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Something about Christian Privilege.

May 26, 2011 Leave a comment

So I was thinking about this whole privilege thing, and it occurred to me that Christianity is never really looked at in this way, but–well, in the west at least, and particularly in the US, Christian privilege is alive and well and pernicious in the mainstream culture. It’s a part of the kyriarchal systems of oppression and one that rarely gets unpacked. So I did a bit of googling, and I found this checklist. Sadly, the original site seems to be down, but I got hold of it via the Wayback Machine. So, the following is the work of Dr. Lewis Z. Schlosser, a psychology professor at Seton Hall, who designed and conducted workshops on Christian privilege. It should go without saying that this is very much western/US-centric, as Christians obviously do not share these privileges elsewhere in the world. But just because Christians are persecuted in China, does not mean they are not privileged in the US (a bingo card argument if I’ve ever heard one). I don’t necessarily agree with every point on here, even as a Pagan, but the vast majority of it I can definitely understand and I think it’s good food for thought and discussion.

  1. It is likely that state and federal holidays coincide with my religious practices, thereby having little to no impact on my job and/or education.
  1. I can talk openly about my religious practices without concern for how it will be received by others.
  1. I can be sure to hear music on the radio and watch specials on television that celebrate the holidays of my religion.
  1. When told about the history of civilization, I am can be sure that I am shown people of my religion made it what it is.
  1. I can worry about religious privilege without being perceived as “self-interested” or “self-seeking.”
  1. I can have a “Jesus is Lord” bumper sticker or Icthus (Christian Fish) on my car and not worry about someone vandalizing my car because of it.
  1. I can share my holiday greetings without being fully conscious of how it may impact those who do not celebrate the same holidays.  Also, I can be sure that people are knowledgeable about the holidays of my religion and will greet me with the appropriate holiday greeting (e.g., Merry Christmas, Happy Easter, etc.).
  1. I can probably assume that there is a universality of religious experience.
  1. I can deny Christian Privilege by asserting that all religions are essentially the same.
  1. I probably do not need to learn the religious or spiritual customs of others, and I am likely not penalized for not knowing them.
  1. I am probably unencumbered by having to explain why I am or am not doing things related to my religious norms on a daily basis.
  1. I am likely not judged by the improper actions of others in my religious group.
  1. If I wish, I can usually or exclusively be among those from my religious group most of the time (in work, school, or at home).
  1. I can assume that my safety, or the safety of my family, will not be put in jeopardy by disclosing my religion to others at work or at school.
  1. It is likely that mass media represents my religion widely AND positively.
  1. It is likely that I can find items to buy that represent my religious norms and holidays with relative ease (e.g., food, decorations, greeting cards, etc.).
  1. I can speak or write about my religion, and even critique other religions, and have these perspectives listened to and published with relative ease and without much fear of reprisal.
  1. I could write an article on Christian Privilege without putting my own religion on trial.
  1. I can travel without others assuming that I put them at risk because of my religion; nor will my religion put me at risk from others when I travel.
  1. I can be financially successful without the assumption from others that this success is connected to my religion.
  2. I can protect myself (and my children) from people who may not like me (or them) based on my religion.
  3. Law enforcement officials will likely assume I am a non-threatening person if my religion is disclosed to them.  In fact, disclosure may actually help law enforcement officials perceive me as being “in the right” or “unbiased.”
  4.  I can safely assume that any authority figure will generally be someone of my religion.
  1. I can talk about my religion, even proselytize, and be characterized as “sharing the word,” instead of imposing my ideas on others.
  1. I can be gentle and affirming to people without being characterized as an exception to my religion.
  1. I am never asked to speak on behalf of all Christians.
  1. My citizenship and immigration status will likely not be questioned, and my background will likely not be investigated, because of my religion.
  1. My place of worship is probably not targeted for violence because of sentiment against my religion.
  1. I can be sure that my religion will not work against me when seeking medical or legal help.
  1. My religion will not cause teachers to pigeonhole me into certain professions based of the assumed “prowess” of my religious group.
  1. I will not have my children taken from me from governmental authorities who are aware of my religious affiliation.
  1. Disclosure of my religion to an adoption agency will likely not prevent me from being able to adopt children.
  1. If I wish to give my children a parochial religious education, I probably have a variety of options nearby.
  1. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence and importance of my religion.
  1. I can be sure that when someone in the media is referring to G-d, they are referring to my (Christian) G-d.
  1. I can easily find academic courses and institutions that give attention only to people of my religion.
  1. My religious holidays are so completely “normal” that, in many ways, they may appear to no longer have any religious significance at all.
  1. The elected and unelected officials of my government probably are members of my religious group.
  1. When swearing an oath, I am probably making this oath by placing my hand on the scripture of my religion.
  1. I can openly display my religious symbol(s) on my person or property without fear of disapproval, violence, and/or vandalism.

