagnosed with a disorder. The purpose of minority mental health awareness month is not meant to imply that the dominant culture’s mental health is not a priority, but rather that we need to acknowledge the auxiliary attention that must be presented to promote quality mental health care for people of unrepresented communities. Although there is treatment for those with mental health disorders identifying as a minority, there are many barriers to receiving accessible and proper mental health care.

 

Barriers to Seeking Mental Health Care May Include:

    • Lack of resources
    • Financial burden/lack of insurance
    • Social stigma/ shame of mental illness
    • Location of treatments and offices
    • Bilingual services 
    • Cultural beliefs
    • Mistrust of the mental health system

 

 

psychiatry.org

 

Mental Health and Sexual Assault on Minority Groups

Generally, we see an increase of minority and sexual orientation groups have higher levels of anxiety, depression, suicide ideation, and many other mental health disorders due to societal traumas and factors. According to SAMHSA (2010), over 70% of African American adolescents diagnosed with major depression disorders did not receive treatment for their condition. In relation to sexual assault,  it is evident that the crime can increase the likelihood for developing a mental health disorder. More specifically, survivors of unrepresented communities underutilized treatment and care. Women may not be able to seek out assistance to alleviate the distress caused by sexual assault with possible consequences of victim blaming due to racism, classism, sexism, and other forms of systematic and societal trauma.  

 

Sexual assault on minorities with those of mental health disorders has become an epidemic due to the lack of knowledge of resources and cultural barriers for individuals seeking help. In addition, the prevalence of negative outcomes following from sexual assault demonstrates that it is common for women to develop serious mental health challenges after being sexually assaulted. Research suggests that there is a disproportionate amount of sexual assault among underrepresented people, and with lack of proper mental health care can be detrimental for their wellbeing. Ethnic minorities experience more symptoms of PTSD and anxiety such as Latina women having significantly more psychiatric hospitalizations and anxiety following a rape than white women (Jacques-Tiura et al., 2010). Comparing the Caucasian group to African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and American Indian groups exhibits a significant increase in mental health disparities because of societal hardships. Individuals across all ethnic minorities who do not receive professional help, often search for other ways to heal such as self-medicating. Cultural and societal oppression may lead to feeling shame, isolation, or a lack of safety that can negatively impact a person’s well-being and deplete their coping mechanisms in a crucial moment of crisis. 

 

You Are Not Alone

The structure of the mental health services demonstrates insufficient resources of culturally appropriate services that may help to serve the minority populations regarding sexual assault. By recognizing the need for awareness for ethnic and cultural differences of rape survivors, society will be able to adequately prepare to respond to the needs of sexually abused women identifying as a minority with a mental illness. By standing together, we can envision a nation where any individual affected by a mental health disorder or a sexual assault have access to the appropriate support and quality of care to live healthy and fulfilling lives. ZCenter strives to offer a place where no one feels alone in their struggles.

 


Written by Adella Moss, Intern, Northern Illinois University

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

References

Bryant-Davis, T., Ullman, S. E., Tsong, Y., Tillman, S., & Smith, K. (2010). Struggling to survive: sexual assault, poverty, and mental health outcomes of African American women. The American journal of orthopsychiatry. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3870142/ https://wp.nyu.edu/steinhardt-appsych_opus/ethnic-differences-in-the-experiences-of-sexual-assault-victims/.

Campbell, B. (2005). Learn About Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. NAMI. https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Bebe-Moore-Campbell-National-Minority-Mental-Health-Awareness-Month/Learn-About-Bebe-Moore-Campbell-National-Minority-Mental-Health-Awareness-Month.

Jacques-Tiura, A. (2010). Disclosure of sexual assault: characteristics and implications for posttraumatic stress symptoms among African American and caucasian survivors. Journal of trauma & dissociation : the official journal of the International Society for the Study of Dissociation (ISSD). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20373205/.

Messih, M. (2018). Mental Health Disparities: Diverse Populations. https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/cultural-competency/education/mental-health-facts. 

SAMHSA. (2010). Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings. Results from the 2010 NSDUH: Mental Health Findings, SAMHSA, CBHSQ. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHmhfr2010/NSDUHmhfr2010.htm. 

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