Sunday, March 31, 2013

Big Long Food Rant Part 2: "Restrictive Diets"

Something about me that a lot of people really hate:  I'm into restrictive diets.  There are many reasons why, from control issues to food addiction to simply having a lot of foods that make my body feel like shit.  People have called me "orthorexic" among other things, and my dietary choices are constantly being questioned.  It's one of the most pervasively annoying things in my life (probably just behind people still referring to me using female pronouns).  One time a woman hijacked a conversation on LGBT issues and in the process lumped everyone who cuts anything out of their diets in with people with anorexia.  Another I had a guy on Weight Watchers continually pressure me to eat M&Ms, claiming that if I cut them out entirely I'd just binge on them later.

This becomes pervasive in the social movements I navigate, because people in those movements have defined restrictive dieting--and even moderation dieting, in some cases--as a form of oppression.  With the exception of religious/ethical restrictions and so-called "legitimate" medical reasons, dieting is portrayed as the product of sexist and body-shaming imagery in the media rather than a personal choice.

Although it's important to analyze those images (including in diet-related imagery), we need to realize that dieting and food restriction is an individual choice for which people might have many different reasons:
  • Religious Restrictions (kosher, halal, Hindu dietary restrictions, fasting)
  • Cultural Reasons (in America we don't usually eat dogs)
  • Health Philosophy (any long-term diet meant to create optimal health)
  • Ethical Philosophy (vegan, fruitarian, vegetarian)
  • Body Dysphoria ("lose muscle, gain fat!" for trans women, for example)
  • Personal Preference (sometimes you just don't like certain things)
  • Food Addiction (elimination of trigger foods to prevent binge eating)
  • Political Philosophy (conscious consumerism, decolonizing diets)
  • Allergies and Intolerances (elimination of foods that make you feel terrible, regardless of diagnosis)
  • Management of Specific Health Challenges (diets meant to manage diabetes, Crohn's, celiac, autism, etc.)
  • Control Issues (the ability to select foods makes a person feel more in control of themselves)
At the same time, though, we shouldn't be making weight loss out to be some sort of horrifying, oppressive goal either.  Admit to weight loss being a factor in your diet and holy shit...

One of the places I get this most is in the fat positive/body positive movement.  In this movement, dieting tends to be socially frowned upon because of the association of someone's personal dietary decisions with dietary evangelism or body shaming imagery used to promote diets and the diet industry.  Criticism of this industry and evangelism in general is necessary, but where this attitude fails is in making the exact same body shaming arguments fatphobic people make to denigrate other peoples' preferred body compositions and eating habits.

In other words, there is nothing "body positive" about policing other peoples' feelings about their bodies.

To tie in to part 1, all of this has to do with our culturally and personally defined perspective on "real food" as well as our largely arbitrary standards of beauty.  The idea that ridiculously skinny is an appropriate standard of beauty is oppressive and shames fat people... but making this point at the expense of people who are unsatisfied with their body composition is not body positive and dissolves our right to make that call ourselves.

As a trans man this also hits me because the "love your body whatever it is" line is one that is implied in cissexist arguments.  My journey to manhood has been mourned by some as a response to my inability to adhere to unrealistic standards of beauty.  In the same way, my desire to change my body composition (which is in large part due to my gender dysphoria, incidentally) is painted as an oppressive response to the way I feel about my body that should be shamed out of me rather than left to my personal devices.

The main conclusion?  We need to, as a whole, trust that we are not the ones who know what's right for others as far as their individual dietary decisions, even if they are restricting in ways we are not comfortable with.

* -- Addition:  Sometimes people will throw around discussion of legitimate eating disorders when this topic comes up.  The main issue with this is that most restrictive eating habits do not actually fit the definition of a medically-recognized eating disorder, so calling them such is hyperbole.  Aside from this, I personally adhere to a risk-aware/harm-reduction philosophy; although I maintain most restrictive eating is not a medically classifiable eating disorder, all have risks that people need to be aware of and ways of making those habits safer.  Focusing on these is, I feel, preferable to making people with either restrictive diets or eating disorders unwilling poster children for body image campaigns or shaming people who eat different.

Big Long Food Rant Part 1: "Real Food"

I'm going to talk a bit about restrictive diets, both the good and the bad that go with them.  This was going to be one big long food rant, but it's best separated into three parts.  The first is on the construction of "real food."  The second is on restrictive diets as a personal choice.  The third is on the social issues found within restrictive diets.

My dad said to me the other day something which for some reason is going to go down in my personal history as one of the most offensive things anybody ever said to me without actually meaning to be offensive.  I had a really serious food binge incident; it's probably not even over, although I'm in the process of considering changing diets so I don't know yet.  So he sees me eating a bunch of crap in the living room and says "Thank God you're eating real food again!"

I don't think I even said anything, it was so depressing.  What he calls "real food" I call "two nights of waking up with a headache so severe it requires medicine combined with stomach cramps so severe that they in the past have convinced me I needed to go to the hospital."  Restrictive diets aren't always about weight loss, and although it I would love to lose weight, being fat is significantly less of a concern to me than the "real food" my dad wants me to eat and the effect it has on my body.

It led me to think about this concept of "real food," though.  When I think of "real food," I think of relatively unprocessed animal products, vegetables, fruit, and nuts, with "not real food" being more like packaged macaroni and cheese and candy bars and soda.  But at the same time, the latter foods are things that people really do eat, and there are plenty of unprocessed foods that I don't eat (wheat berries and oats, for example), and I eat plenty of things some people do not consider to be "real food" (mostly meat and dairy related).

In other words, "real food" is a construction, and what constitutes "real food" is going to be based on things like culture, upbringing, health status, allergies, income, and personal preferences.  And although there are certainly detrimental health effects from eating certain foods, the actual lines between "real food" and "not real food" that we draw are arbitrary, some more arbitrary than others.

