Fluff shaming is a very popular form of social violence among Pagans. It makes them feel superior while re-enacting exactly the same abuse they took as teenagers on other human beings. Yes, there is some wildly inaccurate stuff out there that needs to be addressed– and the attitude of some of the old school Wiccan trads is as appallingly narrow minded about the status of other traditions of Wicca as the Vatican is about other versions of the Christian church, almost making a religious sanction on this type of social violence. All of it is just bullying and bullshit. The more loud-mouthed academics may still be getting beat up for wearing pocket protectors which can explain some of it, but a lot of it comes down to an almost childish need to be “right” or to “win” neither of which really happens when it comes to religion and spiritual practices, despite the human use of these structures to rigidly define right and wrong.
It is possible – entirely possible – to have a difference of opinion without getting snarky. Fluff-shamers, however, get high on their snark and would convince others the only way to disagree is to disagree with poor manners.
When called out for the incivility/psychological violence, hide behind “Oh, that’s my opinion, and you need to take it.” No, that’s making a game of being ill-mannered and close-minded. The only possible way to “win” those debates is to refuse to interact with the person being a jerk.
You know you’re dealing with fluff shaming when the following happens:
- The person begins an online statement with, “Um.” Comments on my blogs beginning with this are deleted with prejudice.
- Opinions are stated as facts. Oh, you can complain that people need to step up their reading context and weasel with the idea the opinion was implied. But you were really trying to pull a fast one by hoping no one would catch out that your perceptions do not align with hard facts, and by defending the “implied” version you’re using patterns of social silence to try to force people to accept your opinions as factual truths. That tactic is crap, so knock it off.
- Using phrases that are not directly derogatory as a derogatory. My favorite recent round of recent crappery was someone who accused me of being fluffy by responding with “What is this? Eclectic Paganism?” This was followed by a series of historical “facts” from this genius that did not check out when I went back to the publishers and parties cited and asked for myself what really happened. (A PNC story on this will be forthcoming, framed in some manner other than “people on the Internet are WRONG.”)
- You’re minding your own business, reading your Llewellyn or Weiser or Barnes and Noble discount book and someone marches up and tells you why the book you’re reading is just plain horrible. The person may be academically correct. But when you ask about actually applying the magical techniques in the book, you get the excuse: “Well, I wouldn’t do it if I learned it from that book.” So you ask what the person does do. After much probing, what you find is either a)someone from one of those Vatican-like Wiccan traditions where unsupervised magic is verboten OR someone who doesn’t dare try any kind of magic work at all and who doesn’t think anyone should be allowed to for fear it’s not academic enough. (Or for fear that it might actually work.)
You can’t really practice anything occult without feeling absolutely ridiculous from time to time. If you’re afraid of that for academic reasons that have nothing to do with say, avoiding poisoning, then there’s a bit of learned helplessness going on that you’re trying to spread under the guise of superiority.
I’m not fooled.
That’s the secret of fluff shamers. Most are too busy putting down people actually practicing magic and finding out what really works to practice anything themselves. But boy howdy, can they read the heck out of a bibliography.