This is part 2 of my stroll through the field of landmines, emphasizing ideas about community, inclusion and exclusion.
As I mentioned in my last post, Z. Budapest has been a strong feminist and Dianic voice in the pagan community since longer than I have been alive. She has never made any bones about her position on gender, sexuality or patriarchy. So the fact that she would conduct a ritual for what she termed “genetic” women was not a surprise.
Does she have a right to hold such a ritual? You betcha.
One of the core American values that we all grow up with is that the values and rights of the individual are more important than the family or the region or the nation-state. That’s why Catholic women in America use birth control, why Occupy Wall Street and Denver and Atlanta and San Francisco and all the other Occupy movements started in the first place and why Americans own more guns than there are gas stations. We are all invested in and protective of our right to do what we damn well please.
Z. Budapest wanted to have a ritual just for “genetic” women. So she did. Other people decided to protest. So they did.
Michfest excludes transwomen every year. Every year, some of those transwomen protest.
Private groups do private rituals all the time that exclude others. Most pagan groups have invitation only events. The local ritual I mentioned before is an invitation only event.
When the rubber hits the road, women have the right to have women-only rituals, men have the right to have men-only rituals. Because if you have a private group, you can play with whoever you want.
Both Z Budapest’s ritual and the Michigan Womyn’s Music festival are public, as in the public knows about them and are welcome as long as they meet the biological requirement. That makes them different that private events and rituals.
Do you have the right to be exclusionary in public? Until someone sues you, you betcha.
I’m actually surprised that someone in our litigious culture hasn’t tried to sue Michfest, Z. Budapest or Pantheacon over this (at least, not that I’ve heard of). Not that I’m advocating that, but I know enough about gender discrimination to know it usually doesn’t stop until someone gets sued. Sometimes it doesn’t stop even after someone gets sued.
Is it right (not do you have the right but are you in the right?) to have public rituals that are exclusionary?
As I said before, we are a relatively small community in the religious communities of America and yet we are vicious to everyone else who doesn’t drink our particular brand of Kool-Aid. It seems we save a special kind of vindictiveness for other pagans that aren’t quite “our” kind of pagan. Pagans will sit on interfaith councils with Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, but will trash talk the “fluffy bunny” or “neo-Nazi” or “cultural appropriationist” or “not a REAL woman” in our own community.
We can include or exclude anyone we want. But should we?
I’m going to show my bigotry here.
I’m a firm believer in American values. I believe that the pagan movement in America wouldn’t be so rich,varied and interesting if it wasn’t grown in the soil of American values. And one of those fundamental American values for me is something Benjamin Franklin said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Or, in the words of Bill and Ted, “Be excellent to each other.”
Your mileage will most certainly vary.