For example, why does the paleo community tend to draw the line between "real food" and "not real food" between pre-agricultural and agricultural societies?  It's true that grain can have detrimental effects to human health, but just how detrimental grain is depends on the type of grain, how much it's eaten, and how it's prepared... not just whether or not you eat it.  But on the flip side, what about the Weston Price people who maintain grain is just fine but that you need to prepare it properly?  Why is their line between soaking and sprouting grain and industrially processing it?  Why isn't it placed before we started eating grain?  Why isn't it placed before we started cooking?

It isn't just ancestral-variant diets that have this arbitrary nature.  Vegetarian variants also put up lines between "real food" and "not real food," some more arbitrary than others.  A vegan, for example, may place that line so that they are not intentionally eating any animal products, but eating plants that accidentally involve  killing is fine; there have been many (useless) arguments about whether industrial veganism is ethically superior to eaters of only grassfed, organic animal products (of course, both vegans and the grassfed/organic meat eaters think they're the ethical ones).  Some people place that line between meat and dairy, even though they largely come from the same place and both result in intentional killing.  Others place it between fish or poultry and mammals.  Some place it between insects and vertebrates.

Here's where it becomes a huge problem, though.  Everybody thinks they're eating "the" real food, but because this is a culturally-specific and arbitrary category it leads to people making decisions that either disenfranchise people or simply ignore other peoples' cultural heritage.  Examples include singling out shark-fin soup for bans because it's a Chinese symbol of wealth, or insisting Native American diets are unhealthy because they traditionally include corn, beans, and squash.

Perhaps the worst is when people criticize the food decisions of the poor.  The way our subsidies work makes unhealthy food cheaper, and low-income people tend to gravitate toward cheap food that tastes good and requires very little preparation (not everybody has the skills or equipment to cook a squash, which is like the only fresh food the local food pantry gives out on a regular basis).

I'm not saying there's anything "wrong" with drawing lines between what you will eat and what you won't, nor that we can't have real discussions about ethics and health regarding them.  As I'll talk about in the other parts of this series, I also draw plenty of lines between what I view as "real food" and what I view as "not real food."  But recognize that regardless of your own dietary habits, "real food" is still a construction.

Issue Purity in Social Movements

Transparency alert:  What I'm writing here has literally been brought up thousands of times by social activists.  But I'm going to write about it again because it's just a damned important issue.

"Issue purity" (as I'm using it, anyway) is the way activists boil down the issues of an oppressed group of people to represent the interests if privileged people among those oppressed groups, considering anything that doesn't represent those privileged people as a "side issue" or a different target.  I thought about this today when, after somebody critiqued the premise of the book "Lean In" for not representing low-income women, somebody responded:
Here's an explanation of the difference here.
Your essential target appears to be class, and you don't appear to be testing for logical causality. For many other feminists, the essential target is gender - so that the important task (under that kind of thinking) is to address inequities targeted at people exactly and causally because of their gender, as opposed to addressing all "injustices" that happen to hit a lot of people that happen to have a gender.
This attitude makes the assumption that there are some issues that you can boil down into the "pure" women's issues.  This person assumes that working on issues relevant to low-income women means that somebody's "essential target" as they call it is class rather than gender.

And you know what?  They're wrong.

The reason they're wrong is because you can't boil down women's issues--or any social issues, for that matter--into a convenient set of issues that are purely related to that one group of people only.  Trying to do this nearly always results in privileged people being the focus.  The women who wind up being the "pure" representatives are white, relatively wealthy, heterosexual, and otherwise privileged women; issues relevant to low-income women are class issues, not women's issues; issues relevant to black women are race issues, not women's issues.  This is the case even when said issue is pretty much unique to women.  One of the most prominent examples is the assumption that trans women's issues are more trans issues than women's issues, even when those issues rarely apply to trans men (or only apply to us when we're still viewed as women).

But it's not just women's issues that has this problem.  It's every major social justice movement.  The LGBT movement, for instance, tends to boil down its issues based on the needs of relatively wealthy white cis people--often men--while ignoring issues relevant to low-income LGBT people, LGBT people of color, trans people, immigrant LGBT people, LBT women, transnational LGBT people, and so on.  The fact that the first thing people think of with this movement is "marriage" rather than something like "employment non-discrimination" or "the right not to be murdered" is just one way this rears its ugly head.  Just like feminists often would rather women of color's issues be handled by racial justice movements, the LGBT movement would rather not have to deal with issues specific to LGBT people of color or low-income LGBT people.  Actually doing this, after all, would necessarily result in privileged LGBT people having to own up to their own oppressive behaviors, and we can't be having that.

What we ignore in all these cases is that intersectionality includes privilege.  Every one of these so-called "boiled down" issues of sexism, racism, homophobia, and others exists on the intersection between sex, race, or sexuality with privilege.  An "essential feminist" issue is not an essential feminist issue, it exists at the intersection of "woman" and "cisgender," "white," "straight," and "wealthy."  And so goes it for most other social issues.

You just can't extract them, but unfortunately it appears to me people won't stop trying.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Alright, I just -have- to post this.

I do not know the context to this video, I just know that it's awesome:

The Faith of Calm-the-Fuck-Down

First off, I totally want to make #badwitchtips a thing.

Anyway, I'm declaring a new tradition of Witchcraft.  That's not actually true, but hear me out... in the past few weeks of reading the inspirational tips and quotes the other Witches and Pagans post to Twitter, I feel there's something that needs to be said.

Recently I read a "tip" stating that if a candle goes out during ritual it's a sign that there's an evil spirit present.  After hearing boogeymanesque stories about Ouija boards and pissing off dragons by blowing out candles and avoiding divination by bonfires and buying Tarot decks for yourself, this should have been same-old-same-old, but it's honestly getting very annoying.

