Pagan and the Pit(bull)

The adventures and musings of a Pagan and her dog.


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Dancing with Safety

Recently, a festival I attend banned a man. I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised by this to be honest. The man in question did have a problem with boundaries (as in he didn’t acknowledge them) and had a particular skill for avoiding detection for many years. I, personally, can attest to his ability to be creeptacular and after my first less than pleasant run in with him, have done my best to never be alone with him. I’m very glad that the festival organizers are standing up to this and saying that it is in no way acceptable to behave the way he did.circle dance

On the other hand, exposing this man’s behavior and his banishment has brought out a bit of semi-hidden ugliness. People in respected positions of power have vehemently jumped to his defense, causing a slightly public kerfuffle. While this in itself is troubling, that’s not want really what I want to talk about. The festival organizers are in a better place than I am to appropriately respond to public criticisms. I am more concerned with a lower level of negative response.

When it was brought to our attention that this man had been banned, some men had a (to me) very curious response. They became concerned that they might be similarly be put on a list of banished people or that they might get in trouble as well. As our conversation progressed, I gathered two main points that this group of men were upset about. The first was that they might be accused of inappropriate behavior and that second would lead to them being banned.

To me this says three things:

  1. These men understand that they might have, or actually have, done something inappropriate to a woman at some point.

As much as the motto “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” has its problems, in this case it’s a little bit true. I have not killed someone, therefore I don’t have to be afraid of prison or the death penalty. I have never ignored personal boundaries of another at a festival, therefore I have no reason to be afraid of being banned for that reason (I will however be the first to admit that I have behaved badly in other ways). Festival organizers of the past have made it very clear that ongoing, affirmative, and enthusiastic consent is highly encouraged. They have hosted workshops, posted fliers and signs, and made sure that attendees try to look out for each other. This standard is by no means a new trend. If these men are concerned that they might be punished it says to me that they know they have done something that crosses a boundary.

  1. These men are afraid that those in a position of power might not believe them or their stories.

Snarky feminist says: Wow, how shocking! You don’t trust the rules, organizers, and leaders to protect you if you are innocent or telling the truth? You don’t say! Tell me all about how difficult this is for you. Admittedly, that was a bit nastier than what I originally wrote, but I really needed to get that out of my system. False accusations of anything involving sex are rare, strike that. Accusations of anything involving sex are rare, period. This is because women are often afraid that for whatever reason they won’t be believed. Often women don’t trust those in charge, for good reason—between anecdata, documented responses of organizers, police, and even judges, and horror stories we’ve been given no good reason to trust people in power with our stories, our terror, or our trauma. In this particular case, these men are afraid of the people in power and I’m finding it very difficult to muster sympathy for them. But I will say this, the festival organizers aren’t on a witch hunt. They are very fair, banishment from the event is an extreme response for only the extreme cases. If you do something inappropriate and it is reported, they’ll talk to you, possibly keep an eye on you for a little while, but you’ll still be able to attend and enjoy yourself.

  1. These men believe that their right to not monitor their behavior and to act as they wish comes before the right of women to feel safe at a festival.

This. This statement. Everyone wants to have fun at a festival. Everyone wants to be safe at a festival. It is very possible to do both. Being aware of boundaries, listening to your partner in the moment, asking if you aren’t sure. These are things that are easily done and make the festival safe and enjoyable for everyone. There are many ways to communicate consent in a sexy, fun manner. “I want to *insert act here*” “Like that?” “Want more?” These can all be said in a fun, sexy, teasing way, and still make it clear that you are asking for permission; and that guideline isn’t just for the men, it’s for women too. Does this mean that these men will have to change their behavior? Yes. Will it be easy? Probably not. But it’s worth it. If everyone feels safe, everyone can have more fun. More women will come to the drum circle and dance if they feel safe. Women will be freer and more relaxed if they feel safe. Women will be more inclined to participate in the sexy times IF THEY FEEL SAFE. If these men want to have more of the fun sexy times with women at a festival they need to be part of creating an environment that is safe.

Women move through a male dominated space every day. Sometimes it’s not safe. Sometimes it’s terrifying. Paganism is a religion that venerates the Goddess next to the God. This means that women need, not only to be treated equally, but also to feel safe in those spaces. If women feel safe, they will join in more.


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Yemaya says cut your crap

A lot of the information I have about this is either second hand, or from first hand accounts. I have never been to a Pantheacon (it’s totally on my bucket list) and I didn’t contribute to the discussion about the statement from Covenant of the Goddess (while my coven is a member of CoG, I’ve got other things on my plate currently). Shine_Bomba for Yemaya

For those not in the know, in December CoG issued one of the blandest non-statement statements. Black lives didn’t matter, all lives did. And while true, in theory all lives should matter; the fact is that some lives are held as more valuable than others. To not acknowledge that is insensitive and ignorant at best. Understandably, many people were upset about this and it sparked a lot of conversations. Some Pagans of color left CoG, something I can’t blame them for in the slightest. At last check CoG seemed unresolved about the issue and I’m fairly certain when (if) it ever is, it will be too late and CoG will be marked as an irrelevant has been.

Fast forward to Pantheacon. For as long as I’ve been aware of, and paid attention to, the goings on of the national Pagan community it seems like Pantheacon has been a big thing. Not only is it actually a huge thing, it also seems to rip the band off of some of the darker pockets of ick. See the transwomen and gender debate of 2012. This year it race. A satirical workshop description was put out “Ignoring Racism: A Workshop for White Pagans”. It caused a bit of a kerfuffle as I understand it.