On femmephobia and geek subcultures.

May 4, 2011 3 comments

I know this is a seemingly odd choice of topic for a post on a blog that’s ostensibly about Paganism, but with the huge amount of overlap between the Pagan community and geek subcultures, I thought it was relevant. And, well, it’s my blog, piss off if you don’t like it, because this post really needs some signal boosting.

I think that when we engage with this bullshit, it’s important to remember that the source of this mess is a kyriarchy that consistently values women’s worth solely by their “fuckability” according to the heteronormative male gaze. And it’s also a culture in which geeky pursuits are firmly coded as masculine, and where female geeks until very recently have been mostly invisible. I think a lot of female nerds are understandably resentful that we went years and years without having any acknowledgment that women could be nerds at all, and when we finally started getting some, it was only a very narrow range of women getting all the attention, generally for all the wrong reasons: because male nerds thought they were “fuckable” according to conventional standards. When was the last time we saw a female nerd/geek in pop culture that wasn’t conventionally pretty, since Revenge of the Nerds? Even the rare women who are expressly coded as “nerds” rather than as the unattainable “hotties” nerd boys drool over are attractive (ie. Willow Rosenberg, anyone played by Felicia Day, etc). The message then becomes that the only female nerds worth talking to/about are the “hot” ones. Even in the one subculture that supposedly values intellectual pursuits and the socializing doesn’t (ostensibly) revolve around sex or dating rituals, looks are still the only thing that matters about a woman.

This, after years and years of strict policing by our male counterparts: don’t be too girly, or you’re not a True Nerd. And if there’s one thing nerds of any gender fear more than anything, it’s the “you’re not a true _____” argument. Even nerdy pursuits within the subculture are subject to this: the sheer amount of vitriol hurled at “fangirls” on sites like TV Tropes, the amount of abuse given to fandoms/fannish pursuits that are dominated by women (ie Twilight, fanfiction, The Sims, casual games), the whining by misogynist dudebros that “girls are ruining ______”, etc. A startlingly and not-at-all-coincidentally high number of feminine-coded things are enough to get you tossed out on the curb as not a True Nerd. The ever-present threat of being outcast-even-from-the-outcasts is a scary thing, especially for the younger ones among us.

Mix all this together and season liberally with a toxic culture that denigrates anything and everything feminine even as it pretends to put it on a pedestal, and it becomes all too obvious where this internalized misogyny in nerdgirls comes from. Unfortunately, instead of fueling much needed critiques of sexist pop culture, this resentment boils right back into the same femmephobia and nerdgirl policing that’s been the price of admission to geekdom for women since time immemorial. There’s a good reason why some of the loudest misogynists in our nerdy subcultures are women, it’s because there’s only three categories for women in it: Nerdgirl, DM’s Girlfriend, Squealing Fangirl. And you won’t be accepted into the first one (the only one that gets any kind of respect) unless you’re suitably de-sexualized/de-femmed/not threatening to male supremacy. If you’re a little too femme, a little too pretty, a little too fond of shipping/fanfic/slash, a little too willing to call out misogyny? You get outcast to the other two boxes, which might as well be Outer Siberia for all the respect they get. That there is now a Hot Chick category emerging is cold comfort to a lot of women (particularly those of us who are brown, fat, unable/willing-to-pass-trans, disabled, etc. and thus are automagically excluded from the Hot Chick category by 90% of mainstream geekdom no matter how hot we are; more on that in a bit). More times than I can count, I’ve specifically been able to mark a distinct difference in how I’ve been received and treated in nerd spaces depending on how femme-looking I am at a given time. I’ve worn the exact same geeky t-shirt and gotten completely different reactions if I wore it with jeans or a skirt, or had makeup on or not. Without fail, if I’m more femme-presenting or even slightly deviate from the Acceptable Nerd Girl Uniform (jeans, neckbeard-sized geeky t-shirt, and at most plain chapstick)–even in an alt-femme/femmegoth manner–I alternately get hit on or dismissed as DM’s Girlfriend and not to be taken seriously. There’s hostility and suspicion that I’m an interloper, a “muggle” that doesn’t belong.