OK, I understand that some of you are in traditions that consider these things daily realities.  I'm not saying that there aren't harmful spirits, energies, or even demons that you should learn to ward or that you shouldn't follow whatever tradition you wish.  I'm not even saying that you can't act as though these things could be an attack on you, just in case.  But acting as though these baddies are somehow behind every misbehaving candle does a huge disservice to Pagans and Witches and especially prospective Pagans and Witches who may wind up scared away from a faith that could seriously inspire them because every other person is making it out to be ridiculously dangerous.

Witchcraft isn't ridiculously dangerous.  Just think through what magick you want to use, follow your personal moral code when you do it, and avoid accidentally doing something stupid with your ritual tools and you should be fine.  This is the same kind of advice I'd give you if you were using a blender or a power screwdriver for the first time.

As I was doing research for an I.T. related thing, I came across a quote.  It said "When you see hoof prints, look for horses and not zebras."  In this context, that means if something goes wrong, you should look for obvious or mundane reasons why before leaping to the conclusion of spiritual attack.

If your candle goes out during a ritual, the vast majority of the time it'll be because you have a cheap candle, it got hit by a draft, the wick got drowned in the wax, or some other terribly mundane thing happened.  If you're certain that this isn't the case (you always have a candle go out during a particular ritual, for example, regardless of the brand of candle or where you hold the ritual), that still doesn't necessarily mean it's an evil spirit.  It could be an Akh/Ancestor, for example, or even a warning from a good spirit that this isn't a ritual you should be doing.  Making a point to tell people a candle going out during a ritual is a sign of an evil spirit when there are so many other explanations just serves to scare people.

In other words, you're allowed to calm down.  Viewing the world like a set of supernatural hazards that can be triggered by even the most innocent of events is the kind of attitude that causes witch hunts.  And the last thing we should want is to make those worse.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Link Round-Up

This round-up is a great one, so if you've been living under a rock for a week or so, well, here you go.  I even changed the categories because "Fight" would have had so fucking many.

Yes, enough was written or shared about the HRC this week to warrant an entire category for them.  Congratulations.
From Same-Sex Marriage Dissidents
There are rather few essays out there by people who are 100% against the marriage fight, but there are certainly people questioning either the amount of resources going to it or its efficacy as a method for achieving social equality.  Here are some of those:
OK, I more added categories than changed them.
  • Here's a small comic book making fun of how female heroes are depicted in comic books. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I Wish Everyone Knew About Pink Triangles

First, a distinction:  I would much rather people use rainbows and pink triangles than HRC logos when they refer to the wider LGBT community.  The main reason for this is that they are highly recognizable symbols... it's difficult to hide your queerness behind a rainbow.  Also, I'd be a hypocrite if I said you shouldn't use them, because some of my favorite designs involve rainbows and triangles, and I still use them.

Unfortunately in several ways rainbows have been tainted by corporate pride for me.  I enjoy pride events, but after a while I just associate them with people trying to sell me rainbow shit, and if there's anything symbolic of the ugly side of the LGBT movement it's sweatshop produced rainbow shit.

The worst, though, is pink triangles.

Not because people use them.  Pink triangles are an extremely powerful and historical symbol... as a Pagan Warlock I attach huge importance to symbols, not only on a human judgmental level but on a religious level.  This is a really powerful symbol of reclamation.  And it's like nobody in my peer group actually knows what it stands for.  I'm not shocked, but I am appalled by this... not at the people who don't know, but at the fact that we've gotten to a point where there's that little awareness among us.  I took a queer trivia quiz five or so years ago and "Where did the pink triangle come from?" was one of the questions labeled "difficult."

Short history lesson:  Most of us (at least I hope) learned in high school or earlier that Jews during the Holocaust were made to wear yellow Stars of David on their clothing.  My own textbook had a table that listed several other symbols widely used in concentration camps, most of which were color-coded triangles.  So the Roma community got a brown triangle, political prisoners got a red triangle, Jehovah's Witnesses got a purple triangle, "asocial" people got a black triangle, and "sex offenders," mostly men who had sex with men, got pink triangles.

This symbol was reclaimed, likely after a book was written by Heinz Heger that detailed the experience (it inspired the play and movie "Bent," if you've seen either of those) and made the symbol's nature more widely known.

When you use this symbol, acknowledge its deep and dark history.  Know when you wear it that you are carrying on a memory and a legacy that goes beyond gay bars and corporate pride events.  You are saying more than just "I'm gay" or "I'm queer," you are saying "Thousands of people died without having the opportunity to live the life I live today."  Because if there's one thing that frustrates me, it's LGBT and queer people who do not understand that our ability to even speak about our sexuality grew from decades of systematic and often deadly persecution, and that's where this symbol comes from.

Actually Same-Sex Marriage DOES Affect Trans People

UPDATE: The HRC sent out a press release regarding this incident.  Jerame Davis at the Bilerico Project writes what I think is a pretty respectable overview of why their press release does not seem to match the actual situation; be warned that he falls into the trap of trying to defend the HRC from the side.

From the Tumblr blog "Get Off My Runway" I found out that representatives from the HRC at the Supreme Court protests told a group to take down a trans pride flag--twice--because transgender issues have "nothing to do with marriage equality."  First allow me to state the obvious:  These activists were not asked to take down their flag because it was irrelevant.  They were asked to take it down because of shady gaycentric PR.

In other words, the HRC is chronically wary about allowing transgender people any sort of "spotlight" because they're afraid of how it's going to make the rest of the movement look to include trans people in a full role.  The HRC (as well as many pretty-high-up homosexual-and-homo-friendly legislators and personalities) is very mainstream-targeted and intentionally goes with the least controversial path whenever possible.  If you remember my essay on HRC logos and how sick of them I am, you'll remember that my semi-closeted friends used those to mark themselves because there's nothing overtly gay, queer, or LGBT about them.  While this isn't inherently a bad thing, when it comes to the HRC it's a chronic assimilationist tactic.  They are interested in an extremely mainstream agenda and it leaks through nearly every scrap of their advertising.

