Category Archives: Feminism
Stay in touch with emerging concepts in Goddess spirituality. Join us for a review of spiritually oriented books published in 2015. The program will be live at 3:00 pm EST on December 16th. There will be a mixture of essays, nonfiction, fiction, and poetry.
To access program live on the day of the broadcast use this link:
Type your name and enter as a guest: no registration needed. Program can be accessed by desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone. You may be asked to download an add-in by Adobe Software if your device is not configured for the meeting room. Go ahead and click okay; it’s safe and fast.
A link to the recording will be available the day following the program on this blog.
The program will include a live interview with Elizabeth Hardy, author of Female Sperm Whale … and other [feminist] poems
The following books will also be featured:
Healing Your Feminine Essence: A Transformative Journey Within for Women Who Wish to Be Free by Marie de Kock
Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots and Restoring Earth Community by Pegi Eyers
Locust Girl: A Lovesong by Merlinda Bobis
The Mago Way: Re-Discovering Mago, the Great Goddess from East Asia (vol i) by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang
She Rises: Why Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality? edited by Helen Hye-Sook Hwang and Kaalii Cargill
More on the Mago Nine Day Solstice Program here.
In light of the attacks Dianic priestess and elder Ruth Barrett has been experiencing from transgender activist allies, I want to ask the larger community of Witches and other Pagans, the majority of whom disapprove of tactics being used against Ruth, to think about what we can do to put a stop to bullying in our communities.
The objection most Witches express about “getting involved” is that these campaigns by trans activists to silence and marginalize Dianic Witches are about a disagreement between between trans activists and Dianic Witches: it has nothing to do with them. Research on the dynamics of bullying, however, highlights that there are always three parties (at least) involved in a bullying situation. These three parties are the bullies, the victims, and the bystanders. The situation is complicated by the fact that bullies invariably see themselves as victims, and victims may or may not have insight into what is happening to them. You can’t go by what people say; you have to look at actions. Bystanders believe that by supporting bullies, by covert speech or careful silence, they will avoid being a target. In the short term, this is true. But the more effective bullying becomes, the more widespread and pervasive it becomes. Also, it is morally wrong not to care about the victims, just because they are not you.
The only way out of this morass is to move away from subjective feelings of persecution, subjective feelings like If you express disagreement with my belief system, I could kill myself or When I hear about men killing trans women, I feel like they must have been inspired by lesbian feminist witches or If I allow free discussion of ideas about gender, I am a poor trans ally and responsible for the murder of millions. We must stop validating feelings asserted without evidence or coherent analysis and look at specific behaviors. The behaviors that especially deserve scrutiny come under the heading of no-platforming.
No-platforming is a coercive set of tactics designed to silence an individual or group. It involves censorship, but censorship can be subtle or systemic while no-platforming is narrow and blatant. It utilizes strong-arm tactics promoted not by an authoritarian government but by a group of people. It is a more democratic way of shutting people up. The term apparently originated in the 1970’s in Britain, where it was at first narrower in execution and target (exclusively against fascists of the old-school variety). Like most social phenomena, the practice predates coinage of the term. Despite being purportedly progressive, groups that indulge in no-platforming tend to be white, college educated, and male-led.
