My Bigotry Is Not Better than Your Bigotry

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.

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4 Responses to My Bigotry Is Not Better than Your Bigotry

  1. Donnalee says:

    You mean Patrick Henry said that, right…?

  2. Hrafn says:

    The hanging quote? That is widely attributed to Benjamin Franklin, starting approximately with The Works of Benjamin Franklin by Jared Sparks (1840). There’s an earlier attribution to Richard Penn (from 1811) and it appears that the pun has been around for substantially longer.

  3. You write:
    “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….”

    I didn’t realize that Paganism was so “American-centric.’
    Indeed, many of those values were acquired by the US Founding Fathers from their study of classical Roman and Athens and their contact with the Iriquois Conferderacy. All of whom were Pagans.

  4. GMDreia says:

    I realize I’m totally tardy to the party – but I’ve seen some of this same thing with this pagan group vs that. I see it in Hellenic circles quite a bit – a lot of grousing about “those pesky neopagans/eclectics”. But where the rubber hits the road… we still all have more in common with each other than any of us have with everyone else.

    David Pollard: yes, it’s amazing how pagan the western world really is and one really, really see this when one steps outside of Christian frameworks. I had a moment recently where I realized I had picked up more Greek mythology and symbolism purely by osmosis, as an American, than I’d ever picked up of my native ancestral faith (Judaism) or the Christian majority in my environment. Our American culture is more pagan than many even realize.

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