Although transgender people are also becoming much more socially acceptable (with the public transitions of several small children as well as celebrities like Chaz Bono), when the HRC looks at a campaign and tries to figure out how to make it more palatable to the mainstream, the first group of people they'll cut from* the team are transgender people.

For example, when ENDA was being debated, the HRC went with the stripped-down version that cut out trans people wholeheartedly because that's the sort of mindset they readily take:  If kicking trans people out of legislation will get Paul Ryan to support it, then kick away!  Similarly, when "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was repealed, almost nobody mentioned that transgender people are still largely banned from the United States military, because advocating for that might creep people out.  So the idea that having a transgender display of pride at a marriage-based event is going to disgust an otherwise pro-same-sex-marriage person is pretty standard HRC behavior.

But let's talk about something that the HRC reps at the beginning of this post said about transgender people and marriage equaltiy being two entirely different animals that should never interbreed.  Is that even true?  Spoiler alert:  No.

When it comes to relationships, even heterosexual trans people often have a sort of gay stigma attached to our relationships, and based on our level of legal transition we may be legally considered in same-sex partnerships even when they are actually heterosexual.  In my state, for example, I cannot legally marry a woman, even though I am a man--it says so on my license and everything.  I can legally marry a man, but I'd have to out myself in every step of the process and as soon as I get court documents proving I've had surgery I'd only legally be able to marry women.

It's even more complicated when it comes to divorce; exes with vendettas against transgender partners have in the past tried to argue that their marriage was a same-sex marriage and therefore not a legal marriage, such as in the case of Michael Kantaras.  He and his wife divorced and had a custody battle in which his ex-wife argued that their marriage was a same-sex marriage and therefore wasn't legal (Update March 29th: Thomas Beatie is having a similar problem right now; his divorce is being stalled because people are arguing he "wasn't legally male yet" when he married in 2003).  Christie Littleton had her marriage voided by the state of Texas when she tried suing for medical malpractice on behalf of her dead husband.  Nikki Araguz also had her marriage declared an illegal same-sex marriage after her husband died and his family sued to keep Nikki from inheriting his assets.

While cisgender same-sex couples deal with trying to get into marriage, transgender people have been fighting the same battles with more immediate effects at stake.  To punch trans people in the gut even further, mainstream LGBT news outlets have even presented transgender opposite-sex marriages as same-sex marriages when it suits them, like when Kimah Nelson and Jason Stenson got married in New York.

Why do trans people appear to care less about marriage, then?  Because although it certainly affects many of us, it affects us less than many other issues.  Lack of solid employment opportunities, inadequate access to inclusive health care, being targeted by policies that criminalize normal activities that just happen to be performed by transgender people (like having sex or taking a piss), the number of youth left homeless, these are things that may make transgender people less likely to target marriage as the flagship goal.  In fact, it's daily access issues like these that also cause many cisgender people to criticize the marriage über alles method for achieving equality.

And that's not even counting people like me, who maintain that the ultimate goal should be for total relationship equality and human rights--rather than legal marriage which would simply elevate same-sex couples without dealing with the problematic nature of the institution.

The really shady part is that the HRC, the Advocate, and other mainstream gay and lesbian groups and publications are extremely supportive of trans peoples' money and perfectly happy to latch on to stories about us that fit their agenda.  So they see no conflict with supporting trans people just enough to get people to make donations before totally throwing us under the bus, or with guffawing about New York marrying a same-sex couple when a trans woman gets married to a man.  I mention this because throughout this whole controversy I've seen people post links to HRC pages that are oriented toward transgender issues as if this means they are actually supportive... the reality is that they do this to keep people from criticizing their lack of concern for transgender people, not because we're actually a part of their agenda.

But to conclude, remember that creating a rift between "gay and lesbian issues" and "transgender issues" creates a false dichotomy.  There is far more overlap than there are distinct issues between us, regardless of how often trans people are excised from them.

* -- Notice I said "cut from."  The reason transgender people get such a brunt of this is because many other groups represented in the community were never a part of their agenda to begin with, like polyamorous folks or nonbinary gendered people.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I'm So Sick of HRC Logos

Edit March 28: A friend informed me that I had a silly typo.  I believe DOMA and Prop 8 should be declared unconstitutional, not constitutional.

First off, welcome to all the folks who are coming here looking for queer anti-marriage perspectives or alternative perspectives.  My own essay on the subject is here.  I might post more in my linklove for this week.  I don't know.

Yeah, so I'm sick of HRC logos.  Not only am I sick of HRC logos, I'm sick of HRC logos in layers.

See, I've been sick of them for a long time.  It all started when I had that defining moment that turned me against the HRC... and most anti-HRC queer people have a moment like this.  Mine was, in a nutshell, because I ignored all the more experienced trans people who said the HRC had wronged them.  "No, no, they've clearly changed! They're even giving speeches at transgender events!  It's cool!"  Months later the HRC publishes a poll explaining why they are totally pushing forward on legislation that deliberately cut transgender people out, a poll which had extremely limited transgender involvement and was worded to make it look like this push would actually benefit trans people.  A lot of my friends and I scraped those logos off our stuff after that.  I haven't been able to look at it without at least some annoyance since.

It didn't help that my local community was using this symbol to replace more traditional symbols like rainbows. This was deliberately assimilationist; it allowed them to display an LGBT-related symbol without it being immediately recognizable as an LGBT-related symbol, and their parents were not as likely to know what a yellow equal sign in a blue square meant.  I even have friends who have it tattooed on them.

I fought this in my local community because I viewed it as insensitive that they would plaster this symbol everywhere at precisely the time the HRC was shitting on transgender people.  Most of them made me out to be overreactionary.  While I don't generally blame people for using HRC logos, I do think it's insensitive to use them as a replacement for other symbols.  There are many people--not just transgender people--who do not identify with this organization.

