Respectability Politics: Act Like The System So That The System Will Listen?

“In the 21st century, respectability is fast shaping up to be the New Closet.” — Mark Simpson, The Guardian

“So what exactly are respectability politics? In short, they are an undefined yet understood set of ideas about how Black people should live positively and how we should define Black American culture. Ironically, they’re usually a huge hindrance to both.” — Maurice E Dolberry, A Line In The Sand

”The twenty-first-century version of the politics of respectability works to accommodate neoliberalism.” — Fredrick C. Harris, Dissent

“The goal of respectability politics may be noble, but the execution is flawed, damaging, and ineffective. By indulging in respectability politics, we acquiesce to the racially biased idea that the actions of individual black people are representative of the whole. We add to the pre-existing burdens of racism and sexism. And we fail to solve our problem, because we move the responsibility for eradicating race and gender biases from the powerful institutions and systems that perpetrate them to those oppressed by them. It is easier to try to control the oppressed than challenge the oppressor, but it is rarely a humane or useful approach.” — Tamara Winfrey Harris, Bitch Magazine

If you participate in contemporary Paganism, chances are, you might have also participated in respectability politics: I know that I have. I’ve endorsed the traditional party line on how to engage with the press (sharp suit, conservatively groomed, approved talking points), applauded efforts that made us more relatable to the Christian majority, and even volunteered for outreach “opportunities” I didn’t want to do for fear of who might fill the void left by my refusal. The underlying message being that if we do this work outsiders will, if not embrace us, then at least tolerate us, if we seem to be like them.

I am here to say that I was wrong in my self-perceived sensible moderateness.

A Brief History of Respectability Politics:

Before we begin, I want to clearly state that I cannot, and will not, sit in judgment of the very real, and continuing, struggles within the movements I’m about to describe, and the subsequent movements they spawned. Tactics are something to be debated and decided WITHIN a movement, not by those outside it, whether they count themselves as allies or not. I present these historical examples only as historical context and preamble to discuss this phenomenon within a religious movement I am unquestionably a part of, because I think the parallels to be found are instructive.

The politics of respectability, a term coined by Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, is a tactic of performing compatibility, one of self-policing by oppressed and marginalized communities to gain advancement and acceptance within whatever the dominant culture or system may be. The roots of this tactic can be found as early as the age of empires in the ancient world, and throughout the colonial periods. In our modern era, respectability politics has often been referenced in the media when discussing ways some Black Americans have responded to white supremacy in the United States.

During slavery, and in post-slavery America, Black people have talked about feeling intense societal, cultural, and internal pressures to act “white” in order to avoid being murdered, or to simply find work. However, Black resistance to those who preached “respectability” has always co-existed with this politics of compatibility. The complexity of this cultural dynamic within the Black community has been discussed by Black people throughout history.

“There is no rational response to a system of oppression that refutes its own logic. And if there were, respectability politics would be the least rational.”Mychal Denzel Smith, The Nation

 As The Atlantic Senior Editor Ta-Nehisi Coates expressed, it is America that is irresponsible and immoral, not the Black people living under white supremacy:

“There is no evidence that black people are less responsible, less moral, or less upstanding in their dealings with America nor with themselves. But there is overwhelming evidence that America is irresponsible, immoral, and unconscionable in its dealings with black people and with itself. Urging African-Americans to become superhuman is great advice if you are concerned with creating extraordinary individuals. It is terrible advice if you are concerned with creating an equitable society. The black freedom struggle is not about raising a race of hyper-moral super-humans. It is about all people garnering the right to live like the normal humans they are.”

As other marginalized communities watched and took notes from the Civil Rights Movement’s struggles and successes in the 1950s & 60s, they too wrestled with the politics of self-policing for the purposes of presenting a “positive” image to an unconvinced or hostile (predominately white, straight, Protestant Christian) “mainstream.”

In the feminist movement, early debates over the “lavender menace” (ie lesbian feminists) within second-wave feminism gave way to sometimes intense debates about the place of transgender women within their ranks, and whether or not to ally with and support women engaged in sex work.

Gay Liberation in the 1970s was accused early on of sidelining drag queens, transgender people, and genderqueer individuals despite their important role in revitalizing the movement during and after the Stonewall Riots. Later, during the AIDS crisis, sociologist Deborah B. Gould documented how “pride” was reframed from a celebration of difference to a new ethos that delegitimized actions that could be seen as harming respectability.

“In a moment when a public health epidemic intensified gay shame and fear of social rejection, gay pride now encouraged a politics of respectability … It authorized and validated reputable activism, such as provision of services, care-taking, candlelight vigils, and tactics oriented towards the electoral realm, while delegitimizing and thereby discouraging less conventional political actions that might jeopardize gay respectability.”

As journalist Aurin Squire notes, respectability politics is “like living your life as a job interview. Forever.” It masks the violence and prejudices of the dominant culture by implying that adopting a certain behavior or manner will erase (or mitigate) entrenched inequalities.  When it does not, it is then circularly blamed on the oppressed, for not being compatible enough.

Respectability and Paganism:

While modern Paganism has roots that stretch back to the 19th century (and arguably earlier depending on which tradition, practice, or faith we’re discussing), the spark that lit the modern world’s consciousness came in 1950s Britain, with the reveal of a surviving Witch-Cult by civil serviceman and amateur folklorist Gerald Gardner. Within a decade, Witchcraft, occult practices in general, and other emerging Pagan religions, were finding fertile ground in the counter-cultures of 1960s and 70s Western democracies. In this early period, what would come to be called the “Pagan community” emphasized their differences from the dominant culture, reveling in the social, moral, and theological freedoms provided by their emerging practices.

As the 1970s rolled on, in part because there was a conservative cultural and political backlash to that era’s experimental openness — and also thanks to a moral panic in the 1980s and 90s that saw hundreds of innocent people charged or jailed for illusory “occult” crimes — this slowly changed. It may also be due to the early adopters of these new Paganisms in the 1960s and 70s entering the professional workforce, leaving behind the more permissive climate of the college campus. The cumulative result was that the Witches, Druids, Heathens, and Pagans consciously and subconsciously decided that integration was the way forward.

I entered modern religious Witchcraft in 1990, and into a larger Pagan community in flux (though I scarcely understood that at the time). While many early lights of a more uncompromising, open, and free time were still around, the new ethos could best be illustrated by the stock-photo businesswoman on the cover of Scott Cunningham’s 1987 book “The Truth About Witchcraft Today.” It said to outsiders: Witchcraft is safe, wholesome, moral, and not terribly unlike the forms of religion you know and feel comfortable with.


This book came out in the heat of the “Satanic” moral panics, and I suppose one can forgive our community for being afraid. Lives were being ruined, police were being trained by “occult experts” that our symbols might point to dastardly deeds, and a new, muscular, Evangelical Christianity was riding high, ready to push back on the “sins” of a previous era. An unspoken set of rules for how to behave, an ethos of respectability, was being formed in response.

  • Dress modestly when you think you might encounter the press.
  • Remind people that we are not Satanists, and that we don’t harm children.
  • Subcultural markers like tattoos, “extreme” hairstyles, dramatic makeup, or facial piercings, are to be frowned on.
  • Sex in our faiths and our communities is to be downplayed at all times, good or bad.
  • Remind people that we are doctors, soldiers, lawyers, and members of other respected professions.
  • Distance yourself publicly from more flamboyant members of the community. When confronted on their existence in the press, stress that they are the exception, not the rule, to how we look, act, and behave.
  • Engage with local interfaith councils to change perceptions about our faiths.
  • Refer to magic as “another form of prayer,” and stress a general theism, or a nature-loving pantheism, over a more “difficult” polytheism.
  • “We love nature.”
  • Quietly resist intersectionality within our own struggle. Maintain a false “apolitical” don’t-rock-the-boat facade in public.

Those were messages that I saw, heard, or felt were implied throughout my years coming of age within modern Paganism. These were never carved out commandments, but they don’t have to be. Once this tactic is adopted, it is the dominant culture that calls the shots on “proper” behavior. The problem with these kind of conservative ideologies is that one can never truly be conservative enough, so long as our core nature, and the dominant system’s norms, remain unchanged.

The truth, of course, is that most people simply do not care about us, our struggles, or what we think. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but there it is. I slowly realized that all of our work to be sensible, safe-seeming, and sharp-looking has barely dented our (alternately silly and scary) image with the general public. Have we made some small in-roads in some small areas? Of course, and those are to be welcomed, but you don’t overturn centuries of oppression, propaganda, weaponized folklore, and moral panic, with a nice tie and a winning tag-line.