Blacklisting is the most familiar no-platforming tactic. It was used during the McCarthy era by the US government and unofficial anti-communist groups to deny writers, actors, artists, and academics the opportunity to perform, exhibit, publish, or teach. It has been used in recent years to ban Dianic feminist Witch Z Budapest from venues for leading ritual and to try (unsuccessfully) to keep Australian feminist Sheila Jeffreys from publishing her book Gender Hurts. A closely related censorship tactic is that of the organized boycott, which can be a mode of consumer speech about things like unfair labor practices and environmental damage, but which can also be used to suppress speech. An example of this would be the boycott many groups have organized against performers and vendors at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival over the years. To (try to) force the Festival’s expression away from women-born-women experience, a T-shirt vendor was denied lgbt business as punishment for printing shirts with a Festival slogan, and musicians lost gigs as punishment. One group that had stopped playing at Michigan found their concert disrupted by trans activists who insisted they apologize for having ever played there. Destroying venue has become a standard tactic for censoring feminists. A trans woman activist employed at a women’s studies department and others led a campaign to harass a 2012 London feminist conference that resulted in the group losing meeting space. The tactic was successfully repeated the following year by Men’s Rights Activists, getting venue canceled at the last minute for another London feminist conference. These conferences were ostensibly censored because trans women and men were asked not to attend as part of the women-only policy, but the following year a radical feminist event was held in Portland Oregon that welcomed trans women and men, and trans activists convinced the Quaker group renting the meeting space to cancel the venue. These trans activists evidently felt that what they had not yet heard should not be spoken. Several months earlier, a Canadian feminist conference met in an alternate location after having its venue pulled, when a trans activists issued a threatening campaign that raised concerns for safety. Violence and threats of violence are a time honored way of enforcing censorship. The Internet is infamous for suppressing the speech of women, feminist or not, with death and rape threats. This form of censorship, usually anonymous and unorganized, is way too extensive to go into here, but one thing that should be noted is how the larger communities reinforce this censorship tactic by their response to it. When Ruth Barrett disclosed in 2013 that she was receiving threats, one of the few Pagan news sites that reported on this said it would be a terrible thing “if it were true,” implying that of course she was probably lying. Needless to say there was no investigation by that publication or any other into her allegations. It was enough to imply that a woman, particularly a feminist, particularly a lesbian, particularly a Dianic, might be lying. This type of reaction encourages violence and even censors a woman’s impulse to talk about what’s happening, lest it be implied she’s a liar.
Then there is the targeting of advertisers with boycotts to get articles suppressed from magazines, the manufacture and mindless re-blogging of incendiary untrue accusations that can be easily researched, and the deletion of WordPress blogs, Tumblr blogs, Facebook accounts, and Twitter accounts that have not violated any stated policies but which nevertheless offended some anti-feminist. You’ll have to take my word for it at this point or will be here all day – there are too many examples even to fill a large book. Obviously these strong-arm censorship tactics cannot be blamed solely on the Pagan community but are part of a wider anti-feminist culture, with trans women usually the purported beneficiaries. Trans women who speak out against these tactics are strongly criticized or even no-platformed themselves. Yet if Paganism is not the source of this brand of anti-feminism, it is surely a participant, and it has become, like Christianity and Islam, a tool for women’s oppression. If we cannot speak freely, women’s liberation cannot move forward, and we will surely move backward.
While of this outlining of what no-platforming is, it’s important to delineate what it isn’t to avoid confusion and misinterpretation. First and foremost, choosing to meet with others of your kind, while it is exclusionary by definition, is not necessarily no-platforming or even censorship. The reason feminists have protested the male-only country clubs is that most business and political deals (in the US at any rate) are conducted on the golf course, with offices only used for working out details. No company mergers or party nominations occur in women-only space, I can assure you: women don’t have that kind of power. The issue with women-only space is that quite often, for reasons having to do with male versus female socialization, women cannot speak freely and comfortably to other women if men are present. The same dynamic holds with trans women, even if they identified as girls while they were being treated as boys during their childhood. If you feel bad for not getting a chance to speak in a group that isn’t about you, you aren’t suffering from no-platforming: you’re suffering from an outsized sense of entitlement.
Name-calling, which no one really defends, is not the same as no-platforming. Hurt feelings are simply hurt feelings, and grown-ups don’t try to control others to defend their fragile egos. Demonstrations or protests are not a no-platform tactic, unless they disrupt an event with their aggressiveness to the point police need to intervene, as occurred when author Christine Benvenuto appeared at a bookstore to plug her memoir about her divorce from her transgender spouse. Starting a petition, even a petition you disagree with, is not censorship unless that petition is promoting censorship or contains errors of fact. Truthfully calling attention to someone’s lack of credentials, lack of competence, or unethical behavior may result in loss of platform but it is not no-platforming. Taking legal action against someone for no-platforming tactics, assuming the plaintiff has the facts straight, is not no-platforming. In fact, all of the no-platforming tactics I’ve enumerated are illegal in the United States. Every one of them. Some of them are difficult to prove or prosecute, and the role of social media has not been delineated by the courts, but the higher courts have taken an extremely dim view since the McCarthy era of tactics designed to suppress political speech.
