Friday, August 26, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different: A Rant About Humanity (or the Lack Thereof)

Dear stockholders, stock speculators, news channels, etc.,

As most of you, if not all of you, are probably aware, Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple. As most of you, if not all of you, are also probably aware, he has had a SLEW of health problems which are the most likely reason for his stepping down from Apple. Based on his medical history, which includes pancreatic cancer and an extensive medical leave (since January), it's pretty safe to say that he's probably very, very sick. You've referenced this yourselves in your broadcasts and whatnot. To speculate how the company will survive without him I can almost understand; he's basically the cornerstone of the entire corporation. He was there from its conception up until he physically could not handle the job anymore, and he said so himself that this was exactly how it was going to be. However, to speculate about how much money he is costing the company by resigning (and, in a few places, insinuating how much money he might cost the company once he passes) is inappropriate. It's beyond tasteless. Especially considering the reasons he's had to step down.

Seriously, let him spend whatever time he has left in peace and quiet, and let him get cold before you start speculating about how much money he's costing Apple.

No love,

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Goddess and What She Has to Do With Feminism

[TW for misogyny, patriarchy, erasure of identity]

As many people are well aware of, I am an out and proud Pagan as well as a feminist. These two paths, while seemingly unrelated on first glance, actually have quite a bit to do with one another. When I was first starting out on the Pagan path, part of what drew me to it was the fact that there was a Divine Feminine as well as a Divine Masculine (which in the mainstream religions is all that there is). I wasn't yet consciously a feminist, but even as a child, the idea of being represented by an omniscient, omnipresent, all-controlling male deity didn't sit well with me. I often found myself asking myself (and anyone around me who would listen) why it was that if we were all supposedly created in God's image, then how could it be possible that there was only a male deity? There would have to be a female deity as well, because clearly women exist! As I learned more and more about Paganism, I became intimately acquainted with the triple goddess, this ultimate representation of all things feminine, and all seemed right with the world.

And then I became a feminist.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Paganism and/or the triple Goddess concept, the basic gist of it is that there is one female deity with three different forms: Maiden, Mother and Crone (think of this as the Pagan version of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit). The Maiden personifies youth, purity, innocence, etc., the Mother personifies fertility, sexuality, the cycle of creation, etc., and the Crone personifies wisdom, endings and death. The triple Goddess in all her forms is also represented as being nurturing, caring, passive: all qualities that are traditionally identified as feminine. When I first started out on the Pagan path, I had no qualms about or issues with the triple Goddess, but as I got more involved with feminism, I realized just how restrictive this concept of the Goddess can be, especially considering that most Wiccans and Pagans look to the Goddess as a representation of all women.

The fact that the Goddess is given the traditionally feminine qualities that supposedly "belong" to all women helps perpetuate the stereotype that this is how all women are "supposed" to be; I mean, if the Divine Feminine is just that, feminine, then shouldn't all women emulate that femininity? Shouldn't all women seek to be nurturing, passive, dainty, etc.? It is also pretty observable that most, if not all, artistic portrayals of the Goddess are devoted to conventionally beautiful women; even the Crone aspect of the Goddess is often simply the Mother archetype with silver hair and maybe some crow's feet around her eyes. I have yet to see an artistic portrayal of the Goddess that features a woman who might not be considered conventionally beautiful; a Mother with a pear-shaped figure rather than an hourglass, a Crone with sagging arms and cellulite and varicose veins on her legs, a Maiden with what amounts to an explosion of acne covering her face. According to the popular Pagan song, "We all come from the Goddess," and yet from what I've seen of the portrayals of her, apparently only conventionally beautiful women come from the Goddess; the rest of us are fucked.

