Posted by: aediculaantinoi | March 12, 2014

Privilege, Again…

I have two links I’d like to share relating to potential privilege problems within paganism–whether Wiccanate or not is another matter altogether…

First, one that is from the Sci-Fi community, by Jim C. Hines, and echoed in some of the statements in the Pagans and Privilege panel at PantheaCon, relating to harm and its recognition rather than its reductionism and erasure. It isn’t that people “choose to be offended,” it’s that some people are actually being offensive, whether they realize it or not.

Second, Gus DiZerega has some thoughts on the future of paganism at his Patheos.com Pagan Channel blog, in which he mentions a few matters of privilege, and that he’ll speak about them more soon. I look forward to that, but I am also a bit troubled by some of what he’s written in that post, about certain traditions being majorities more or less because they’re “what sells.”

Whenever someone suggests that “the free market [economically or with ideas] decides” in a quasi-social Darwinist fashion, I tend to be pretty suspicious, as that’s the argument of the privileged almost without exception. If that argument really were sound, then we should all just stop deluding ourselves and join either Christianity or Islam, since those are the most popular religions and have the most money behind them…and yet, there’s value in doing whatever form of modern paganism a person might choose.

That some of them now have publishers and other institutional matters backing them up and supporting them isn’t necessarily a testament to their “fitness” or their “rightness,” any more than institutionalized racism is a testament to the superiority of white people.

There’s lots more that could be said on these matters, but I’ll leave it there for now.


Responses

  1. It’s a particularly ironic stance for DiZerega to take as otherwise he’s a critic of capitalism.

    • Indeed…which is why I thought he might not resort to such arguments, but there you go. :(

  2. Privilege the Dinosaurs had it before Comet Day, too…

    • That’s an interesting viewpoint on the matter! ;)

  3. I’m incredibly suspicious of DiZerega’s claims that Wicca has ‘universal symbolism’, but, hey, I’m a young angry polytheist, so what do I know? :P (I guess I don’t considered culturally neutered religions to be The Better Religions, which seems to be part of his argument?)

    • Yeah…

      But, I guess we’ll have to see what the “full version” of his comments on the matter end up saying. I’m reserving final judgement until then, but meanwhile am not very optimistic given what he has already said.

      • I agree. Who knows what the full comments will be? But, yeah, I am hesitant about how they will turn out. (At least, however, they will be better than many of the other posts I’ve seen on the topic… I’ve become thankful to run in online circles that care somewhat about intellectual thought.)

      • Yes…there’s a vast realm of the internet that I have never set a virtual foot in, and long may it be so. ;)

    • By “universal” symbolism, I thought he meant that Wicca does not adhere to a single ethnic pantheon or mythology. You can export it to another country and “plug in” the local deities. At least, that is the theory – the local deities might prefer to be honoured / worshipped in the manner that is traditional in their locale.

      • I think that’s one of the difficulties many varieties of polytheist have with this particular theory and promulgation of Wicca: just as not all humans are “plug ‘n’ play,” and the expectation that they are is often highly disrespectful, so too with deities.

  4. Regarding something being popular because it is “marketable”. I think things are *visible* because they are marketable (in the eyes of publishers at least). Once they have become visible, and people see a large number of adherents (whether of a religion or a political party), they tend to join because they want to join a larger community, or have more voting power, or have more like-minded people to hang out with. The internet has made it easier to hang out with people who are not in your geographical vicinity.

    On a related matter, I did an analysis of the schedule at PantheaCon 2014, to see if “Wiccanate” workshops were unduly privileged. It looks to me as if the types of workshops were fairly evenly distributed.

    Here’s my spreadsheet.

    The summary table is at the bottom of the second tab of the spreadsheet.

    • You’ll see my comments on your spreadsheet on Patheos shortly, if you haven’t already.

    • I think there are more Wiccanates. For example, Coru Cathobodua is a Wiccanate group. Also I didn’t go to opening or closing ritual this year (had to be at work) but I know in the past they were Wiccanate.