Yes, but, what else can be done about this, since nobody likes the courts except on TV? We need to concretely, coherently, explicitly condemn no-platforming tactics. Every Pagan organization, tradition, school, conference, gathering, publisher, and news blog needs to issue a statement condemning the practice. It is long past time. Pagan conferences and gatherings need to extend invitations to controversial speakers and performers. Pagan news blogs need to do some real journalism and move out of he-said/she-said reporting by actually doing interviews and fact checking what people say. Facts have become offensive in the current political climate, but the more no-platforming tactics are catered to the more widespread they become. People keep using a tactic because it works for them.
Beware of gadflies: people who attract attention by spreading lies or pulling stunts to silence others. I’m not saying to no-platform the no-platformers, exactly, but don’t reward someone with a place in the debate solely because they tried to silence someone else. Most people build a media or activism platform through years of work; libel and censorship should not be rewarded as a short-cut.
Finally, don’t assume that anyone knows that you support a person who is being silenced if you don’t speak up. Comment on social media or on a blog, or send a private message if you are too afraid. You can say something simple like “I honor Ruth Barrett’s contribution to Witchcraft and feminism and like hearing what she has to say.” Supporting someone who is being targeted doesn’t mean you are seen by any sane person as endorsing everything they have said or done or might do. You don’t have to qualify it or justify it. Bullying is something you don’t have to go along with.
Imagine what it would be like if we could all speak our mind knowing that if people disagree they cannot retaliate with the implicit endorsement of other Pagans. Imagine what it would be like if feminists could get back to the work of helping women instead of fighting just to meet on our own terms and set our own agenda. Imagine what it would mean for people doing the thankless work of putting together conferences and gatherings to stop getting these demands to remove so-and-so from the program because somebody got offended over somebody else’s opinion. I wonder what these organizers thought when the trans ally mafia called last week warning them not to have Ruth Barrett on any program, in case they might be considering it. If Ruth does decide to sue, the subpoenas are going to start flying and every Pagan who has organized anything is going to get one. Lawyers are like that. Imagine our sordid lunatic Pagan communities under the spotlight for public scrutiny (and judgment). The media circus would make Z’s arrest for reading tarot cards look like a child’s birthday party. Even if this particular incident doesn’t end up in the courts, that is where things are heading, unless Witches and other Pagans put the brakes on this no-platform game and make it clear that the rest of us are NOT playing along. Even now, it may be too late.
Regarding last week’s call for contributions for the book program, here is more information:
“We anticipate the Nine-Day Solstice Celebration to be an event of joy, solidarity, and self-empowerment for us, Goddessians/Magoists and all in WE! Why the Solstice season? Celebrating the day of December Solstice would be a way of balancing ourselves, as human members of the terrestrial community including the moon, with the songs and dances of the cosmic community. Traditionally, Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere marks a new beginning of the year’s cycle for the earthly community in the North. We would take this seasonal mark as a symbol for us to recognize the oneness of the whole community, as our ancient ancestors did.”
Web page for the event is here. There will also be a program on meditation guides and possibly one about women artists.
Here is the tentative schedule:
Day 1 (Dec. 14): Opening by Mago Sisters and Mago Circle Members hosted by Helen Hwang, Trista Hendren, and/or Kaalii Cargill
Day 2 (Dec. 15): Mothers and Daughters hosted by Trista Lee Hendren Løberg
Day 3 (Dec. 16): 2015 Published Goddess/Female Divine Books hosted by Hearth Moon Rising
Day 4 (Dec. 17): Seeking Inner Voice of S/HE (Meditation Guides) hosted by Marie de Kock
Day 5 (Dec. 18): She Rises Contributors Speak hosted by Barbara Daughter
Day 6 (Dec. 19): Goddess Pilgrimages hosted by Kaalii Cargill
Day 7 (Dec. 20):
Day 8 (Dec. 21):
Day 9 (Dec. 22): The Collective Rising: Our Visions and Dreams for 2016 hosted by Trista Hendren, Kaalii Cargill, and/or Helen Hwang
More information and links for accessing the programs will appear closer to the event.
