From 1998-2004, I was heavily involved in the Pagan movement of my generation. It’s fallen off – I’m not teaching classes or marching marches. I’m writing, mostly, often feeling too unsafe in a crowd of my own to spend more than symbolic time with any fellow Pagan.
I’ve come to consider Paganism in the United States not a singular historical movement, but a series of movements brought by each group of Pagans within a generation. Our philosophies may look similar, but our experiences getting to them differ. For example, I have never heard a Pagan in my age-range claim positive gain by excluding men from ritual. At the same time, the challenges feminists, with or without faith, are the same: entitlement, patriarchy, male privilege. But how people develop the attitudes we fight with, and how we experience these attitudes and assumptions is different every time.
A feminist from the 1960s era never navigated the text-message bailout or booty calls via email. The mechanics of sex remains stable but the social culture has changed as women are presumably allowed to use many of the same tools, tricks and manipulations as men.
Male privilege was just a pat assumption of the overarching culture from the 1960s through the 1980s. Male privilege for generation X and Y stems more from women’s competition with each other as so many act out on the unconscious and superfluous belief that men are necessary not just for species survival but for social survival
That these particular women figuratively screw themselves while literally getting screwed is something only a few recognize. ((Much of this “Why aren’t we hearing about abused men? etc. is happening after men are, in fact, being treated to the same consequences as the other 51% of the population. For them, equality will suck because it means everyone is now equally culpable.)
Generations XY have nothing to prove by rejecting another gender or a variation within gender, and nothing spiritual to gain from such rejection, either.
This isn’t an absolute – it falls along a spectrum, and religion of birth is usually the anchor in how far into patriarchy the pendulum swings.
More rising young Witches and Wiccans are ascending, not to seek personal power as women, but to incorporate a spiritual worldview that involves the things they love the most: the environment, other people, themselves. Many do not even give a thought to their own gender until confronted with someone determined to challenge it according to some fantasy of the “good old days” that that person himself (usually) would not actually enjoy experiencing. It may not be playing out the way perhaps Starhawk envisioned, but the core intent of our foremothers and forefathers is starting to manifest.
My journey into Wicca itself was separate from my feminist identity. The idea of a Goddess interested me, but I didn’t find it revolutionary or rebellious – my feeling about it was more of “finally someone’s being honest with me, and with themselves!!!!”
While I have been since disappointed, the disappointment resides with inevitable human failing, not with any disservice at the hands of the gods I celebrate. I came into Wicca with the idea of feminism as equally inclusive of men and women. The misogyny and homophobia woven into some of the earlier Wiccan traditions came as a surprise to me, and I naturally assumed that most Wiccans had the sense to evolve beyond them as science sped over the old assumptions, negating the absolutism of “feminine” and “masculine.”
It is only as I have aged into a range that the generations before me “take seriously” that I have learned how much misogyny persists. True to hegemonist form, certain women will support those beliefs to their own death.
I was also surprised, but struggled to be understanding, about the traditions that actively exclude men. Patriarchy has socialized forms of purdah for 20th century American women; some extend into the 21st century. I routinely break them, going dancing sans husband or even without the protection of a group. It’s a conscious, political act on my part.
Women in my age range don’t need our husband’s permission to let a salesman in the house, (we wouldn’t for other reasons) and would be shocked that a partner would even think to demand that kind of authority. In most cases, divorced or at least abandon him if he tried to overstep the line that crosses from relationship into imprisonment.
This isn’t just a given expectation – men of our generation aren’t just casually given authority, an improvement that these same women fought to create. The authority that remains is in a casually conferred respect, where men feel free to say certain things without being forced to prove themselves while it’s still demanded that women do so. The next generation, most likely, all respect on all sides will simply have to be earned.
Right now the conflict between inclusion or exclusion of men is as much about honoring what the women requesting the exclusion have gone through as it is about acknowledging how far we’ve come. The male experience of a man born in 1980 differs drastically from one born in 1970 (and is why my partner is chosen from the more recent years.) The female experience and even thoughts about the experience differs even more drastically. Men are no longer blindly obeyed, not because men are “bad” but because it’s an outright stupid idea to blindly obey anyone, male or female. Rachel Berry on Glee said something true -and ten years before it would have been outrageous to the point of scandal: “Girls want sex just as much as guys do.” Girls and boys both want sex – and have equal capacity to control those urges.
I have never been actively feminist. I’ve never joined a consciously feminist organization, although I regret not joining NOW in college. I find radical feminists strangely behind the times, not because their causes are outdated but because they should be and are not. I do think they need some R&D people embedded with them, people who experiment with different protest, diplomacy, subliminal subversion tactics – if all you do is picket, for instance, it becomes far too easy to become blind to the signs.
My feminism just is, a core condition of my being. Despite messages all through childhood about how I was to behave a certain way, I remained convicted that I had just as much human worth as any boy.
It was, without a doubt, a condition that made me open to Wicca as a religious path, but it was not the deciding factor. I only consciously thought about my own feminism when someone else brought it up to me, their projections onto me about it, and I knew two things: my family objected to anything that made me more resistant to their abusive behavior, and women who called themselves feminist often did not have the courage required to genuinely practice it.
Demanding I be treated with respect by my family was my first radical, unsuccessful act, so breaking with them became my second radical act. (I generally prefer the subversive approach.) This happened not because I am Wiccan, but because I am feminist and I believe in my own worth.
The message that God was mad at me because I was a woman never came to roost on me; to my mind any God that had me born a woman was culpable for my gender, and since that deity did not consult me on that decision, I sure as hell wasn’t responsible for results and reactions solely based upon myself being female.
This is my feminism. It does not really define my spiritual values, but it informs it. It does inform my political values because it is simple self-interest to want access to birth control, proper health care and my own bank accounts without needing my husband’s permission.
Do I believe men should be excluded from ritual? No. Hardly anyone of my generation does. Besides, men – straight, gay, transgender – all need inclusion for social change to genuinely happen.