Here is where I weigh in. Pagans, particularly polytheistic Pagans, are aware of the diversity of gods and goddesses out there. Amateratsu, Yemaya, Lakshmi, Kali are all very popular goddess of color (for lack of a better word), and often find their way into eclectic circles. But if those goddesses have a place in your circle, your altar, your magickal practice, then you cannot ignore where they came from, your woven connection to them, or to the people who look like them. To worship Yemaya, but to completely ignore the fact that black people face a horrifying set of challenges in the world is not only anathema to me, but to my mind highly racist. It implies that the lives of people of color, that black lives are only of value when attached to Divinity.

So, CoG, you could use some changing and a healthy dose of the real world.

But, Pantheacon don’t ever change. Keep exposing the nastier sides of our community that we can keep learning and growing into a better and more supportive group.


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Doing Unto Others

bible

At the beginning of every semester, some Christian organization or other comes to campus and hands out Bibles. Which is less than stellar, because not only do I NOT want to take my hands out of my pockets in this weather; I also don’t want the Bible. To be honest, not a lot of people do. For the remainder of this week there will be Roving Bibles—miniature Bibles that someone accepted but didn’t want, and left in a class. These Roving Bibles will never actually leave the lecture hall until the custodial staff arrive, but they will move from desk to desk like forlorn dogs looking for a home. The Roving Bibles really cause a bit of a gut wrench reaction. Theoretically, I understand that it is a crucial part of the Christian religion to save the heathen and spread the word of their god. However, it is exceptionally disrespectful. Especially since everyone on a college campus is above age, and at that point able to choose what they believe.

Just this month, the school district of Orange County in Florida decided that religious organizations aren’t allowed to hand out pamphlets and such. For those not in the know, Orange County allowed for the distribution of religious materials at schools. World Changers of Florida started handing out Bibles. Then the atheists wanted to distribute their tracts, and then the Satanists came along with their delightful coloring books. And the school district flipped a table, and voted to not allow it.

I understand that it is fundamental part of the Christian religion to spread the word of their god to the heathen and try to convert them. That it is sometimes considered a form of love. But it also is a form of disrespect. When Christians attempt to convert people in their teens and twenties, it shows a blatant disrespect for their decision making ability. But what Christians seem to ignore is that if people wanted to convert, they would. Christianity is the most common religion in the United States, and there is an absolute proliferation of their religious materials. We don’t need more trees cut down to make more mini-Bibles. Sometimes I don’t think Christians realize that there are other religions out there, and that they don’t want to put more Roving Bibles in the recycling bin.

I think that’s why I’m so happy about the Orange County conclusion. I know Christians, particularly in the US, who are very confused by the idea of practitioners of other religions. Theoretically they know that other religions exist, but they find it difficult to reconcile that with the fact that very few people they know believe differently. I don’t think that Christians deliberately ignore the other religions, just that they don’t think it through.

The Satanic Temple and their coloring book are the best example of things not being thought through. Doing unto others becomes more complicated when you get treated the same way. Here’s to hoping that some are capable of seeing that handing out materials isn’t the best way to show love.


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This Weeks Food for Thought

Just so we are all on the same page: I’m not on top of things. It’s the beginning of the holiday season (a time I have issues with anyway), finals and final projects are coming up, I’m mega behind on several side projects, and registration for next semesters classes tend to give me a week of nightmares and panic attacks. So, super sorry for the late update. I swear, I do have thoughtful and relevant posts coming—there is one on why we should give libations to Ares during the holidays, and one about a charge of Hecate and why I think it works. But right now, this is a going to be a little bit more “stream of consciousness” than anything else, so we’ll see where this ends up.

When I first started writing this post, it was on Thursday and there was a craft fair at my university. Normally, I’m a anti-holiday creep—because Thanksgiving is its own holiday and deserves respect; and nothing gets my goat like hearing ads for the Nutcracker on Labor Day and seeing Christmas decorations the day after Samhain. Just sayin’. But this time I was more ok with the annual craft fair happening before Thanksgiving, the academic calendar is a little fucked up wonky this fall, and there were at least 5 Pagan vendors there (possibly 6, but I’m not sure if that woman is Pagan or just one of the New Age-y people who show up all the time to festivals and smoke tons of pot).

Which meant I went around taking pictures of all of their wonderful things (and getting a free neck rub score!) to post on the Facebook page of the university’s Pagan student group. Somewhere between “thank every single god for caffeine and the local coffee shop” and “holy jesus look at that Minion hat, I need it” I thought about what being a community means. During my lunch breaks, I’m normally not a deep thinker; I just want to sit down with some mind numbing fiction and eat in peace and quiet. But this was my exception.

Because community is more than just the people you go to ritual with, drink and dance with at festivals, eat with, laugh and cry with. It’s the small things that tie us all together. It’s knowing the stories of the local vendors (one has a son who is the most adorable boy I’ve ever met) and supporting them through the hard ones (one vendor was robbed while he was at a festival, so his stock is super limited). It’s posting their businesses on a Facebook page, because that’s how they need support right now and as a community it’s up to us to support them sustainably how they need (and within our means, don’t be going out to spend money you don’t have). We weave our own community tapestry, but we don’t weave it in grand sweeping patterns and bold colors. We weave in single threads and touches. These singles threads, these small contacts are what build us up and hold us together.

Which makes this post somehow better than I thought it was going to be, minus the overabundance of commas and parenthesis, because it reached a point. It also meets it’s criteria of being a post for this week, so I’m going to leave it here and then tackle my load of homework. I might cry into my wine while I do it, but it will actually get done.