Also, note that a fair bit of this is racially charged: if you’re a WoC or otherwise othered, even if you manage to slip into the Hot Chick category, you have to defend your cred twice as much, because WoC get even less representation as nerds than white women do. Does anyone really believe Felicia Day would be remotely as popular if she were fat and/or brown and/or trans, really? She constantly gets held up as a Nerd Chick icon, while Rosario Dawson and Mila Kunis (who as a dark-haired Russian is “swarthy” in comparison and exoticized)–both just as thin, cis, and pretty–constantly get their nerd cred questioned. Aisha Tyler is another one who undergoes scrutiny. Things that make you go, “hmm”, indeed.

For a group of people who are outcasts basically everywhere else, all of this is some pretty powerful incentive to STFU and play ball with a fucked up system. For far too long, it wasn’t immediately obvious that there was an alternative to femmephobic assimilation if you wanted to be a female nerd and participate in nerd culture, especially if you were young and socially awkward to begin with. We’ve always been our harshest critics in large part because we’ve been terrified of that sort of shunning. This really ought to be another Geek Social Fallacy, btw, because that’s just how prevalent it is.

So what’s the answer? Other than continuing to call it out where we see it, and talk and talk and talk this shit out? I think it’s critically important to continue to seek out and build our own nerdy spaces where heteronormative male gaze bullshit is not centered. Backlash be damned. I don’t think it’s coincidental that I only began to unpack and dismantle my own internalized femmephobia when I stopped hanging out so much in straight white cis dude fannish spaces and more in female and explicitly queer dominated spaces. I’m not advocating separatism for everyone, by any means (personally, it’s how I manage to keep my blood pressure to a reasonable level, but do what you gotta). But, seriously, there’s enough decent nerds out there that we don’t have to put up with this nonsense, and we don’t have to engage in this kind of self-destructive policing. We never had to–not really–but there’s just no excuse for this bullshit now, in 2011. There’s a metric fuckton of us and we need to recognize that and keep on creating our own communities, where this kind of nonsense gets checked at the door. My life got infinitely better when I found some and was able to be myself. It’s no longer important to me whether or not some theoretical dudes recognize me as “one of the tribe” anymore, because my participation in nerd culture doesn’t rely on them or their approval.

It’s why I laugh off microaggressions like the recent trip I made to GameStop, in which the male clerk informed me that “I didn’t look like a gamer” (another notch on my belt for identities I possess that I “don’t look like”, next to queer, poly, and Pagan. I’m a fucking ninja!) and proceeded to hit on me, after I coolly informed him that I’ve been gaming probably longer than he’s been alive. The simple truth is I feel like I’m at an age where I have nothing to prove to anyone as far as geek cred goes. My back issues of Macworld sit comfortably on a shelf next to copies of French and Italian Vogue, and my Anne Rice novels sit right next to my copy of the Dune Encyclopedia (mint hardcover obtained for $80, thank you). I design recipes based on fictional video game and fantasy novel cultures. So if I waltz into the local comic or game shop in a corset with my face covered in MAC Studio Fix, you can give me the stink eye all you want to. You’ll be hating me even more when I get home and roflstomp you in Soul Calibur 4.

Categories: Feminism Tags: ,

I Will Not Apologize.

May 2, 2011 2 comments

I will not apologize for rejoicing in Osama bin Laden’s death. Not as a New Yorker, an American, or as a Pagan and Sorceress.