      Some of the workshops labeled “indigenous” would better be described as unclassifiable or general; I’m thinking mainly of white person’s neoshamanism ones like Lupa’s.

      Anyway, interesting analysis.

      • I think it depends on how you define “Wiccanate” in the case of the Coru–yes, Morpheus has a background in Feri, but there’s been a lot of talk about whether that is Wiccanate or not recently…And, in the Coru work, they’re more polytheist in their outlook than Wiccanate, from what I’ve been told. From my limited interactions with them, they didn’t seem as Wiccanate as I would have thought. But anyway…

        As I said in comments over at Yvonne’s original posting of her comment with the spreadsheet at Patheos, there’s a lot of groups or individuals or events that are Wiccanate that weren’t marked as such, and several that aren’t which were (e.g. Tony Mierzwicki). But in any case…

      • My experience with them was in attending their “Feast of the Mighty” in 2012 in which the Feast was enclosed in a Wiccanate Circle. I’m also under the impression they have stated that they are not reconstructionist. I’ve heard others note these Wiccanate aspects of their work. If Feri people do these things they are Wiccanate and Morpheus does them.

      • I should add most of the Wiccanate that I personally encounter is put on by Feri-trained people.

      • I take your points…

        I was just talking with someone earlier about something I’ve heard many Feri practitioners say: “All gods are Feri gods.” Kind of appropriation-y, I think…

  5. You’ve just helped me understand better why my hackles rise whenever someone dismisses my suspicion of some hegemony by “it is what sells.” Not enough people ask who made it the most conspicuous product in the store, or wrote the ads. It leads to a vicious circle, in which better [for some people] products never get a fair chance. Thanks for the elucidation.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting!

      Indeed, it staggers me to think that so many people who have a “let the free market decide” attitude don’t realize that there is anything at all “fair” or “free” about the market as it stands structurally at present in the capitalist (post-) industrialist and corporate United States, amongst other national markets. The system itself is so deeply flawed, biased, privileged, and discriminatory that to even make any comparisons or metaphors that gesture in its direction, point to analogues, and which then conclude that those are “good” or “fair” misses the point entirely.

      • Related to this is that events like PantheaCon are for-profit enterprises, which leads to the question why are we allowing capitalist business models/events to have such a key role in minority religions (ones that are at least in theory alternative to the status quo)? Not to mention (as is so commonplace in contemporary capitalism) that those who produce value (present workshops, give rituals, etc.) are not compensated or even given registration reductions in most cases.

      • That is a really good point…and there’s an entire hierarchy of privilege involved in who gets their con’ admission paid for, and their room (and sometimes, I’ve heard, their transportation costs), whereas the rest of us don’t even get a discount (or have to ask for it, which I wasn’t able to this year…but they had nothing on the website this year saying that one could ask for discounts). It’s very problematic, to say the least…

  6. > If that argument really were sound, then we should all just stop deluding ourselves and join either Christianity or Islam, since those are the most popular religions and have the most money behind them…and yet, there’s value in doing whatever form of modern paganism a person might choose.

    Hm, maybe I need to re-read that post… I was thinking that argument was descriptive, not prescriptive.

    In any case, I didn’t take it as an argument that we should all be Christian or Muslim, as personally, I’m somewhat against mainstreaming. I want my civil liberties protected, but after that point, the margins are the place to be! That’s where innovation happens.

    • Part of Gus’ statements essentially suggested that the “viability” of different movements on the fringe depends on numbers, popularity, etc., and there was some disparagement of pretty much any movement that wants to be taken seriously but that has smaller numbers amongst pagans, polytheists, etc.; thus, because there are more Wiccans and that seems financially viable and the most populous, therefore the smaller groups don’t really matter, was kind of the upshot of his remarks. Taking that argument to its logical conclusion would then suggest that Wicca itself is pointless because it is so small. It’s an argument that can only really be stated from the viewpoint of relative privilege within a subculture; it’s a view that larger religions certainly have of smaller ones.

  7. […] Pantheacon Wiccanate Privilege Discussion, Privilege, again […]


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