My turn away from respectability politics began slowly. First, I started questioning some of the accepted media taking points that had become almost like folklore in our community. Then, I started becoming more and more uncomfortable with the little white lies about what “we all believe,” which reduced our huge diversity into a group of people who really like trees … a lot. The final nail in the respectability coffin was when I realized that for all our talk about making inroads for the future, and presenting a respectable face for the purposes of gaining a place at power’s table, we had virtually no idea how to actually engage with younger people interested in our religions.

I realized that, to a certain extent, we were doing much of this to impress ourselves.

Once you free yourself from the strictures of respectability politics, you start to see how it is used as a cudgel, beating down anyone who doesn’t fit a very white Western Protestant Christian set of values of what is “normal” and “respectable.” Suddenly, you see the adopted metric of who should and shouldn’t represent us, and it doesn’t include those who participated in sex work, or those who dress too flamboyantly, or get too political. Respectability politics demands the erasure of the radical, the different, the strange, the dangerous. 

Most shamefully, Pagan respectability politics ends up having us act on behalf of the dominant culture’s prejudices.

It allows us to leave our racial prejudices unexamined: Because they remain unexamined in the dominant culture. So we mimic the damaging and unthinking racial micro-aggressions when we should instead by questioning everything handed to us from their narratives and actions.

It allows us to judge indigenous and cultural traditions outside of our comfort zone, while still feeling entitled to appropriate their practices: Because the dominant culture only views indigenous peoples, and foreign cultures, from a binary of insulting contexts (noble enabler of our own journey, or part of a lawless culture to be subdued).

It allows us to marginalize transgender people: Because the deep, unequal, gender essentialism of the dominant Christian culture has seeped into everything we do, even into our radical movements.

It allows us to even ignore the future of our own communities while we wrap ever deeper into a cocoon of denial and defensiveness: Because the dominant culture has invested itself in “generation gaps” and ever-shrinking marketing niches.

As part of the Pagan community I share responsibility for this, which is why I now ask that we dismantle this unexamined phenomenon within our body politic, beginning with ourselves.

I would like to thank Crystal Blanton, Elena Rose, T. Thorn Coyle, Jonathan Korman, Anomalous Thracian, and the editors of Gods & Radicals for giving me early feedback and editorial help in the construction of this article. If this editorial succeeds, it is because of their combined wisdom and guidance.

118 thoughts on “Respectability Politics: Act Like The System So That The System Will Listen?

  1. Brilliant work. I am exploring similar themes as I look at my Autistic experience and identity and the pressures of performing neurotypicality . . . the performance of any form of respectability is the acceptance of internal colonization

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Autistic here too! Because of the barriers involved in that, I don’t really think a helluva a lot about discrimination based on my gender, sexual orientation (bi) or religion. I just figure if employers et al can deal with the autism, everything else seems minor by comparison- the other identities don’t affect my job performance.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. People with brain injuries have similar problems. I have a stuffed lady bug that I carry with me as a seizure aid. It blocks out the stimulus. However, it is not very respectable. But I don’t care now.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Reblogged this on Black Metal Valkyrie-question male-identified bullshit and commented:
    “In the feminist movement, early debates over the “lavender menace” (ie lesbian feminists) within second-wave feminism gave way to sometimes intense debates about the place of transgender women within their ranks, and whether or not to ally with and support women engaged in sex work.” Ugh, this is such fail revisionism. It’s framing feminism through a liberal bias to attempt to make it look irrational.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to say that I am a woman who is old enough to remember the heated and many arguments amongst feminist circles concerning both ” Lipstick Lesbians” and “Butch Dykes”, as though both identities were something less than or other than feminist with the strong static that neither were acceptable within feminist circles. “Lipstick Lesbians” would be told that they were catering to men’s ideas of femininity and hurting feminists and the “butch dykes” would be told that they were trying to become men, which was meant as a put down and should that woman have been a transgendered person who was a man inside, literally being oppressed for being themselves. Feminist circles were not a comfortable place for either of these groups. They definitely seemed to act as though feminism only mattered so much as they would attempt to compete with men in their careers.

      Also, I had a tendency to hang out with local hookers in my youth. The hookers I knew were generally not judge mental over class, race, or gender orientation and had no problem with my differing than the norm religious beliefs and I found them more progressive in understanding these matters than most of the so called feminists I met so they were comfortable for me to hang with. And interestingly, all of whom worked in cat houses run by Madams until the mid 70s. At that time we had a kind of Pimp War with pimps coming in from out of town and accosting the girls and madams and violently attempting to take over the trade. They did. I think local history makes it all the more interesting because since at that point it was women running the show but they were left to fend off the pimps by themselves.
      Allyship? nada.

      So this article revisionist? No, not from what I remember first hand.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Hi Black Metal Valkyrie,
        I’d like you to read our commenting policy, please. You’re engaging in Gender Essentialism, which is no different than Racial Essentialism or any other of the really horrible things Capitalism has taught us. We’d be happy to explain to you the problematic aspects of your comment at some point, but for now, suffice it to say you’re being not only quite off-base from Radical Feminism but also horribly offensive to Lesbians and Trans* folk.

        Liked by 6 people

      2. Please hang around. We’ve addressed the problematic comments–unfortunately, there’s a strand of DeepGreenResistance which embodies the same patriarchal attitude it claims to fight, and their Trans* Exclusionary Radical Feminism is quite unwelcome here.

        Liked by 6 people

      3. To Black Metal Valkyrie.
        “, it would make no sense to include them, as feminism is the WOMEN’S liberation movement”

        That’s the big statement that is poisoning Feminism, it’s tribalism in an attempt to grab your lack of identity internally. (an attempt to regain ID power)

        Feminism is EVERYBODY’s liberation movement…unless you only want to be free in your own permitted spaces, and ruled by the “leaders” of your movement in even more repressive ways than the previous oppressors. The “new leaders” say they know you and your faults and you are a deviant to the movement, so should be cast out by your movement, as well as rightfully destroyed by the master oppressors as the true threat.

        It’s liberating Women, yes. But to be liberated it has to be everyones’ movement…which means NOT bending to the oppressors comfort circle. Otherwise you’ll end up just oppressing yourselves and blaming it on others…and the others have no power to fix that because you’ll be doing it to yourselves!

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Unfortunately, Second Wave Feminism, specifically those who engaged gender essentialist thinking and especially those who entertained respectability politics, was often irrational.

      Third Wave feminism thus distinguishes itself as feminism that seeks to remove those irrationalities and turn the good parts of feminism up to eleven.

      It’s not “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”, it’s washing the dirt off the baby and then teaching that baby why it needed a bath.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. “Irrational”? I am super uncomfortable with supposed rationality being used as the criterion of goodness. (And, yo, former software engineer, current neurobiologist – not exactly avoiding rationality.)

        It seems that we’re talking about assholery far more than rationality.


      2. No. I said exactly what I meant, and I know what I’m talking about. I don’t need you to splian to me what toy think I meant just because you find the truth of that uncomfortable.

        If you can somehow rationalise classism, racism, femmephobua, cissexism, transphobia, and other irrational traits of the dominant voices of the Second Wave, perhaps you’re in the wrong place?


      3. Oh, and your “credentials” have nothing to do with this topic. You’re making an appeal to authority that simply does not apply here. That’s called a logical fallacy.

        Want to keep this going?


      4. Ruadhán, maybe you should read Catherine’s comment again; I think you may agree more than you realized. There are lots of reasons why someone might not be comfortable with equating rationality and goodness.


      5. irrational-adj: not logical or reasonable. That’s not a value judgement, it’s a judgement of logic (or lack thereof).

        I am a pagan. I have been following Dionysos around for the last couple of years. I believe lots of things that are not logical. Does that make it a bad thing? I don’t think so. I’ve known Ruadhan for a while now, and he’s a pretty wacky person himself, and yet we’re still friends.

        Calling something/someone irrational is not necessarily calling it bad. Now, that said, I can understand how Ruadhan’s use of the word “unfortunately” can allow some folks to interpret his statement in a negative way. But that also depends on the assumptions of the individual doing that interpretation, and what personal meanings they are bringing to it.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I do think it’s important to remember that not all Pagans actually *are* necessarily being ‘inauthentic’ if they aren’t all that weird, or inclined to be weird in visible ways: (Which can be easy enough for those of us who maybe are to forget, when we may feel inhibited by circumstance.)

      People do forget or may be too young at this point to remember that twenty to twenty five years ago when Pagan religion was growing exponentially, and later people were planning for better things for our community than merely surviving this political and economic climate we’ve currently known way too long, the mass media were all too willing to parade around the freakiest people they could find willing to call themselves Pagans or Witches in particular, especially if they’d fuel ‘controversy’ about those Satanic Panics etc… There really was, in other words, a real factor of needing to *counter* portrayal of Pagan religion as ‘just for freaks’ etc, even if we happened to be freaky ourselves, …just because it’s very easy to be misrepresented if one provides distracting visuals, or people willing to say off-the-wall things.