I’m a native New Yorker, born and raised, and have lived all but three years of my life here. I worked in the Financial District, and spent many good times at the WTC. I even had a job there. So 9/11 wasn’t some horrific abstraction on television for me. It was the day that calling in sick saved my life. I spent a good few hours that morning with no idea whether or not my sister (who frequently had meetings at the WTC), or my mother (an RN who was a Red Cross volunteer) was still alive. Not to mention the friends I have, including at least one NYPD officer. I passed the smoking wreckage on the Q train every day, and breathed in the miasma that killed so many of our first responders. The firehouse down the street from me lost guys. I lost neighbors. Like so many other New Yorkers, I had PTSD and experienced anxiety attacks for months afterwards. It was a very long time before I could hear planes overhead without having a panic attack, and I still can’t view footage of the buildings collapsing without being triggered.

The witches, Pagans, sorcerers, santeros, mambos, adepts, magicians, root workers, priests and priestesses of this city–magically-oriented folks from every tradition and walk of life imaginable–spent days, months, and years working that site to ensure that the souls of the dead could find some measure of peace and move on to rest. Some of those dead we counted as our own. My Craft father’s own mentor-teacher, and a much respected elder in our local community survived the attacks. He was a janitor who was in one of the buildings as it collapsed, and literally walked out of the wreckage. He later succumbed a couple of months later to heart failure, and 9/11-related stress and health concerns absolutely played a role in his death.

And as spiritually oriented people, we understand the inherent power of symbolism. Even if bin Laden was no longer actually in charge of Al Qaeda, he was a powerful symbol of everything that happened that terrible day, and afterwards. He was singularly responsible not only for thousands of deaths in our city and our country, but for the deaths of so many others around the world, many of them his own people. This man was singularly responsible for inflicting pain and suffering on a scale that’s almost incomprehensible. I am not a Wiccan, and I am not a pacifist. While I don’t take pleasure in violence, I do believe that in some exceedingly rare cases, it is necessary as an absolutely last resort. And I believe, in accordance with one of my patron Goddesses, that when violence is inflicted on the innocent, it must be repaid with swift violence, that the fewest hurt and the danger fast removed from the land.

While 9/11 was an attack on the United States and people everywhere felt hurt by it, it is deeply personal for New Yorkers. I don’t want to take away anything from the people in Pennsylvania, or the people in the Pentagon–they shared in this horrendous tragedy, and are too often overlooked in these discussions. But as Secretary Clinton said just a few moments ago, our community was absolutely devastated by the attacks, on every possible level, and has never really been the same since it happened. This city and its people were wounded in ways I can’t even fully describe to people who weren’t here to see it and experience it firsthand.

You cannot understand the depths of it unless you were here, seeing the makeshift missing posters everywhere you turned, seeing the trauma in the dazed faces of people walking once-lively streets in utter silence. I cannot explain to you what it was like riding the Q train over the Manhattan Bridge day after day, the utter sadness in a subway car full of people staring at the still-burning wreckage of the World Trade Center as we tried to go to work or to school. I can’t paint that picture for you of what Chinatown was like in the aftermath, breathing that horrific smell and knowing in the back of your mind that part of what you were inhaling was human remains. To see the streets crawling with media trucks and emergency personnel, the pure sorrow and exhaustion, physical and psychological, in the eyes of the police officers, firefighters, first responders–from New York and the tri-state area, from around the country and even some from Canada–who worked tirelessly day and night to recover those who died and give comfort. Nor can I explain what it was like to see National Guard soldiers in camouflage holding machine guns at every turn, to see streets you once walked and talked and laughed on covered in barricades under lockdown. I understood what privilege we have in the industrialized world at that moment, that we had never experienced this as a daily reality before.

So long as that vile man still walked this earth, those wounds could never fully heal, even as we’ve tried to move on and rebuild. His face stared at us from “Wanted: Dead or Alive” posters in every store window in this city for days and weeks afterward, and it’s haunted our nightmares, it’s tormented the spirits of our loved ones, neighbors, friends, and co-workers.

All of this, among many, many other reasons, is why I rejoice in Osama bin Laden’s death.

And I will absolutely not apologize for it.

Categories: Uncategorized