Venus is stationary and about to go direct, so maybe that’s why social media has been unusually crazy lately. Here’s my short take on it.
Easier to trash than to confront
Easy to assume bad motives
Easy to assume stupidity
Hard to trust that women have made choices based on experience and reflection
Don’t trust women don’t trust women trust women to have made decisions to harm you
Impossible to speak directly and then let go
Impossible to speak
Easy to trash.
Ruth Barrett’s keynote address at National Women’s Music Festival on July 4th in Madison, Wisconsin is worth a read. She talks about the relationship of women’s spirituality to the female body. She asks:
If you are not living inside your body, where are you living? And who has taken up residence inside you in your absence? Whose stories do you believe? And whose agenda does that serve? If you are divided from your body, you are divided against yourself. You are homeless in the most dire sense of the word.
This bibliography was posted this week at Return to Mago
“I have compiled a list of six well-sourced books written by women that I believe will help Witches, Pagans, and Goddessians in their quest to understand ancient Egyptian thought….”
Patriarchy is the control of women and the ownership of children through institutionalized marriage and fatherhood. That’s what it is, on it’s most fundamental level. Seeking legal status of a romantic partnership, with its privileges and obligations, means being an active participant in patriarchy.
Legal guardianship of a child by a man is also patriarchy. Except under very unusual circumstances, when a mother is unable to care for her child, legal responsibility for a child should remain with the biological mother. We need to get away from the concept of parenthood as ownership and children as property. Being a parent means investing time, energy, and money into a child. It is not a set of rights, and it doesn’t come with guarantees. An adult who is not the biological mother of a child should not have legal guardianship except under extreme circumstances. Legal guardianship of a child by a non-biological mother is patriarchal, by definition.
We need to get away from the concept that certain things that we want, including parenthood, should be ours simply because we want them badly. We also need to recognize that in nearly all cases the best person to care for a child and make decisions on their behalf is the child’s biological mother. No mother is perfect, and some mothers do make poor decisions, but that does not justify the control of mothers and children through the institution of fatherhood. That is patriarchy.
When a gay man or a lesbian marries under the law, as opposed to simply cohabitating or making private commitments, they are extending a patriarchal institution beyond biological sex. When a gay man adopts a child who has a mother, or a lesbian adopts the biological child of her partner, they are extending a patriarchal institution beyond biological sex. Gay marriage and gay adoption are patriarchal, regardless of sex and regardless of what the couple wants.
I am not condemning anyone, gay or straight, male or female, for marrying or for asserting legal rights regarding children they love. We all collude to some extent with patriarchy, because we cannot live outside of it. But it is important to recognize when we are colluding and when we are resisting, and it is even more important that we do not label our collusion resistance. Gay marriage and gay adoption, like fatherhood and heterosexual marriage, furthers patriarchy.
We’ve all seen the charts that advocates for marriage equality have drawn showing all the legal rights married people have that single people don’t. Why shouldn’t gay couples, like straight couples, have access to those privileges that singles, gay and straight, can’t have?
And if heterosexual women are subjected to social, economic, and legal pressures to marry, why should lesbians have a get-out-of-jail-free card? Shouldn’t they be subject to those same pressures for (on average) fewer economic benefits?
And inheritance laws are a huge factor here. If capitalistic greed is fueled in large part by a desire to create a dynasty, shouldn’t gay men be given an incentive to strive for their progeny?
And if married gay couples, like infertile heterosexual couples, have begun exploiting Third World women through surrogate pregnancy, isn’t that a small price to pay for equal access to a heterosexual institution designed to cement property rights and enslave women?