      As ‘strategies’ go, well, a lot of it wasn’t and isn’t ‘a respectability politics’ *strategy* so much as having learned the hard way in the media to keep it damn simple for the lowest-common-denominator reporting, etc. because those who’d misportray or defame us have far bigger microphones than we, and this was especially true before the Internet was a big thing. That much still hasn’t changed much. And it’s one thing to be thought *weird* …another to be *actually misunderstood or misrepresented about it.*

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I agree with you that dressing like the yuppie portrayed on the cover of Cunningham’s book does not necessarily imply inauthenticity. I was referring more to the larger point of Jason’s essay, which is that the drive to appear more mainstream in order to gain more acceptance is probably not serving anyone.

        I remember when I first became a pagan in the 80s, it was definitely a motivation for me to point out that my beliefs weren’t all that different from the christianity of my upbringing, in order to gain acceptance from the people who were worried about me. I wasn’t publicly “out” with my paganism until many years later.

        These days while I don’t really “flaunt” my paganism by intentionally dressing a certain way or bearing dead-giveaway accoutrements, I also don’t hide it. If people ask I will talk to them about what paganism means to me, why I prefer it to other identities or theologies or lifestyles, and why I think it is important to do so. But I don’t really have a strategy for acceptance or respectability, because I don’t really care what other people think of my paganism. Of course that’s also easy for me to say because I don’t often feel like I’m in danger — I’m a big guy, I look like a viking (genetics, not fashion), and people don’t really target me for harrassment much.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. You know, I understand what you’re saying, but at the same time, who does it serve to only let the “respectable” amongst us get through? Believe me, I remember seeing all manner of people in robes and pointed hats on the 6 o’clock news as a kid (one news item that’s somehow really stuck with me was a protest of the film Hocus Pocus), and I get that the flamboyant pointed-hat crowd doesn’t represent everybody in the pagan movement — but here’s the thing:

        That’s still a sizeable proportion of people involved in and attracted to pagan religions. I was the kid who, at five years old, tried to run away to live with The Munsters but didn’t go any further than the library the next block over, cos that’s as far as I was allowed to go. When I was seven, a nun at my school gave me a copy of the D’Aulaire book of Greek mythology, and a few weeks later, I refused to go to mass, cos even the Bible suggested there were other gods. I was reading at the age of two, and my parents constantly fought about whether or not to send me to a gifted school, if only cos they couldn’t relate to me and knew I was struggling with making friends at school For all intents and purposes, I was branded “the weird kid” long before I even started school, and when that sort of thing happens, it gets a kid attracted to other things branded “weird”. If it wasn’t for it being “for weirdos”, I might not have started looking seriously into pagan religions in the early 1990s — and, assumed Wiccanate baseline aside, a contributing factor to what drove me from paganism for a few years was, well, everyone being so ding-danged obsessed with respectability and making it “relatable” to the overculture. (There were technically a *lot* or reasons I took a few years in Satanism, but yeah, respectability politics certainly played a part.)

        You can’t benefit the whole community by only putting certain faces forward. Yes, the woman on the cover of the Cunningham book is one of the faces of pagan religions, but so is Laurie Cabot. So is Fiona Horne. So is Galina Krasskova. So are the Ravens Kaldera, Digitalis, and Grimmassi. So are many smaller and bigger names who are all along a continuum between “clean-cut yuppie” and “total flipping freakazoid”. Respectability politics prioritises the former at the expense of both the latter and all manner in-between, and in essence does a great disservice to the whole community.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Thank you, Friday, it’s good to see a sensible comment. Having gone through “hippy” and “freak” myself and eventually settled on “weird” and notably unconventional within a context of normality, it does feel that an awful lot of historical perspective has been lost. I guess every generation is doomed to reinvent the wheel – that’s why we never move forward.


  3. First, I don’t think that assessment of the internal struggles in feminism is wrong, nor does it make it look irrational. It makes it look like a movement with complex inner tensions that has evolved over time. You know, like people.

    Second…while I am an unrepentant weirdo, I don’t think trying to “fit in” is always about respectability politics. My conception of a witch is based on the role in the context of the larger community…consequently, I’m often more concerned with what my immediate neighbors think than what the often nebulous “Pagan community” thinks.

    People often make the mistake of trying to police those with “alternative” or non-mainstream appearance and behavior; they also make the mistake of assuming a certain appearance denotes membership in the group, ie if you are dressed conservatively you must be a newbie or otherwise not fully a Pagan. I think that as much as respectability politics is an enforcement of a middle-class norm, alternative culture markers that are all the same valorize a particular kind of middle-class rebellion.

    Basically, I think we should stop telling each other what to do. It doesn’t work very well anyway.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. “… also make the mistake of assuming a certain appearance denotes membership in the group, ie if you are dressed conservatively you must be a newbie or otherwise not fully a Pagan. I think that as much as respectability politics is an enforcement of a middle-class norm, alternative culture markers that are all the same valorize a particular kind of middle-class rebellion.”

      Thank you. Yes.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I think that believing one can define another by one’s own lights denies the other person’s identity, and that’s just stupid and wrong in too many ways.


  4. I am in complete agreement with you, and have been saying so since the mid-’80s. We *aren’t* “just like everyone else,” there are profound differences in our theology, ethics, etc. from that of the over-culture. I used to challenge the “we have to show them that we’re not dangerous” trope with, “But we are dangerous. Not because we’re gonna steal their babies, but because our way of looking with the world is profoundly different from the status quo.” People talk about making us more mainstream; I have maintained for 30 years that we would be better off widening the mainstream to include us, so that we might thus affect the mainstream rather than be absorbed into it.

    But I saw things shift even more dramatically in ’90s, as you did. Coincidentally, that was also the era when the Solitary began to begin their climb to dominance in the movement. We now have, far, far more self-identified Pagans, Witches, Wiccans, Heathens, Druids and magicians who have gained the vast majority of information from books rather than from other people than at any other time in history.

    When I feel generational differences, it’s often because of that gap–training versus reading. The radical core, hard to convey in books, is more present in the old coven or temple or lodge-based training.

    I could tell lots of stories, but I will sum up with something I have heard frequently, “Don’t embarrass us by wearing a big, ol’ honkin’ pentagram for that interview.” I’ve always said, why the heck not? I’ve seen enough big, ol’ honkin’ crucifixes in my time. Let’s bring back the big ol’ honkin’ pentagram. Let’s be, “We’re here, we’re weird, get over it.”

    Liked by 4 people

  5. As a person who looks for what I have in common with others (which in itself is no bad thing, coming as it does from my left-wing politics and experience of trade union solidarity), it’s sometimes tempting to smooth out my edges so ‘we can all just get along’. But some of my edges are rough for a reason and building community shouldn’t in itself require me to sandpaper them! Excellent article, Jason: thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. it all depends on which Pagans you are talking about and how you want to define Pagan. I personally include Satanic and Left Hand Path groups underneath that banner, and not all of them are engaged in what you define as “respectability politics.”

    Also numerous radical political groups inspired by Paganism have been resisting the system and taking bold stands, but often get marginalized by the publishing industry and the neat and tidy “Life Style” paganism gatekeepers.

    Here are two Pagan efforts that haven’t played “Respectability Politics.”
    The underlying thread is that they aren’t trying to appease anybody, they have a strong sense of their own vision/mission and they don’t play by the watered down Wiccan creed, “An thou harm now one.” Peter Grey in his book “Apocalyptic Witchcraft” clearly demonstrates the “An Thou Harm No One” Creed will hobble any political or magical Will. The moment you put safety gloves on the Will, you’ve pretty much turned magic into a sideshow or an escape.

    If transgression of both the ideological and structural elements of the status quo aren’t part of Paganism, it will continue to be just another religious choice in America, and a publishing category for Pagan authors to make $ and generate their own little micro-cult followings.

    1.) Members of the performance art group the Temple of Satan have done more to threaten and shake political discourse then pretty much any Pagan group in the last 30 years. I’d argue that is in part because they are not afraid to take an oppositional stance vis the dominant narratives of America.

    2.) Pagan members of the Earth Liberation Front have been taking a stand and engaged in direct action against Corporate and Global Interests for years.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What an odd response.

      A lot of Satanists and Left Hand Path people don’t count themselves as Pagan, and I doubt they’d thank you for including them peremptorily.

      But more than that, nothing about this article says that all pagans do this, so you don’t need to defend those who don’t. The article is about a problem we have in pagan communities in which some pagans attempt to police other pagans on the basis of respectability. OF COURSE not all pagans are into respectability politics. If we were, no one would need to do the policing, because everyone would be on board already.