Ultimately, the triple Goddess concept restricts a woman's life cycle to three roles; innocent youth, fertile adult and old woman. Obviously, most of us will fit into these three roles at one point or another in our lives, but women are so much more than just youth, fertility and age rolled into one body. We are artists, dancers, students, teachers, academics, lovers, thinkers, creators, doers, actors, therapists, warriors, champions, destroyers, healers, deconstructers, lushes, partiers. We are all of that and more, and we simply cannot fit every single woman, every single aspect of our womanhood, into only three roles. Many people have tried, of course; for example, any act of creativity, of personal fulfillment, is often neatly filed under the Mother category. Any goddess of fertility or creativity is filed under the Mother category and left there. The logic is that motherhood doesn't necessarily mean giving birth to a child and raising it (e.g. you could "mother" a pet or someone else's children) and that fertility doesn't just apply to the creation of new life; it also applies to the creation of everything else.

I agree with this, to a point. While I agree with the sentiment that nurturing and fertility should not be restricted to the act of procreation, I also don't feel that these other acts of creation should simply be filed under the role of Mother and forgotten. In my opinion, it oversimplifies the varying goddesses of the different pantheons, as well as each and every act of creation and fulfillment, and forces women to embrace the role of Mother, regardless of whether or not she agrees with that role. It also erases transgendered women in that physical fertility, while often argued as not being the be all and end all of the Mother aspect, is often touted as the ultimate sign of embodying that aspect of the Goddess. Evidence comes in the form of the fact that, despite many people's insistence that fertility is not cemented to procreation when it comes to the Goddess, I have never seen a depiction of the Mother archetype where she was anything other than heavily pregnant. I have never seen a version of the Mother archetype in which she was taking care of animals, painting a picture, writing a thesis, etc. In other words, the archetype of the pregnant Mother overshadows and erases the copious other roles that women fill each and every day, and for the women who do not feel comfortable identifying with the Mother aspect, they are forced to either identify with the Maiden aspect or the Crone aspect, which many women also do not identify with. For example, at this point in my life, I would technically fall under the Mother aspect of the triple Goddess, but that is not a role I identify with. I would identify more with a Goddess of academia...perhaps Athena? Or a Goddess of kicking ass...Sekhmet or Artemis, maybe? Try filing Kali the Destroyer under one of those three aspects and see what happens!

Once upon a time, I belonged to a Pagan forum where I was told by a fellow Pagan woman that I would never truly know the love of the Goddess because I had not had children of my own nor planned on having any. She then went on to say that I would die alone and unhappy, so I really didn't put much stock into the rest of what she had said either, but she did help to demonstrate how some Pagan women, many of whom come to Paganism as a middle-finger to the patriarchy and who would normally never adhere to the patriarchal demand that all women must become mothers, will readily follow and perpetuate that exact same stereotype as long as it's packaged neatly in a female/Goddess figure. It's much easier to recognize sexist tropes when they come from a recognizable source, but when that same stereotype enters into your belief system, one that you believe is an affront to the horribly sexist system you left behind, it's much harder to identify.

Honestly, in my opinion, the concept of the triple Goddess is vastly outdated. Obviously not every Pagan will agree with me on this, and I don't expect them to, nor do I demand that they do; the beauty of Paganism is that you have the freedom to believe whatever fulfills your spiritual needs. It is simply my personal belief that there are just too many differences between women (and men) for there to be one deity (even one with three aspects) to cover them all. Does this mean I look down upon mothers? Not in the least. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for a woman who wanted me desperately. Does this mean I look down upon the triple Goddess? Not in the least. Just because my understanding of the triple Goddess goes one way doesn't mean I hold a grudge against her. Does this mean I look down upon women who will continue to honor the triple Goddess in their Pagan practice? Not in the least. Just because my personal understanding of the triple Goddess goes one way doesn't mean that every woman on the planet is going to understand her in the same way, nor would I expect them to do so. Every woman's experience on this planet is going to be different, ergo their understandings of divinity and Paganism in general are going to be different as well. I simply believe that we should honor all forms of the Goddess, the warrior Goddesses and the academic Goddesses and the artistic Goddesses, etc., on equal footing with the mother Goddesses.