So I was already sick of HRC logos.  Then suddenly this Supreme Court thing comes along and the symbol that people are choosing to represent it is a reddened (perhaps by the blood of dead transgender people) version of the fucking HRC logo.  It's not just because suddenly my Facebook feed is loaded with a bunch of ramblings about how awesome marriage is (despite my anti-marriage philosophy I am fully in favor of the Supreme Court declaring DOMA and Prop 8 unconstitutional).  It's because they're doing it using the one LGBT-related symbol that seriously dredges up several years of bad feelings.

Realize that this isn't me being a dissident just to be a dissident; there are hundreds of others just like me who associate this logo with the type of person who consistently stands on our shoulders to climb over the fence without opening the door to let us in, too.  Even if the HRC does legitimately change its ways to be more inclusive, many of those of us who believed they had done so only to have been proven wrong will always have that distrust.

If you demean us for that distrust, you are speaking out of the privilege of having not been seriously burned by them.  Yet, anyway.

I don't believe there are any good all-encompassing symbols for the LGBT or queer movements, or I'd give you a better alternative to the HRC logo (the best alternative would probably be to speak on your beliefs rather than just posting logos).  That said, this is one post out of two on LGBT and queer related symbols and how they're misused.  Sometimes this misuse is far more depressing than the HRC logo.

Incidental Bird Sighting

I was kicking myself today.  I had a job interview and a bunch of time between the interview and class, so I decided to go home... specifically to get my camera and go birding at Lakeside Park.  Then I got home and thought "You know, I think I'll just take a nap instead."  Which was a reasonable idea because I didn't get much sleep tonight.  But I intentionally and premeditatively did not put my camera in my bag like I usually do.  "I'm not going birding," I said.  And I missed what would have been probably the coolest shot of my life.

I did get it on my phone, but the quality isn't there.  It's still a cute picture for a cute memory, though:
Barred Owl, from below, looking at me like "What in hell
are you looking at me like that for?"

I don't see that many owls.  My last sighting was a Great Horned Owl that landed on a tree right next to me while I was deer hunting; I also got a cameraphone picture of him, but it was so dark out that it only showed up as an indistinct blob of gray.  Sigh.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Port Washington Birding

Dad and I went to the Port Washington Marina and a couple other places birding.  Got definitely one and maybe two or three birds I haven't seen before, and some good pictures of ones I have.

Red-breasted Merganser Drake. New Life Lister!
Red-breasted Merganser Hen.
This pair of Ring-billed Gulls sitting on a PSA let
us within five feet of them.

Chubby-looking Ring-billed Gull.
I believe this is a young Greater White-fronted Goose.
Could also be a domestic-descended Graylag Goose.

We saw our first American Robin of the season, and then two more.
I don't know what this is, yet.  Two people have pegged it
as some sort of Scoter (although two different kinds), one
says it's a Common Goldeneye but she's got a funny
shaped head if she's a Goldeneye. We'll see later what
the consensus is.

These are not birds, but my dad made a deer grunt
to encourage them to look at us.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Search Terms: Here, Let Me Help You With That

Alright, I'm doing another quick round of "search terms that brought people here from people who clearly weren't looking for what's actually on the site."  I'm a helpful person, so hey, let me help you with that.

Kemetic Orthodox Holidays 2013

This is in-community information that I can't share.  I don't actually get the calendar through email anymore because I am no longer a member of the House of Netjer, but there are two ways I'm aware of to get these holidays.

The first is to simply take their beginner class.  This will grant you the title of Remetj and with that you will get a monthly mailout of the official Kemetic Orthodox holidays, their dates, and often some nice information about them.  I actually--even as a non-Kemetic-Orthodox person--highly recommend this course for anybody who is interested in Kemetic religion.

The second way is to buy the Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook by the religion's founder.  It has a list of official holidays as well as instructions on how to calculate the dates, as they do not strictly align with current calendar dates.  The benefit of the latter is that if you are not Kemetic Orthodox you can orient the calendar based on where you live or on Egypt rather than on Joliet, Illinois.

I believe the book that Tamara Siuda just raised the funds for for will be a more comprehensive way of putting together a Kemetic festival calendar, too.

Pope Francis Bigot/Homophobe/Etc.

This is still the number one force driving people here; people really, really want to know this guy's stance on LGBT issues.  I think my post probably made it pretty clear, but despite being an all-around better choice than most, when it comes to LGBT issues he's just as bigoted as any other higher-up Catholic.  His Wikipedia entry sums it up pretty well, and you can also read my essay on the subject.

Vegan Health Problems

Quite a few people come here I guess looking for information about health problems on a vegan diet.  I don't know if these are vegans looking for help troubleshooting their diet or people who are looking for reasons to justify not being vegan... if you're looking for justifications not to be vegan, just don't be vegan.  Vegans are a very small percentage of the community and they have very little if any power over what you eat.  Calm down, you're fine.

If you're a vegan who is trying to be healthier or starting to have health problems, but you really, really want to stick with veganism, then this is directed toward you.  Some of the biggest health problems you could face on a vegan diet include anemia, B-12 deficiency, allergy/intolerance flares from eating more of certain foods than you're accustomed to, dental problems, and fluctuations in weight (both loss and gain).

I wound up with health problems on a vegan diet that were related to grain consumption and food addiction.  This wound up in the end changing my entire food philosophy... even if I was confident I could be a vegan and be healthy, I wouldn't do it, because philosophically I refuse to believe I should be obligated to remain on a diet that requires supplementation just to avoid dying a grisly death.  There's more to it than that, of course, but that's the gist.