      Liked by 4 people

  7. Respectability policies also exclude people with disabilities. In some corners of Paganism, people still do not know how to deal mental illnesses in pagan practice. Nor physical ones. Although it has gotten better, Pagan gatherings are not designed with us in mind.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. As the NROOGDies are getting less and less mobile, we’ve HAD to change. “Non-physical” disabilities are taking longer for us to adapt practice.

      I question the wisdom of trying to “cure” autism. For those so locked in by sensory overwhelm that they cannot function without a lot of help, find the source of what I see as a lack of filters, so that they can choose to participate in wider society if they desire.

      Autists have a different way of thinking and of looking at, and interacting with, the world, that I think it would be a pity to “normalise” that. People along the bipolar spectrum, such as me, have brains that work differently than the mainstream–and there are other neurological atypical populations for which this is true–and that’s not a bad thing. I take my meds to keep the depressions away, but many bipolar-spectrum folks feel the meds they’re to take dulls their intellect, giving them brain-fog and no access to their creative abilities. THAT’s what needs fixing.

      As much as many pagans/witches/druids/heathens don’t know how to handle the neurologically atypical, or those with mental illness (try working with someone with splintered personalities), the mental health establishment doesn’t grok religious or spiritual intense experience. If one talks in session of working with the Gods, or of being possessed/ridden/visited, the MHP is likely to see us as delusional, which interferes with the therapy we truly need.

      There are paths to trance that I mustn’t take, because the meds or the underlying malfunction will be affected in possibly very negative ways–no mushrooms or certain tinctures for me.

      Liked by 3 people

  8. Reblogged this on Gangleri's Grove and commented:
    Yep. nail on the head. I’ve seen way too much compromise of practices and beliefs to accommodate the mainstream, a watering down of our traditions, a culling of anything that might be shocking or offensive to mainstream america and it’s bullshit. Absolute, unadulterated bullshit. We betray ourselves, our community, our traditions, and most of all our Gods when we engage in this type of thing. It’s cowardice pure and simple.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Something I realized the last time I tried to watch TV News was that TV News has become professional wrestling without the wrestling. It’s the only way I can make sense of an interfaith expert panel consisting of two professional trolls with a rabbi stuck in the middle, and an announcer goading them on.

    Mass media is built on a conflict narrative, so the question is not if you’re going to be framed in the most scandalous manner possible, the question is when and how.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Not sure which panel you’re referring to, but I’ve often felt as a polytheist, watching debates between monotheists & atheists is like being stuck at an eternal ping-pong match watching Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it was on Fox news, probably seen at a shop or something. But the panel consisted of Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, David Silverman of American Atheists, who are both known primarily for picking high-profile pissing matches. Rounding out the panel was a rabbi I didn’t recognize.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on and commented:

    The first salvo on Gods&Radicals is from Jason Thomas Pitzl, a damn fine essay. I’d normally have much to say, but his words (and the amassing comments) speak quite eloquently for themselves.

    Hold tight your wands….

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I not only remember it, I met the woman who started it. Do you also remember that it was supposed to progress from plain green, to, IIRC, a pentagram on the green field, then on a great Coming Out Day, the legend, “I’m a Pagan, too!” For the most part, steps 2 and 3 didn’t happen.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. I started out in the Pagan county thirty years ago right in the midst of the Satanic Panic. As we had to be secret our gathering were not public. You almost had to know a Pagan to even get invited You didn’t have signs telling you where to turn just certain colored ribbon that your instructions gave you.

    But that meant that only Pagan, or at least Pagan friendly people, were there so you were free to act Pagan. Causal nudity, or partial nudity was a matter of choice. Alcohol or mild drug use was optional, just as long as you did not become a problem yourself. You saw someone hot and wanted to get it on, the only rule was do it in private, in your tent, or out in the woods. Might I point out that these were already family events. All night drumming circles, and ecstatic dancing were normal nothing wrong with setting up you camping site a bit farther away if you needed quiet and sleep. Nothing wrong with not taking part in anything that you were not interested in. Also nothing wrong with being alone if you needed it.

    Now how many things that I have mentioned would be impossible today in our oh so respectable public Pagan events today? Somehow the sanitized Paganism of today is boring. I interviewed one lady, that does public ceremony in a public park in a city, who bragged that her ceremonies were so church-like that none of the nonpagan people passing by would be disturbed by them. Is that still even Pagan? Is that the price of respectability.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Thank you for this! As a trans person really coming into my gender identity during the 2011 PatheaCon transfail, I’ve often felt abandoned and shunned by both the feminist and Pagan communities. Part of why I’ve in turn shunned the Greater Pagan Community© is because it felt like there was nowhere for me to be and that the generic “what all Pagans believe” (which is of course itself a false statement) had nothing to do with myself at all. I’ve continued to ID as Pagan and do Pagan things, but in small communities, often looking on at the Greater Pagan Community© as something not meant for me, yet somehow still representing me because I was too queer, too trans, too fat, too depressed, to do it myself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sage, I’m sorry to hear that that was your experience. I was disappointed in the members of the Dianic community who rejected, and still reject, the notion that transwomen didn’t belong in their space, because I thought they were better than that. They’ve lost my respect by othering transwomen, and I find myself avoiding them. I’ve been othered for a number of different reasons, and I don’t like it done to me, thus I don’t like it, period.

      I would happily stand with you, enjoy a conversation, and see you for your spirit. I’m bipolar, with depression being my strongest presenting symptom, so I understand that part of you, not even knowing you, and I will listen if you need to talk about it.

      While I had met transfolk before, in 1999, I met a trans* in her year of living as a woman before surgery, and we’re still friends. When we went to a music festival in Sebastopol CA one year, I was the only one in the group with whom she was comfortable sharing a room, which made me glow.

      I knew another through an email list I’ve been on since 1995, and watched her change when she moved to the Bay Area. When she announced she was transitioning, I was the one to ask her new name. We all have common musical tastes, too.

      Marina (Saffronrose is a screenname)

      Liked by 2 people

  13. I have seen the term respectability politics before, primarily with respect to the LGBT movement, in which context I tend to actually agree its use. It has for many years seemed to me that LGBT people would do better if we assimilated into mainstream culture, after all most of merely want what the mainstream people want right? It is even hard to argue that mainstreaming has not aided us in achieving almost unthinkable levels of social progress for LGBT people in the past few decades. I have, however, come to realize that after a decade of my husband and I presenting ourselves as any other couple we are still regarded as the “less than” scenario. In short in the LGBT community it may be working, depending how we define our goals, but it will never get us to the true recognition of equality that we have been seeking.

    In the pagan community I do not see why we would pursue such an policy. Many of the problems with our society, particularly from an earth-centric perspective, are deeply intertwined with Christianity and capitalism. If we assimilate into the dominate cultural discourses then we have no hope of forcing a shift in perspective or even starting a serious conversation.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think you have good points here. One of the big problems I’ve always had with respectability politics in the LGBT sphere is that it doesn’t take into account that the home is as dangerous for us as the workplace, the street, or the courtroom. (Unless you’re living on the street, which often starts with homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia at home.)

      Assimilation isn’t necessarily support or liberation. We do much better at killing ourselves than any regime that falls short of mass murder. Assimilation without a willingness by the larger culture to accept us, our cultures, and our nonconforming members is still a situation that is going to kill people. The epidemiology for homophobia and transphobia is as unequivocal as it was for lead, mercury, and PCBs.

      Liked by 3 people

  14. I have seen the term respectability politics before, primarily with respect to the LGBT movement, in which context I tend to actually agree its use. It has for many years seemed to me that LGBT people would do better if we assimilated into mainstream culture, after all most of merely want what the mainstream people want right? It is even hard to argue that mainstreaming has not aided us in achieving almost unthinkable levels of social progress for LGBT people in the past few decades. I have, however, come to realize that after a decade of my husband and I presenting ourselves as any other couple we are still regarded as the “less than” scenario. In short in the LGBT community it may be working, depending how we define our goals, but it will never get us to the true recognition of equality that we have been seeking.
    In the pagan community I do not see why we would pursue such a policy. Many of the problems with our society, particularly from an earth-centric perspective, are deeply intertwined with Christianity and capitalism. If we assimilate into the dominate cultural discourses then we have no hope of forcing a shift in perspective or even starting a serious conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. You don’t think it’s a little inappropriate to compare the struggles of people of color to gain respect inside a racist, white supremacist system, and a majority-white, majority-seriously privileged community like modern-day Pagans being required to…I don’t know, what? Wear suits?

    This article is a massive expression of privilege. The oppression of women and people of color shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence as the “oppression” of Pagans.


    1. On the contrary, the oppression of women and people of color occur from the very same processes Pagans are re-enacting through their embrace of Respectability politics–that is, Capitalist Hegemony.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Not so much the Capitalist part. Capitalism is merely a tool for controlling resource distribution, and the scarcity of preferable resources. Not everyone can have the best spot on the hill overlooking the harbor, some actually have to build the harbor.