I mean, how could I be against such equality? I’m all for “gay marriage.”
Now ask me what I think about marriage.
The Renaissance brought a rebellion against the knowledge-strangling restrictions imposed by Christian dogma and scholasticism. This was the time when Western Europe rediscovered Greek philosophy and free thinkers such as Galileo became emboldened to seek empirical knowledge. It was rediscovery of higher math, more than anything, which made the Renaissance possible. Interestingly, it was in art that the value of mathematical rediscoveries first became apparent, as painters reveled in a newfound ability to convey perspective.
In science Renaissance thinkers did not reject God (as far as we know; atheism was not a safe or respectable position to espouse), but they did reject the notion that individual received knowledge – whether from Church leaders or Aristotle – was immune to scrutiny. As the Age of Enlightenment progressed, rejection of the inviolability of scripture, then rejection of God and religion, became the norm. At the same time, many Christian prejudices remained unexamined. Astrology, psychic activity, magic, and many of the healing arts continued to be shunned by the new high priests. Empiricism was reaffirmed, but only in designated areas and only when dominated by men.
A physicist friend of mine once told me, as I tried to explain the aura to him, that the problem with adherents of metaphysics is that they try to use science in their explanations when they should avoid scientific language altogether, because science and metaphysics are two different things. He laid out his ideas in that imperious I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong voice (acquired already, at such a young age) that so terrifies women from pursuing the hard sciences. I tried to follow his advice for years, but I now believe that by putting a firewall between science and the occult what we have is bad science and bad magic, including flaws in the predictive sciences.
The study of numeric symbology, indispensable to the study of predictive signs, occasionally wanders into territory claimed by the high priests of math and science. Because we have been banished from mathematical frontiers for so long, we will doubtless make mistakes at times, which will be pounced upon with reprobation by those eager to see us fail. But the godless Christians of the modern era cannot defend their boundaries indefinitely against the heathen hordes. Math is Pagan. Numbers originate in the womb. Priestesses hold the keys to understanding the laws of the universe.
This is actually going to be a five, not a four, part series.
The most fertile and revolutionary place for math and science in the West was the city of Alexandria in the first centuries of the Common Era. This is where the demanding theoretical philosophy of the Greeks met the more practically minded math of the Egyptians. Scholars took the leap into theorems based on what would become the discipline of algebra, trusting in what had validity in solving problems in the real world. People enjoy the Fran Lebowitz joke that children are right to sleep through algebra because “In the real world, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra,” but constructs are necessary for us to understand much of the real world.
Alexandria meant the breakdown of limitations imposed by Greek philosophy. The erasure of lines between pure and practical mathematics, pure and practical science, allowed both areas to flourish. Knowledge is furthered most by collaboration between cultures. Scholars who came together at Alexandria did, however, share a motivation to become closer to the gods through their understanding of math and science. With the tolerance characteristic of polytheistic religions, they were not bothered by the fact that they worshiped different gods, or they saw themselves as worshiping the same gods despite differences in ritual and mythology. By the end of the fourth century, scholars were probably on the cusp of discovering how the earth travels around the sun, an idea that had been proposed many centuries earlier yet had been rejected, despite its attractive simplicity, due to gaps in knowledge.
And then the Christians came. The destruction of the Library of Alexandria, the murder of the scholar Hypatia, and other atrocities against learning were a systematic attempt, ultimately unsuccessful, to destroy “heathen knowledge.” Science and mathematical philosophy were seen as pagan disciplines. The “heathen temples” which the Christians were so bent on eradicating were centers of education much like the monasteries of the Middle Ages, except the pagan temples were not constrained to make knowledge fit a highly developed dogma as the monasteries were.
Learned refugees from Alexandria escaped to the coast of Anatolia. Mathematical scholarship resumed in the Arab world, continued along the Indus River, and was tolerated to some degree by the Eastern Orthodox Church, but religious and political barriers discouraged widespread cultural exchange.