Based on my experience, these are things I would suggest to people who do want to be vegan (or who are lacto/ovo vegetarians and having similar problems):
  • Mind your B-12 and iron levels.  If you wind up with iron deficiency anemia, deal with that (diet and supplements).  A far as B-12, supplement it with either a sublingual lozenge or (if that doesn't work) shots, regardless of whether or not you have a deficiency.  There are no reliable dietary sources.  If you can't handle this, veganism is not for you.  It really disconcerts me that so many vegans are downplaying how much you need B-12... ignoring this vitamin is potentially life-threatening.  Don't do it.
  • Eat fatty foods like avocados, coconut, and olives.  The oils of these are also great (palm oil is also excellent, but has big ethical issues).  It's easy to fall into an irrational fear of fat when you're a vegan.
  • Don't base your diet on soy, grain, or sugar.  Soy is a problem because it's over-used... no, it's not turning men gay or into women, but it's basically the industrial food additive.  Soy sauce, tempeh, tofu, edamame, and other soy products that are relatively unprocessed or fermented are OK, but should be used as an accompaniment to vegetables.  Sugar, in particular, can really fuck up a vegan diet, and there is no dearth of vegan candy and soda to partake in.  The problems dentists have nightmares about that you see in vegan children are at least in some part due to an increase in sugar consumption.  If you begin to gain weight--and don't assume you won't, it's more common than vegans realize--look at your consumption of sugar and flour.
  • Don't eat too many foods that are designed to masquerade as other foods.  This is a piece of advice for every person on a restrictive diet... this has the dual effect of creating a food which isn't that healthy for you and reinforcing the idea that these foods are just so awesome that you can't bear not eating them.  Veggie burgers, for example, exist on a spectrum... some of my favorites were basically oats and veggies smashed together into a patty.  You could pull them apart and recognize most of the ingredients.  Then there are the ones with shit like fake grill marks that are beefish-flavored soy and gluten... again, you can eat these, but don't live off of them.  In particular, dairy substitutes (excluding nut milk) tend to have really sketchy ingredients, I know when I was a vegan Tofutti was loaded with trans fats but that may have changed since then.
  • If you have the problem I did, which is major gastrointestinal cramps, try an elimination diet to see if some type of grain, legume (soy, peanuts, beans), vegetable, or other food is the problem.  It was when I was a vegan I learned that whole grains make my stomach feel like somebody repeatedly punched it.
That's just a few tips, though.  I can only give advice that aligns with my experiences, so if you have a specific issue that you need to deal with, you should Google that issue.

Aspartame Lobbyist

Just as I think the Pope Francis bigotry search cues probably resulted in the right information, there's a chance that you might have come here and found exactly what you were looking for in my essay about aspartame in milk.  But just in case, the main aspartame lobby group that I'm aware of is the Calorie Control Council, which represents the low and reduced calorie food and beverage industry.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Consent, Kids, and Divorcing the Childfree Movement

Yeah, sometimes I write titles to provoke people.  I'm not necessarily divorcing the childfree movement.  Childfree is something I am.  And as a childfree person, I recognize that childfree people have a great deal of social challenges.  So when I went to childfree forums in the past, it was due to a desire to have some support and help other people with those challenges.

Unfortunately, the community is more oriented toward child hate and anti-parent snark than it is really dealing with childfree issues.  I had to cut my involvement with them because I just got sick and tired of reading shit like:
  • Complaining about parents who do not "properly control" or "properly discipline" their children, usually referring to corporal punishment.
  • Demeaning low-income families using tired anti-welfare terminology.
  • Complaining about benefits meant to make raising children easier.
  • Lack of understanding of behavioral challenges, autism, and other disabilities.
  • Using nasty slurs to refer to children, like "crotch droppings."
  • People actually promoting eugenics.  I shit you not.
I literally do not go to any childfree places online anymore because the anti-child and anti-parent (usually anti-mother) bigotry just got too pervasive for me to handle.  In the end, too many members of this movement have completely forgotten that children are people.

Not only are children people, children are subjected to a great number of things that would be offensive to subject adults to.  One of the main issues is that people are unwilling to allow children the right to give--or not give--consent.  There are a lot of ways that this manifests itself, but I'm going to talk about two for now and hopefully bring up more later.

Children are not given the right to object to medical procedures done to their bodies.

There are some limited circumstances where this makes sense.  How many kids would refuse routine vaccinations or chemotherapy if it was up to them?  I'm not referring here to medically necessary procedures, but the myriad of procedures that are done on children--often infants--without their knowledge or consent.

Piercing the ears of infant girls, circumcising boys, cosmetic dentistry done for nothing but appearance, up to forced sex reassignment in intersex children... so many of these things are played off as "not a big deal," but they all involve modifying a child's body for no reason other than their parents or their doctors would prefer they looked a certain way.

There's the mentality that until a child has the ability to voice their concerns--and often long after--it's ultimately their parents' decision.  People even justify this stuff by proclaiming that they will want to get those procedures done later anyway, so why not make it easier for them now?  It's assumptions like these that drain children of their ability to consent and reinforce the belief that silence or inability to express one's interests constitute consent.  They do not.

Children are also not always given the right to object to harmful psychiatric practices.  In several regions it's still perfectly legal for a parent to coerce their child into gay-to-straight conversion programs... but this is an issue that could have its own post.

Children are not given the right to object to physical contact with adults.

My story turned out to be a bit more triggering for me than
I'd expected, so this may be triggering for you if you have
a history of people not respecting your right not to be touched.

This is the issue that initially inspired this post today.  First, I found a video from a guy explaining why he stopped tickling his daughter, and later a friend of mine posted a list of Ten Ways to Confuse a Child.  The important part is number three:  "Tell him he should never let anyone touch him if he doesn't feel comfortable, but then don't intervene when his aunt, who he sees once a year, hugs him against his will."

These reminded me of an extremely uncomfortable moment in my life.  As I've said before here, I really hate being touchedIt grates on me.  So I have lots of memories of being a child and having adults touch me without permission, often in extremely aggressive ways.  I used to avoid my uncle Bob because he roughhoused with us and it physically hurt.  Adults thought that was just hilarious.  My grandma would grab me and kiss my neck.  It made me feel disgusting.  But the big one?  My dad used to slap me and my brothers in the ass when we were little.  We all told him to stop, repeatedly, throughout our childhoods.  He'd brush it off as being playful, not registering that what he was doing would be defined as sexual harassment if he had been my age.  And he'd keep doing it.