        The difficulty is the corruption involved.
        And sadly enough the same people who would get profit by toadying up to capitalists to get rich, would be the same ones vying for committee vote support and favors if we had a no-currency/socialist system. The main difference is that in capitalism as least we can follow the money train to see the problem…

        Liked by 1 person

    2. What is painful is that amount of racism and class-ism you’re showing against a group of people you “lump in” with your supremacist white people.

      I doubt that the systematic oppression of women (in Rome, women didn’t even have individual _names_!! ), although Various racial types did also carry the difficulty of culture and spiritual alienation and execution. Yes, some had to deny what their spiritual path was or be legally forced to take drugs, or imprisoned, beaten and/or killed. Their families and assets seized and enslaved.

      Perhaps lonesomeyogurt, that your difficulty understand is due to the narrowness of your own privilege? your own breath of experiences and knowledge.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Bigotry, whether based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, is still bigotry. Is it really necessary to play the Oppression Olympics?

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Comments from someone have been removed because they were engaging in repetitive use of pejoratives towards trans* folk.

    Please remember, any comment which essentializes someone according to skin color, gender, sexual orientation, etc. are not welcome here. Gender essentialism, in particular, is quite awful and has no place on a site of beautiful resistance.

    We’re happy to have a discussion soon of the problematic (and violent) nature of TERF (“Trans* Exclusive Radical Feminism”), but until then, please note–if your politics of who is Female or Male comes down to the genitalia you were born with, you’re engaging in the same (il)logic that a Racist employs.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. “if you’re politics of who is Female or Male comes down to the genitalia you were born with, you’re engaging in the same (il)logic that a Racist employs.”

      Care to defend that claim?


      1. Happily, in a subsequent post.

        To start, though, consider how modern Capitalist/Materialist science localizes behavior into the body, as critiqued by Foucault. Essentializing gender (which is a cultural construct) into the body is analogous to essentializing race (which is also a cultural construct) into the body. Blackness is not derived from an ‘essence’ of the person, but is constructed through historical, social, and economic processes. So, too, is gender. Western Capitalist societies have a particularly difficult time understanding this fact because of its embrace of Materialism.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Certainly you don’t believe that radical feminist analysis places gender as a product of the body! Certainly not! Rather, radical feminists see gender as a political construct, like race – and just like race, they believe it is an act of aggression from the oppressors when they claim membership in the ranks of the oppressed.

        If you believe (as I do) that race and gender are both constructions defined by an oppressive political power structure, I would be interested to know why you don’t support those with white skin self-identifying as black!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. People who grow up as White in a culture in which they experience White privilege do not experience a loss of that privilege when they claim to identify as nonwhite. They can claim to identify as any ethnic group and that does not affect the larger cultural perception or experience of them as White and it co-opts the cultural identity and experiences of people of color, whose experiences they cannot share.
        Women who are transgender do experience a loss or change of privilege when they transition. Often there is a loss of male privilege and become the target of sexist and transphobic oppression. Gender transition is a much more involved, permanent, and impactful change than a White person claiming to be non-white.

        Liked by 6 people

      4. “it co-opts the cultural identity and experiences of people of color, whose experiences they cannot share.”

        Explain to me how transgenderism does not co-opt the identity and experiences of women that cannot be shared by those born, raised, educated, and socialized inside the class of “man.”

        Otherwise, your argument boils down to “Because they lose male privilege.” Care to explain why that makes someone a woman? Anti-racists in the south during the civil rights movement often lost certain parts of their white privilege (couldn’t trust police, couldn’t go where they pleased for business or pleasure, couldn’t trust other white folks) for their transgressions of whiteness – did that make them black?


      5. Explain to me how transgenderism does not co-opt the identity and experiences of women that cannot be shared by those born, raised, educated, and socialized inside the class of “man.”

        How about the fact that no two people “born, raised, educated, and socialized inside the class of ‘[woman]'” have the same experiences? How about the fact that trans women tend not to internalise that so-called “male socialisation” as really applying to them (and vice-versa for trans men)? How about the fact that people who claim to be against the patriarchy should really be above such petty pissing contests to “prove” who does and does not get to claim an experience?

        You can’t really argue against another’s experiences, because it is theirs and theirs alone, and even if one doesn’t fully understand every factor that plays into an experience, it is impossible for a person to be wrong about an experience which is theirs and theirs alone. It is not only illogical, but a moral failing to claim to have the ability to tell a woman that she has not had a woman’s experience simply because she does not meet your frankly arbitrary criteria for being “born female” — a man making that claim is enforcing patriarchy, a woman making that claim is reinforcing it.

        Liked by 3 people

      6. Ruadhan: Tell me why the following statement is not true:

        How about the fact that no two people “born, raised, educated, and socialized inside the class of ‘[black]’” have the same experiences? How about the fact that trans black folks tend not to internalise that so-called “white socialisation” as really applying to them (and vice-versa for trans white folks)? How about the fact that people who claim to be against white supremacy should really be above such petty pissing contests to “prove” who does and does not get to claim an experience?

        It is not only illogical, but a moral failing to claim to have the ability to tell a black man that he has not had a black man’s experience simply because he does not meet your frankly arbitrary criteria for being “born black” — a white person making that claim is enforcing white supremacy, a black person making that claim is reinforcing it.”

        I just took what you wrote about women and changed the words to be about race and it sounds ridiculous. Can you explain what the difference is? After all, a black woman in Senegal and a black man in New York will have *massively* different experiences, and I’m sure black folks raised, say, by white parents in white communities probably don’t absorb the same socialization. But certainly we wouldn’t accept trans-racial identity claims!


      7. Also I’m sorry but defining female as “one of the two general biological types found in human beings” is not “frankly aribtrary.” It’s literally what the word was invented to describe. The word “female” was created to mean “possessing these secondary and primary sexual characteristics.” What is “frankly arbitrary” is the out-of-nowhere belief that a word describing a biological reality suddenly means “has special lady feelings.”


      8. Hi!
        We’re gonna have to unapprove and block your comments if ye’ keep this up. Gender essentialism is quite unwelcome here. You may think you’ve the right to determine who is and is not female or male, but we heartily disagree and are attempting to undermine and overthrow such reactionary ideas.

        Liked by 6 people

      9. Replying to Anthonyrella. Leaving aside the stupidity of trying to identify peoples’ gender by their visible or physical characteristics (in a pagan culture (even when we’re not talking about Thor, who still looks like a man even in a dress 😉 ))

        There can be a loss of male privilege for transgender people, however often those are transgender (and even correct physical things using surgery) do not have access to those privileges and often feel inappropriate dealing with life and responsibilities/behaviour attached to those “privileges”. I would even go as far as say such difference of “privilege” between “male” and “trans-males (of varying types)” is a very stronger marker for those who are truly transgender, and those who are just suffering from other gender-directed avoidance issues.

        It has been mentioned here about “what you were born with”. Yet not an insignificant number of intersexed children are born, and “corrected to normal life” by surgery. There is also a large issue of nature vs nurture with respect to effeminiate men and more butch style women; where culturally many “normal” people have issues dealing with such people just because “their behaviour isn’t right”. One of my ex-girlfriends, large breasted g cup, not tall, all woman, bi-4, kept getting called young man by many people just because of the way she stood and positioned her head !

        Another aspect which is often tied to “Female” is the pressures to get married. And to grow and deliver children. There is frequently extremely negative pressure against people who are identified externally as “Female(tm)” who do not or cannot do these things. Such aspects might have been overriding when population was low, life was short, and family was a pool of unskilled labour. Fortunately, something that is forgotten by many people, and pagans more than most, is that some things have got better. So the old excuses and necessities can finally give way to better things.

        Better, like “good” is only really of value as a term when it has context.

        For me, “better” and “good” are when personal freedoms of all people are increased without damaging long term people or environment (sustainability).

        Liked by 1 person

      10. There can be a loss of male privilege for transgender people…

        Except for trans men, who (at least conditionally) tend to gain it.

        PLEASE STOP. When you’re talking of trans women, say “trans women” (that is “MTF spectrum” — looking at the rest of your comment, you seem to have no idea what “trans women” and “trans men” actually are). Trans men are “transgender people”, too, and we deal with a whole different set of concerns.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. The transmen I know of don’t “suddenly gain” male privilege. This is often because what is described as “male privilege” is more often class or connection privilege. That class issue is one ignored by many people, especially those inside the Universe of the US, and the conveniently drop any material from beyond their borders in assigning their “truth” to the things like gender, race, sexuality.
        A classic example I that I was brought up in a environment that was heavily influence by Japan and Japanese values, and colonial necessities… so when people talk to me of “white privilege” …you have to be a little clearer…and a LOT less racist. “white privilege” isn’t so much when you’re in a Japanese environment, or from a rural area. So when people call it _white_ priviliege based on their location and their nationality there are DEFINITELY 3 fingers of that hand pointing back at them.