My personal vision of the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine is that they are created from the collective unconscious of every single woman and man (cisgender and transgender) on the planet. In my vision, the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine do not encompass women and men, respectively; they encompass whoever feels drawn to them. In other words, an effeminate man who identifies more with the Divine Feminine is just as much a part of the Divine Feminine as any woman could be, and a masculine woman who identifies more with the Divine Masculine is just as much a part of the Divine Masculine as any man could be. A genderqueer person with no specific gender identity is welcome in both the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine without question, while a person who identifies with both genders is accepted just as readily. In my mind, the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine are comparable to those ripples of oil that you sometimes see in puddles. With every drop of rain that hits those puddles, with every footfall, that oil swirls and changes; so, too, do the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine, and with each person that makes hir way into existence, they change ever-so-slightly in order to meet the needs of the people seeking them out.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Welcome to Rape Culture

[TW for rape culture, rape apologia, victim-blaming, patriarchy]

It's absolutely amazing [read: terrifying] to me how hard people will fight to keep the rape culture running. How vehemently people will argue that the rape culture doesn't exist. How passionately people will argue that okay, maybe the rape culture does exist, but aren't we taking this just a little too far? How difficult it is for people to realize why rape prevention programs that place the burden of preventing the crime on the victim instead of the criminal help perpetuate the rape culture. How hard people will argue that yeah, we should teach men not to rape, but we don't live in a perfect world, so we should also teach women how not to be raped, and not realize how that idea also helps perpetuate the rape culture.  

The rape culture has everything to do with the patriarchy and with women being given second class status to men. Men are never told what to wear, where to go and at what times of day it would be appropriate for them to be there, how much to drink (if at all), who to go home with, how many people it's acceptable or not acceptable for them to sleep with, etc. This burden is always placed on women. When you tell a woman she's not allowed to wear certain clothing, that she's not allowed to go out to certain places at certain times, that she's not allowed to drink a lot (or at all), who she's allowed to go home with and how many people she's allowed to sleep with, etc., not only do you implicitly blame her for any crimes that might be committed against her, you take away her agency. You take away her right to make decisions about her own life. This is directly related to the patriarchal idea that women are meant to be controlled, that we cannot (and should not) be allowed to have our own autonomous lives. We are instead meant to live in total fear and submission, and this is where the whole "here's how not to get raped" thing connects to the problem. 

The problem with teaching women how to avoid getting raped is that if they do get raped, the implication is that they didn't listen to the people telling them how not to get raped and that is blaming the victim, no matter how you slice it. There are people who argue that even when teaching men not to rape that some people are going to fall through the cracks, so women should be taught how not to be raped, as well. People are going to fall through the cracks, yes, that is an unfortunate fact of life, but rapists are the only ones who should have to be told anything concerning the prevention of rape. A woman should be able to walk down the street in the shittiest fucking neighborhood fucking NAKED and DRUNK OUT OF HER MIND and expect not to be raped. She should be able to go to the police and expect that they won't put her on trial for her own assault. She should be able to do, dress, talk, act however she pleases and expect not to be raped. Telling women "this is how you avoid getting raped" in this society, a society that condones, normalizes and, dare I say it, encourages rape, is equivalent to saying "if you don't follow these rules, then you deserve what you get." 

No, we don't live in a perfect world. We live in a world where if a woman is raped, she is guilty until proven innocent and the rapist innocent until proven guilty. We live in a world where her rapist will often never go to trial because either the victim knows how her case will be treated by a court of law and doesn't bother to report the rape because she knows how it will end up, or her rapist is acquitted. We live in a world where rape victims are put on trial by the very people who are supposed to be helping them, where questions that amount to "What did you do to make this happen to you" are ok to ask the victim. No matter how much women do to "prevent rape," it is never enough. If you dressed modestly, you were out too late. If you went home early, you were dressed like a slut. If you were home early and dressed modestly, then you drank too much (or at all). If you were sober and home early and dressed modestly, then you simply gave off all the wrong signals and didn't say "no" loudly enough.

So really, all the ways we're supposed to keep ourselves "safe," in the end, don't really matter at all. It's just a list of things that help rape apologists blame the victims instead of the criminals, and as a result, the victims wind up defending themselves while the rapists walk free.

And that, my friends, is the rape culture in a nutshell.