Once, when I was maybe fifteen or sixteen, I'd had enough.  He slapped my ass on my way to use the bathroom, and I spun around and kicked my dad in the stomach.  He started laughing, saying "Wow, you got me good!"  I was standing in the corner trying not to cry.  My mom was there and told my dad that I was crying.  He finally got the picture that what he was doing was causing me emotional harm--I'm not a violent person, so my outburst was uncharacteristic--and it stopped.

I should not have had to kick my father for him to respect my boundaries.  And yet day after day, children are expected to just sit there and take it when adults tickle them, hug them, pinch their cheeks, kiss them, even if they have not consented to this and do not like it.

The main point here isn't that tickling kids is inherently bad--there are plenty of kids who love physical contact, and with appropriate boundaries that's fine--but that kids deserve a choice in the matter just like everyone else does.

Until they get those rights, I have a difficult time not seeing children as some of the most oppressed people out there... and because of this, reading the hate and vitriol on childfree forums simply does not appeal to me. 

Thursday Round-Up - March 21

I was going to only do these once a week, but as it turns out a lot of shit is happening.  Mostly in the line of "ridiculously bad things."

Fight (Order Does Not Indicate Importance):
  •  A woman in Syria was murdered for being Pagan when her brother converted to radical Islam.  It's important to remember that Neopaganism is not confined to the United States and Great Britain; as our faiths grow, more things like this are going to happen and we need to speak up about them.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why I Reclaimed "Warlock"

Note: Years later I realize this essay has more to do with why people's reasons not to use the word "Warlock" are historically inaccurate and not why I personally reclaim it.  I have elaborated in the essay "Why I (Still) Reclaim Warlock."

I identify as a Warlock.  And as a Pagan.  These--as well as the word "Witch"--are historically negative terms, but in the Pagan community none of them generate as much controversy as "Warlock."  Call yourself that term and people are likely to say things like:
  • "That's a slur! You shouldn't use that!"
  • "That means somebody who was banished from a coven!"
  • "Warlock means oathbreaker/liar!"
  • "Warlock means you're a Satanist!"
  •  "Anybody who uses that word can't possibly know what they're talking about."
And so on, and so forth.  But I reclaim it anyway.  Why would I do that?  Well, I'll tell you, because reclaiming a controversial word also gives me the responsibility to justify that use.

Warlock is a slur because Pagans fabricated it as such.

Keep in mind, first off, that both "Witch" and "Pagan" are reclaimed words.  Both of these have a long history of referring to people explicitly to describe them as evil, hellbound, godless people.  In fact, that's still how both of those terms are often used by practitioners of Abrahamic faiths.  I once had my truck defaced by a Christian, referring to me as a "pagan" as if that were self-evidently horrible.  Christians insult each other by referring to their actions as "paganism" or "witchcraft," especially in the case of Catholicism due to its liberal use of candles and charms.  Both "pagan" and "witch" are slurs.

"Warlock" is also a slur, used similar to "witch" during the Witch Hunts to describe male witches.  But both because the Witch Hunts so often targeted women and because men could also be called "witches," it didn't get as much play.  Were "warlock" actually used as a slur by non-Pagans, it would only be as a hinge on "witch" and "pagan," not as a uniquely offensive term.  But you know what?  I've never, ever heard it used that way.  In fact, the only people I ever see using "warlock" as a uniquely negative term are other Witches.

Over the years I've kind of developed the opinion that the reason we think of "Warlock" as a slur is because we are just that intent on having something we can call a "slur."  We've reclaimed "Heathen," and "Witch," and "Pagan," and there isn't much left for us to feel righteous anger about, so we get angry when people refer to Pagan men as "Warlocks" instead.  This has led to a culture where people don't ask you to justify why you call yourself a "Witch" or a "Pagan" very often, but use "Warlock" and suddenly you're a newb at best.

Now, it's fine to correct somebody to explain that male Witches are usually just called Witches.  For most male Witches, that's the case.  But correcting them by indignantly calling it a slur is a bizarre double-standard.  Why complain that Warlock is a slur and not Witch or Pagan?

Warlock didn't mean somebody banished from a coven until modern Pagans decided it was a slur. Before then it generally just meant "male witch."

There's a myth that the word "Warlock" comes from the word used by covens to describe somebody who betrayed that coven during the "Burning Times."  This is rooted in a pervasive cultural myth that is spread in the Pagan community:  That we somehow are connected in spiritual heritage to a network of covens and Witches who were widely persecuted during the European Witch Trials, which we refer to as "The Burning Times."

The European Witch Trials, though, were mostly based on charges of heresy--Christians against other Christians.  The idea that there was an underground network of systematically persecuted covens is historically inaccurate.  So the idea that accusers were using the word because covens were using that to refer to betrayers is also incredibly suspect because the covens themselves are suspect.

This is a warp of the idea that Warlock means "oathbreaker."  Some Warlocks favor the idea that the word actually comes from a Norse word referring to a shaman or a singer of magical songs (Vardlokkur), but I don't necessarily buy that.  I'm comfortable with "Warlock" meaning "oathbreaker" because we need to consider exactly what oaths were being referred to.

Remember that this was in all likelihood a word used by Christians to refer to who they viewed as heretics... not by covens to exiled members.  So the oaths being broken were likely Christian oaths.  And as somebody who was baptized Catholic, I certainly qualify as a breaker of Christian oaths.  And you know what?  That's fine.

It should also be mentioned that although Gerald Gardner did not use the word "Warlock" to describe himself, he also did not use the word to refer to ex-coveners... instead, the Gardnerians use it to refer to a way of tying knots (such as tying a person up, which they are known to do).  I have yet to find any source that is not a very modern Pagan writing in which "Warlock" designates a coven traitor... it seems to be a modern idea being represented as a piece of ancient lore.  It's not.