        Another note:
        lousyyoughurt did have one good point: It isn’t about your “girl feelings”. damn straight 😉
        It’s about your personal identity when you find you’re strapped into a gorilla suit and expected to fit in…and to make it worst the gorilla suit isn’t even your size. Everyone only sees the gorilla suit.
        Or a ballerina dress. You are a decent bloke wanting to impress girls play sports, and you’re spending your life riding the bus, going to school, wearing that bloody pink frilly dress, trying to get people to deal with you seriously and listen to you. Even in a suit, you still feel like everyones staring at your tiara, or your pointy suits or wanting to ride your ass. You’d step them outside and give them a hiding (or tell them to f off) but to go with the frilly dress, you get a ribbon or something which might be pretty but not get taken seriously material.

        So no it sure isn’t just about your “girl feelings”


      12. AS A TRANS MAN MYSELF, NOT JUST A CIS PERSON WHO KNOWS ONE, I can tell you right now, that yeah, trans men tend to gain male privilege by transitioning.

        There’s a series of videos on YouTube by a trans man and trans woman, both in their early-to-mid twenties, and they often discuss ting very thing — everything from pay rates increasing or decreasing after transition, to little things, like being asked for the time, sddenly the trans man is taken seriously, but the trans woman is ignored and the asker asks either the next person or whatever man (cis or trans) she might be out with.

        Yeah, I’m probably negating a lot of “male privilege” I *could be* getting by the fact that I’m *very* effete and make no efforts to hide that, but FFS, when I notice that the clerks at the post office are treating me and the other men differently than they treat the women, I think it’s because transitioning has “suddenly” given me something that I didn’t have before, something that has little to no relation to my class or my connections (especially as I’m often toting a folding shopping/utility cart, indicating that I’m too poor to drive or be driven places to run my errands).

        Please stop cissplaining my experiences, nay MY WHOLE LIFE to me.


      13. Also look up an essay by Ben Barres about how he’s “suddenly”, post-transition, taken *much* more seriously in his field (mathematics).

        You are committing some MAJOR cissplaining in a space where that sort of thing really isn’t allowed.

        Liked by 1 person

      14. I’m sorry…did you want me to conform???

        “yeah right”.

        I’m coming from the position of hearing people moaning about female wage rates being so much lower than men…..

        ….. while being identified as a man…and being paid less.

        By being ignored by service people so they can “help the nice lady”, “right after the business man”

        todays’ case was explain by “that’s just the way it is” and “everybody does it”

        and do even want to get into the idiocy of separating cis from trans, and not calling that bigotry? My favourite was cis or trans people refusing to date trans or cis women because they weren’t “real woman”. Bueatiful part is State don’t recognise or trace nasty hexes and curses.

        But yeah, for reals, knock of the attempt to make me conform. Maybe you want re-read the original article a few more times.


      15. Excuse me, but was that a response to me?

        If so, it would be helpful if I had the slightest idea what you were going on about.

        Nobody has asked anyone to conform, but yeah, the fact of the matter is, trans men *do* gain some semblance of male privilege, at least conditionally, by transitioning. By CISSPLAINING to me that we do not because you’ve known either a) trans men who have not yet started transitioning and/or otherwise don’t pass as men (that would be one of the conditions for gaining male privilege) or b) trans men who are borderline or full-blown MRAs and denying outright that they’ll ever have access to male privilege while very likely benefiting from it (believe me, the type exists, and they are INFURIATING), you are denying my lived experiences and those of many other trans men. By denying that we gain male privilege by transitioning, you are also denying that trans men are men, and insisting that we’re just another type of woman.

        As to why being cis or trans needs to be pointed out, ffs, really now? Do I *really* need to explain it to you?


      16. I -think- its a response to you , can’t really tell who you were having a go at, since the site won’t support a deeper thread depth.

        You don’t think that you might be presenting yourself differently then? You don’t think that you might actually be standing up and earning any of the kudos? You think that those things are some kind of “privilege”?

        And yes if the knickers fit wear them. If that’s how you see your life… because I’m finding it rather insulting that you are trying to take some imaginary high road, and crapping on _my_ whole life, plus that of my daughter, and many of my friends … most of whom aren’t in the US (and when separated from the “mis-education system” suddenly realise just how much BS they swallowed in attempting to conform their minds to what was “acceptable rebellion”.

        That’s what has allowed a few of us to move on. Move on to the point we AREN’T “trans” any more. Just like “cis” folk, we are ourselves in _our_ _own_ gender of ourselves.

        And if you still have issues with that start by explaining just _how_ “cisplaining” is an _inclusionary_ (as opposed to exclusionary) term.

        damn how I learn to hate those words cis and trans.
        Obtopic: Just as how I learnt to hate the “Real Pagans” and “Real Witches (but not like the halloween negative ones)” and their self righteous bs. Such terminology marks the people as exclusionary – once it was Romans against rural folk, people who didn’t follow their ways. Do I look witchy? Do I “look like” anything. Only if I want, and if that discredits your life, then you really do need to re-evaluate your life (for base constructs, yoga and some other “construct” deprogramming is a good start)


      17. I’m asking this in total seriousness:

        Do you have some kind of medical condition? You are making no sense, and I don’t want to waste my time on someone who simply can’t make sense. If there is a legit disabling reason for the fact that you repeatedly make no real sense, then it does neither of us any good to continue.

        But to address the one part I could make some vague sense of: no, not everything has to be “inclusive” to be fair or even good.


      18. “By denying that we gain male privilege by transitioning, you are also denying that trans men are men, and insisting that we’re just another type of woman. ”

        Not even slightly, but your mistake IS what I’m talking about.

        Much of the “privilege” that you think exists doesn’t, not for many people (including men). However many people especially those with a “privilege axe” to grind, refuse to see those people that fall with in the assigned group who _don’t_ have that identified privilege – it’s a selection bias. Once many of the other factors are stripped away (such as class, wealth, normal cultural comfortability amongst layfolk) only a few individuals have privilege. What’s more it allows the identification of those in the assigned group (who don’t get a voice or recognition) who don’t actually have the “privilege” to be noticed.
        What I found interesting is the cultural injury to such psyche(s) in terms of identity and mental disorder. A bonus of being an outsider of such groups and not having to comply or be seen to have tribal identity to be accepted.
        The next step from that is the psyche violence done by the abusers, and the abused, and most of all via projection by those in fear of such psyche violence. This was interesting in many places when looking at tribalism and group-identity, group identifying behaviours, and the initiatory process (and with the later the “overcoat” behaviour of “us”/”them” eg ‘abuse’ vs ‘policing’)

        ObTopic, many of these issue within the gender-community, apply quite directly to pagan and magic community (2 separate but often overlapping communities the pagan and magic). So looking at who just to be rule makers, who gets to set was is acceptable to debate and what terms are allowed, who has a voice, how much personal experience counts, and what degree of filters/compartmentisation is acceptable, and just what level of “normal function” means in terms of the defining community factor*.

        (it is often stated that a community is a group of similar people. This is another poor construct. A community is a group of entirely diverse people, who might share as little as a single defining characteristic. Thus the selection characteristic is often the _least useful_characteristic to apply to the community for useful purposes.)

        anyway enough now.
        I think we in agreement that no-one gets to decide who conforms or not conform to “acceptable” standards?


      19. Ruadhan, what might be making understanding my posts difficult is there are a bunch of gender and sexuality comments and topics that I’m avoiding – some which would be very relevant here, but all which would come across as extremely derogatory or at least challenging to many people’s worldview.

        You asked a couple of times about “When did Ruadhan say Mist should comply?” : “You are committing some MAJOR cissplaining in a space where that sort of thing really isn’t allowed.”

        With regard to “privilege” vs “doing it yourself”, that is one of the topics I’m avoiding. The similarities between gender-role assumptions has many excellent parallels and lessons for the pagan/magic community – one of which is that a bunch of experts on one side of the discussion feel they have all the answers (the BNP’s and those who have degrees in social medicine) however they are unable to see the forest for the trees they been told are there. This is one of the big “compliance” problems, when one group sets THE rules and then tells others they must pass or fail (by their standards) to be validated.

        eg for me to cisplain, I would have to be cisgendered.
        parallel: for me to have a “proper pagan opinion”…does that mean we have to be “validated pagans” first?

        In my own personal life I identify as trans. I am neither “male” nor am I “female”, yet that identity role (often I just use the convenient “genderfluid” from more modern speak) is frequently rejected by many proper cis or trans people, not to mention what the “experts” think.

        However unlike the experts, I have been studying and working this since early childhood… including 38 years practicing pagan and 43 doing various magical work. 36 years since my formal dedication. Including “no holds barred”, “no boundaries” work, which means not being conditioned (contaminated) by existing structures and beliefs for much of the time, often working from first principles. and zero access to borrowed authority.

