Category Archives: Feminism
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.
It is important for Pagan and Goddess groups to become more aware of and responsive to the ways Lesbians are alienated and marginalized within the spiritual community. Lesbian erasure is rampant in literature, organizations, and events that purport to be “LGBT friendly.” In fact, sometimes acknowledging or making an outreach to the “LGBT” ends up directly alienating lesbians, making enemies where there were none before.
Erasure is different from inclusion. When there is lack of inclusion of a minority group, they are simply not there. Lack of inclusion may be a problem or it may not be, since every group does not purport to serve everyone. Erasure means that a significant number of people are participating in a group at a high level, but everyone pretends they’re not there. Erasure of women is a problem in virtually any group that is not women only. Erasure of lesbians can be a problem even in women only groups.
It’s important for straight women to know that having a gay male friend you would do anything for does not mean lesbians will assume that you are on their side. Many straight women have gay male friends while maintaining distance from women they describe as “unfeminine,” “angry,” “too radical,” or some other adjective which is really an oblique way of saying “lesbian.” Maintaining that “of course I can’t be homophobic against lesbians, I have these great gay male friends” is naïve at best and offensive at worst.By the same token, expressing support for “LGBT” organizations (or sometimes even using the initials LGBT) will not win you automatic friends in the Lesbian community. Gay organizations often do not understand or prioritize the concerns of lesbians, advocating for lesbians only when an issue occurs which also affects gay men (and sometimes not even then). This has been a problem since the beginning of the gay rights movement. Exacerbating the problem today is the tendency of well established advocacy organizations to begin working in tandem. These organizations are started by sincere individuals with a high level of commitment, but once established they tend to attract individuals seeking ego gratification from association with an organization of high repute. These individuals will see other executives in other high profile organizations as their core constituency, making policy decisions that reflect loyalty to this constituency. Lesbians quite often do not perceive LGBT organizations as working in their interest, and in the last 5 to 10 years this has gotten much worse, with many lesbians now saying that the LGBT lobbies directly against their interests.
What does this mean for spiritual groups that are not expressly LGBT? It means don’t point to a policy statement or endorsement from an LGBT group and expect it to hold favor with lesbians – or worse, invalidate what a lesbian has to say by pointing to an LGBT advocacy group. If anything, invoking the LGBT makes you look tone deaf and out of touch. The initials LGBT, much used by advocacy groups and in the media, do not mean that the people these initials represent have a great deal in common. There are even some under each of these letters who say this alliance needs to break up. So writing a few lines about transgender women in a book about Goddess spirituality will not be seen as acknowledging the significant participation of lesbians in this area. Giving an award to a gay man will not be seen as bestowing recognition on lesbians.
It would behoove straight women to listen more to lesbians and seek lesbian opinions on “LGBT” issues. Don’t assume that the left media on the internet is doing this. Listen to lesbians talk about their spirituality and their relationship with the Goddess and what they seek in spiritual community. Above all, acknowledge lesbians are in the Pagan/Goddess/feminist communities in significant numbers. And that we want them here.
So Lisa Vogel announced this week that this year’s Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival will be the last. Vogel has been telegraphing her desire to see the Festival energy evolve into something new for a few years now, and this announcement has been long anticipated. In some ways it’s a relief, like the other shoe dropping.
Michfest has been ground zero throughout most of the current millennia in the left wing’s attack on women’s rights, which looks different than the attack coming from the right. At issue is whether women may set their own intentions and personal boundaries, or whether these should be subject to a sign-off from men on the left. Although Vogel is entirely within her legal right to set the parameters of the Festival, there have been persistent efforts to change those parameters. At times these efforts have turned ugly, such as the appropriation of African-American segregation experience to shame compliance with the agenda of people in far different circumstances. At times these efforts have veered into illegal actions, such as blacklisting performers and vendors, which became illegal in the United States in the aftermath of McCarthyism. Usually these efforts have focused on the court of public opinion, using rhetorical points real, fabricated, and irrelevant to convince women and men who know little about Michfest that its supporters are ill-informed bigots who just don’t understand why they should be focusing on “womyn” as self-identity rather than biology, and that the human rights of trans women hinge on whether they are welcomed at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.
Michfest was started in the context of the Womyn’s music industry, which was a response to the fact that women were shut out of the music industry as a whole or else forced to sexualize their music and presentation for male consumption. The idea was to promote music by women for a female audience as an alternative. This meant that festivals showcasing these women performers would, in most cases, be for women only. Organizers did not want to cater ticket sales to a male audience and hence be dependent on male approval for financial survival.
Over the past ten years Vogel has been nicely asked and rudely demanded to shift the target demographic of the Festival. She (and Michfest core supporters) have said no and no and no and no. The ways trans women’s and biological women’s interests dovetail and conflict are interesting but in this context not particularly relevant. The organizers considered the pros and cons and said no. Nowhere is the old adage that “when a man says no it’s the end of discussion but when a woman says no it’s the start of a negotiation” more clearly exemplified than with the Michfest controversy.
A few years ago Vogel admitted publicly what regular Festival goers already knew: the integrity of biological womyn-only space at Michfest had been compromised and trans women regularly attended the Festival. She emphasized that the Festival would continue to be directed toward non-trans women and asked trans women to respect this intention. You would think that would have diffused the issue, but instead it became intensified. The pressure mounted to “change the intention.” Women not only had to submit to their boundaries being violated, their arms were being twisted so they would declare that the violators were welcome.
Predictably, some of the more vocal transgender activists are crowing about the imminent demise of Michfest, calling it a vindication of their political tactics. Some who support the Michfest intention are also blaming transactivists for this development. I’m not so sure they deserve credit. Vogel’s announcement comes at the fortieth anniversary of the Festival, and forty years is a long time to do something. I would wager the constant irritant of the LGBT forces inveighing against the evils of The Intention was a factor, but most people would like to retire after forty years of doing the same thing. When I was at Michfest in 1985 no one could believe the Festival had lasted ten years. Ten years! Women kept repeating this because they couldn’t believe that a scruffy camp-in-the-woods music festival could hang in so long, let alone an all-women’s festival celebrating lesbian culture.
Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is a lot like parachute jumping: you either say “That was fabulous; I’m so glad I did that” or you say “That was fabulous; I have to do that again.” I belong to the first camp. Yet even though I’ve never been back to Michigan, I can’t believe that pulling a ripcord could have such a positive effect on my life as that week. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without biological women’s space, and I feel so sorry for the millennial genderation of women who have not had the opportunity to experience this freedom.
The question on many women’s minds is what the conclusion of Michfest means for women-only spaces. The Festival has been taking it on the chin for other women’s gatherings that exclude trans women, and the apprehension has been that if Michigan caved the focus of “inclusion,” as they call this tyranny, would continue to shift until all biological women’s space was destroyed entirely. But Michigan hasn’t exactly caved, and more and more women are getting tired of abuse from the left. Hopefully the opponents of women’s rights of association will just declare victory and go home. I give them that. They can smirk and dance on the grave of the Festival all they want, but that isn’t going to stop women from defining their space and defending their boundaries. That fire has already been set. I think of women-defined space as one of those brush fires that get below the topsoil and spread into unpredictable places. Stamp out the flames one place and they only flare some distance away. They cannot identify or redefine or dialogue or include us into submission. At this point, failure really is impossible.