        If the gender terms are uncomfortable, we could use older less direct gender related terms “resource producer” and “resource consumer”, although I find them intensely unlikable due to their instant binary duelity (taking on such a dualism measure tends to be a hammer in the the toolbox. Once one understands that there are other options besides the “door is open” and “the door is closed”, the one thing becomes the thousand, and the thousand becomes one.”


      20. My point, though, was that you were relying on cissexism to ‘splain to me that I’m somehow wrong about the very trans male experience that I live every day. And as best as I can tell, you’re still relying on it, you’re just attempting to temper it by now identifying as somehow on the trans spectrum.

        The thing is, though, is a majority in trans men *in transition* (or “fully transitioned”, how that’s defined is individual yo each trans person) do have some degree of male privilege that had nothing to do with “class or connections”, add you have claimed. Yes, it is conditional on “passing as male”, but as a high femme trans man who has performed as a drag queen, a huge part of passing as male is simply asserting that one is the gender one says one is in a manner most people in the vicinity will accept.

        Much of any societal privilege is also not a fixed state — think of it more like a sliding scsle. Yes, trans WOMEN tend to lose any male privilege by transitioning, and whether or not a trans woman passes as female-enough is not necessarily strengthened by assertiveness — while a trait encouraged in cis women, in spite of “gender norms” saying that women should be docile and compliant, trans women (at least based on the words of many I have known) seem expected to become extra docile and compliant, lest they forget that society tends to regard them as something both less than men and less than cis women. (There was also a study of pay rates on trans versus cis people, and where cis men were at the top tier of pay rates, trans men tended to be ranked between cis men and cis women, and trans women ranked below cis women. Interestingly, short men, cis or trans, also tend to get pay cuts [and tall men, 6’0″+, are at the top of the male pay rate], and since most trans men tend to be especially short for men [being under 5’6″], it’s hard to say whether we tend to earn less than the average cis man because we’re trans or because we’re short.)

        You can’t undo your cissexism by identifying yourself on the trans spectrum, because that’s not how it works. Women (especially cis women) still say sexist thjngs, and a lot of people of colours still say racist things.


      21. drat, no edit function. Missed out the “do it yourself” piece. In overly simple terms, it can be related the process involved in affirmation based magics. When someone has the idea of a role or construct, when you have the tokens that say they are qualified to do that role, the magickal parts of the mind process in a manner that says that construct is present.
        It’s actually the basis for a lot of the officers and stations in ceremonial magic, and it’s often done by HPS who are “drawing down the moon” (which is sad because that means they’re not doing it right – DDTM is full possession, not just masking/affirmation).

        Part of the important part is the “sacred” tokens. the more we conceptualise and focus on them, the stronger the association is in the mind, so the more real they are to us on mental and astral planes. Yet in many cases it is just us giving ourselves permission to act that way (as opposed to following our social conditioning/education).

        If people look at my facebook account, they see I have Pepe Le Pew as my avatar picture. People often look at that and my self assured way of speaking and decide I think I’m better than everyone else and that I am arrogant.
        Yet it is a token in this manner. It reminds me that “it is ok to be me” and that I can like myself and be a person I respect, without having to cater to the demands of others. That having many years experience and observation _does_ give me the right to have an opinion that is different to others, and to speak it.


      22. “one of which is that a bunch of experts on one side of the discussion feel they have all the answers (the BNP’s and those who have degrees in social medicine)”

        Having spent more time than the average person in the company of BNPs, I can tell you that few feel they have all the answers about anything, and mostly are somewhere along the spectrum of chagrined to terrified that other people might think they do. Yes, there are some who exhibit a lot of bluster, but as with any person who does that, you can reasonably assume there is a lot of insecurity underneath that.

        BNPs are people, too, yanno. Lumping them together in a negative stereotype is, well, it should be obvious. Actually, it’s a good example of how our brains love, love, love to create categories for stuff. As that’s a hardware or firmware issue, it’s helpful, I think, to simply acknowledge it when it happens and try to work around it, ’cause it’s always gonna happen.

        Very hard to nest these replies to replies properly 😦

        Liked by 2 people

      23. Ruadhan, I wasn’t explaining anything to you, I was talking to lousyyoughurt, who was the one saying about the gender wasn’t about someone’s “girl feelings”.
        And I was saying technically that is indeed correct it _isnt_ about “girly feelings”.

        cisplaining is cis person commenting on trans life.

        As for YOU getting to judge my gender … Holy F! That is _ripe_ coming from someone accusing others of cisplaining.


      24. There are a few BNP ‘s in mind. Yes most old school BNP are pretty laid back, pretty alternative folks… Not having anything they need to prove. It’s more the up and coming/more recent Say anything that opposes their expert opinion, or have opinions of your own, and you’re not valid unless you have BNP credentials.
        And of course the BNP faithful are similar.

        Also Phaedra, you have rank and recognition for those people so they treat you as honored elder, very different from what upstart rank and file get.


      25. I didn’t always have “rank and recognition.” Believe me, I spent plenty of time as a nobody. What recognition I got was due to years of hard work. Heck, I met Isaac at a festival, just like thousands of others.

        The joke is, of course, that a lot of those younger BNPs don’t recognize me at all. A lot of the up-and-comers never even heard of my late husband, much less me. Back in the ’90s, already, he used to joke, “I used to be famous.”

        Let’s hope that the BNPs you have in mind age gracefully. They are human, after all, and all that bluster is often a cover for insecurity. As for their followers you referred to, there is nothing inherent in Paganism that exempts adherents from true-believerism.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. I don’t usually clearly share parts of my personal path or it’s rules but perhaps this is a relevant place. I normally don’t share these things because they make everyone uncomfortable and can make them targets for the less enlightened.

    (1) question everything
    (1a) There are _NO_ boundaries. The only boundaries that exist are the ones in our minds.

    – so that might be respectability. It might be “An it Harm None” of the Wiccan Poem. it might be 93 Love is the Law. It might be gender oppression, or racial profiling. It might be escape velocity and things heavier than water can’t float, or subatomics or cold fusion. Or Magic, psychicism, or the ability to actually know how others feel. It might be my own doubt.
    + The sound bite accidentally said by a mentor “If you argue for you limitations then you get to keep them”

    (1b) Since there are NO boundaries then it is a matter of understanding what you can reach, and where you’re prepared to be comfortable.
    (1c) Also be prepared to deal with others when you’ve decided that somethings simply are NOT tolerable.

    (2) There are some places where progress is foolish and detrimental. Eating hotdogs is nice, eating all the hotdogs is foolish. In learning power and personal responsibility TOGETHER I can gain WISDOM. Through wisdom I can use the higher parts of my mind to weigh things that haven’t occurred.
    (2a) Important to learn how my mind learns and thinks. And how others minds learn and think. Once I appreciate our minds, I can start to appreciate our spirits.

    (3) I am not “Human”. I am “me”. To be more than what others assign to me as “human” and thus belonging to them and their church I have to strive to rebirth who I am. This means abandoning Identity (aka the ego). Ego and SuperEgo (the outside ideas from others) press together with an uncomfortable fit.
    (3a) All our parts do fit together … sort of.
    – An inspiration that hit me when I had to shoot home from a “Stars Edge” training program. Looking at the patterned treadplate on the airport toilet wall…the plates were made from one pattern (a basic universe rule), but they’d been cut up and bent, flipped, overlapped, gapped to fit the cubicle. This is often the “I am I” that we call our self, that doesn’t seem to fit into the Super-ego world. We have parts of ourselves upside down, inside out, we’ve got bits from other peoples’ jigsaws in our box, and we’re missing parts of ours that have been put in someone elses. Once I realised that I could relax my identity need.
    + “Once you know who you are you don’t have to try to be anyone else”
    (3b) Accept the universe for what it is. This is the first key of enlightenment. It’s not extra awareness of the world, or your problems vanishing, or lights and angelic choirs for the ascension (although it does come with great psycho-visual effects). Once you’ve got a handle on yourself, then the universe makes a lot more sense, as does your place in it. If you’re still grasping onto personal identity, you really don’t want to go here…see (2).
    (3c) 3b cannot occur if we are compromising ourselves to keep others satisfied.
    – We have power over what we claim. What we claim is (kind of) our responsibility (sorry the English language is a bit short on words), we take ownership of ourselves, then we have power to change things. If we force ourselves to change to deny ourselves from ourselves, it is a rather convoluted poor use of our power…because we ARE doing it ourselves. We might not have the Strength/Might to force others to adapt to us (which is poor use in the other direction) but we don’t have to work to conform, we can slowly work to change. It is my hope that in accepting ourselves, we will shed the additional dross that makes us force others to comply to our demands – after all we really only need to bother (be responsible) for the parts of the universe that is us (which being a monad, is a challenge, but to accept that requires respect for the “other you”).

    how the compliance thing can work in secular terms, A recent internet writer on different mentioned how “men were still sexist even here!”. A professional woman entered a workplace and got a smile from the male owner. She decided that this was condescending and an insult to her training and skill, as she was new to the profession; and that it was definitely due her gender that he must be questioning her training. The professional and the author and several of their female friends agreed that it was terrible, and dreadfully sexist (including how bad it was because women also expect to get paid less than men). A couple of the men in that circle agreed, most men had no idea (didn’t care, which was considered second degree sexism because it was an “Important Issue” and taking a “Not Care” was to fall on the side of the oppressors”. She did her job and left with the minimal discussion with the sexist owner.
    Note that the discrimination was all in the mouths of women and men complaining. Contacting the workplace owner I found that he was just relieved to have someone turn up on time, and relief that it wasn’t the other employee (that the woman was replacing) because they were not very competent.

    the entire sexism…. like the compliance issue in the article … was actually generated by the insecure people themselves. Each felt insecure, so comformed – others who were different resonanted with their own insecurity making them feel (a) insecure and (b) disempowered because they won’t face their own avoidance, (c) because to admit to avoidance would be to admit to many shadows (fear, insecurity, inadaquacy, fear of real dangers such as rejection, attack, expulsion, loss of influence. The “idiotic” (and I mean that in a humorous way) is that the defence they used for their insecurity…was to project all those shadow things at anyone that made them uncomfortable in themselves !!! just like the professionals friends were being hideously sexist but projected that on some innocent person!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Mist42nz, there was no reply spot at this comment by you, so I’ll address it here. You say, “ruled by the “leaders” of your movement in even more repressive ways than the previous oppressors.”

    Choosing not to work for pay (outside the home) was not seen as a valid choice for “feminists” in the 70’s, which I thought was warped. Still think so.

    In later decades, we were also told a) all het sex is rape (by some) b) men couldn’t be feminists (by some clueless persons) c) kink sex is wrong… d) all pornography is harmful… yeah, othered by the movement we thought we were a part of, being told by the new feminist philosophy/leaders how to be. Sorry, not buying it.

    But yes, I agree with your statement, having experienced it.


    1. I have a no-longer-friend who believes I am not a feminist. She doesn’t offer why, and I haven’t asked for fear of creating even more tension than is present already.

      Sorry, she doesn’t get to define me. I am not a pigeonhole-able person.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Phaedra, of course YOU would know! I still have my button, and remember wondering when phases 2 and 3 were going to show up.

    I never did see many others, but some folk knew what it meant.

    I also remember dancing with your beloved Isaac at The Crystal Cave shop, in its first location in the GOSH centre in Claremont CA, before ’76, but within the year it opened. I was a baby Pagan at the time, and the shop felt so comfortable to me that, even with no money to spend most of the time, I went to it as a refuge.


  20. Another commenter associated with Deep Green Resistance has been blocked from further comments on this piece due to anti-trans* arguments.

    We apologize, again, to our trans* kindred who not only have had to endure horrific oppression from mainstream society but -also- from so-called Trans*Exclusionary ‘Radical’ Feminists.

    Any resistance to Capitalism must include ALL peoples, otherwise we’ll enact the same horrors of the present. Gods&Radicals exists both to strengthen the radical roots of Paganism and also to show non-Pagan ‘radicals’ what they miss when they ignore the sacredness of the world and the peoples therein.

    Liked by 5 people

  21. Of your primary argument is that the meaning of words is static and immutable, then it might alleviate your confusion to know that you’re dating things that are textbook “gender essentialist”.

    You’re the one who’s being inconsistent.


  22. I’d agree that as a whole Paganism fails to engage young people. I’ve witnessed this in my work with a university based Pagan society and wonder how this bridge can be overcome. I think young people are drawn to Paganism because it is radical and then they disappear because we’re afraid to put on enough stuff that touches the ‘edges’ for them… it’s a tough call…

    Liked by 1 person

  23. mist42nzmist42nz, I couldn’t reply directly to your post beginning “Leaving aside the stupidity of trying to identify peoples’ gender by their visible or physical characteristics…”

    I asked my first transwoman friend (I don’t seem to have any transmen in my social circle), a software engineer, why she would do something that would result in a loss of privilege, especially in the computer industry. When she said, “If I don’t transition, I will die”, the light bulb lit over my head. Bone-deep need–I understand that strongly.

    I am unacquainted with, and unable to define via a web search, the term “bi-4”. If you would be so kind as to explain, I would appreciate it.

    As to breeding while female, or not, I was adamant for a long time that I didn’t want children. Yes, I got grief about it, but I thought if by 28, I hadn’t changed my mind, I’d get my tubes tied.

    After one lover said something about adoption, I had to clarify that it was not a biological reason, but a personal history one: when I thought of me and children, I saw me with three kids under ten, no husband anymore, and no adequate means of support. That was my fear. I was able to rephrase this to not wanting children without a husband by the time of conception, and with a man who wanted kids more than I did, who would be an equal partner in rearing them, and not just financially. Well, the husband-in-title changed during our son’s first ten years–and certainly once son & I were dx’d bipolar–emotionally and physically pulling away from family interactions, except to tell me I was doing things wrong, and becoming more like his own father, who was a mess. By then his mom, and until he died, his stepfather, were living with us and buffered some of that for me.

    I try not to presume gender (or the lack thereof), and hope the person with whom I’m interacting will give me a clue. For instance, aediculaantinoi/PSVL (if I got the order correctly) does not identify as male–but I have no idea what along the gender spectrum e claims as e’s. I haven’t met any transfolk of which I am aware, who use a personal pronoun that is not gendered, but realise, from my readings TWH/Pagan Arch/Anarchist/this blog, and panels and conversations, that such folk exist.

    I have this thing about addressing people by what they prefer, be it name, accented/preferred pronunciation of same, gender identification, pronouns, nationality/ethnicity, and the like. My birthname was chopped and mangled too frequently before I legally changed to Marina, that I’m a bit sensitive about that. I encounter many people of different ethnicities who have an “English” name or pronunciation, and what name is theirs in their own communities. If I see you frequently, this is especially true: it’s a form of recongizing them as a real person, instead of a cipher. I know two women who spell their name Linnea, but pronounce it differently, and two Tamaras for whom that is true. I show my respect by remembering the correct pronunciation for each.


    1. bi-4, sorry bad habit. bisexual, kinsey 4. I know it’s a crap scale but it is a useful tool for a few things (although I see they’ve nudged the scale up one point for the gold star crew 😉 ). Basically when I met her she identified as lesbian, and had had a couple of significantly bad male relationships. Then her female partner cheated on her, claiming that all real women wanted “it” anyway. But several years later after that we got together and were so for many years, where she had partners of either gender but strongly preferred women. I mentioned it because (annoyingly) when one talks of strong butch women, who people mistake for a man, people tend to assume “lesbian” which is head-desk material (preferrable to other stupid people )…what I look like actually has _nothing_ to do with my “attachments”, nor with my sexuality. ObTopic: except in the eyes of the system and conformity, of which I am not a part, and only deal with on fair open trade (no contract !! implied or explicit ).

      I personally entered into magic looking for transgender/transsexual ability. Age 5.
      I entered into paganism at age 12 because I was moderately successful in much of the magic work (but not what I particularly hoped for) but after 7 years personal magickal work and gender identity issues I had become extremely unstable – a treatise with gods, including some prayers which were directly and physically granted created the opportunity to accept a offer of patronage/service.
      In that time was a process, pre-human-programming, which amounted to marriage and consummation to spirits/gods/Land. Such a marriage is so far beyond the system and human conformity that many humans ESPECIALLY those who see themselves as “educated or “professional” _within_ the human system can’t even grasp at many of the differences. To them all they see is the markers they have been conditioned and educated to deal with. The closest I can relate it too is coming from a technical field (eg trans gender) and dealing with laypeople (ie those who can only conceptualise a binary).

      Part of the magical process was interesting, but as it was proving fruitless due to the side effects in the world (of magical success) I decided instead to breakdown the barrier. To “Integrate”. No more anima/animus. Slam things together like two hemispheres of processed radioactive isotope, be the singularity of now, the generated identity of “me”. ObTopic: So how does that fit the world of “conformity”.
      You can image my curiousity when dealing with Wicca in second degree (death of the child self, and meeting of the amina/animus) and with Alchemy and the hieros gamos.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I’d rather be respected than respectable. Respect begins with self-respect, which can easily be lost when engaging in respectability politics.


  25. Interesting how this has been ocurring with the erosion of the middle class here in the US. It’s also a struggle which has been occurring for sex workers and pit bull owners.


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