"Warlock" is often used in left-hand paths, but that doesn't make it a bad thing.

I don't understand why this is even an argument.  It both assumes that left-hand paths are evil and ignores that left-hand path practitioners may also use "Witch" and "Pagan."

Satanists who practice Witchcraft usually refer to themselves as "Warlocks" if male and "Witches" if female.  And most Warlocks I meet self-identify as left-hand path (Chaotes, Feri practitioners, etc.).  But why does this damn "Warlock" and not "Witch?"

And furthermore, why is their association a bad thing to begin with?  Pagan culture has this bizarre fear of Satanism as if not being an asshole to Satanists or people who we perceive to be Satanist-like is going to further make the public believe we are Satanists.  The public conflates us with Satanism because we have chosen a label--Witch--that has already been associated with Satanism, not because left-hand path practitioners use some of the same labels we do.  Also, Satanists fight a lot of battles that directly benefit us, fighting against things like legislative prayer and shitty Christian monuments, so maybe lay off of them?

So why do I, personally, reclaim Warlock?

Note:  This section is currently out of date, better information is in my follow-up essay from a few years later.

Not all Pagan men--or other men who practice Witchcraft--reclaim Warlock.  I in no way am promoting the use of the term to refer to men who prefer to be called "Witches."  In my own case, though, I reclaim "Warlock" and tend to dislike being called "Witch" because of their connotations and individual vibrations.  "Warlock" feels more "right" because it generates a more masculine power, something that appeals to me because my personal practice is so rooted in the sacred masculine.

At the same time, "Witch" generates an image of feminine power, an image that I simply don't feel suits me very well.  There is somewhat a sense of dysphoria that comes with that connotation... I have love and respect for feminine power, but I don't identify with it on a personal level.

What I need people to recognize:

I do not necessarily care if people reject the word "Warlock," for whatever reason they feel is necessary.  If you don't use it because you don't want to have to justify it to other Pagans, because you for some reason do believe the Burning Times myth that surrounds it, or because you just don't like it, those are perfectly acceptable reasons to ditch the term in favor of "Witch," "Magician," "Pagan," or something else entirely.

But people need to recognize that saying things about people who do identify with the word, like statements proclaiming we're all "newbies" or people who don't know what we're talking about--or, even worse, we're inherently abusers--are insulting and patently false.  And people need to be aware that the idea that Warlock is offensive is not a universal Pagan belief... just an unfairly common one.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Peregrine Falcons and More

My dad and I decided to drive to Oshkosh today because I learned there is a pair of Peregrine Falcons who have been nesting at my old dorm.  On our way we went through Fond du Lac and stopped by Dundee as well to see if the Ospreys were back yet.

The trip went like this:

First, we went to Lakeside Park in Fond du Lac.  There's a section of the part where there are virtually always hundreds of ducks, geese, and gulls, and I often get a new bird to list when I'm there.  Today was no exception.

Dad snapped this pic of a Common Goldeneye.

I got this gorgeous pair of Redheads.
I think these are Greater Scaups. Life Lister for me.

This looks like a burnt piece of brown paper bag or something.
It's actually a Bald Eagle, good for the year list.
 Then we drove up to Oshkosh.  We stopped at the river briefly because my dad wanted to see if it was possible to fish there sometime.  Saw a lot of Goldeneyes, which flew away as soon as we got there.
Male and female Common Goldeneyes.
Finally we went to Grünhagen Conference Center at UW-Oshkosh.  This is a ten story tower building where a pair of Peregrine Falcons have been making their home for the past couple years.  If you want to see what they're up to right now, you can click this link.  It took about fifteen minutes of patience before they finally flew to their nest box; they were hanging out on the side of the building we couldn't see.  Took a lot of pictures... they're blurry, but what can I say, a new raptor is always exciting.  Life lister for me:

We then headed to Dundee, UFO capital of the state of Wisconsin and also home to some Osprey nests.  I don't actually know when Ospreys are there because I'm not a particularly good rememberer of migration patterns, but we were there anyway so we went to the baseball diamond they usually live.  Didn't see any Ospreys, but did both see and hear a Sandhill Crane, which goes on the year list:

Sandhill Crane.

When True Stories Aren't True

Reading all the stuff going around about video games being dominated by male protagonists dredged up a somewhat dated memory of mine.  It's not about video games, but it is about the argument that female characters "aren't identifiable" for the audience, which is the number one excuse reason the culture of the male protagonist persists.

I watched a movie a while ago called Dolphin Tale.  It looked like it would hit me right in the feels... and it did.  A movie inspired by a true story about a dolphin with a prosthetic tail?  I mean, I was a vegetarian for seven years for a reason.

Since it was inspired by a true story, I decided to look into it, which I almost always do for true stories.  When I did, I actually found myself disgusted with that movie.  Even thinking about it infuriates me.

That little boy protagonist didn't exist, and the entire plot of the movie--except for the fact that there is a dolphin with a prosthetic tail--is an entire fabrication.  This didn't surprise me.  It is, after all, a movie.  The disturbing part was that the actual story was driven by a girl with a prosthetic leg named Katrina Simpkins, a pair of prosthetic creators--one of which lost his leg in a lawnmower accident--and the many people they inspired and which the gel created for Winter's prosthesis helped.

They took a story by and about people with disabilities, largely led by a little girl, and made the story about a bunch of able-bodied males.  Katrina Simpkins' impact was entirely cut out of the story, vaguely represented as a child benefited by the actions of an able-bodied boy rather than a primary driver of the story.

That said, I have a really difficult time seeing this movie--a movie I solidly enjoyed while I watched it--as anything more than sexist, ableist fantasy created because people assume bodies of privilege are the only relatable ones, or at least the only ones worth marketing as relatable.  In other words, everybody is supposed to relate to people with privilege... but people with privilege certainly can't be expected to relate to everyone else.  That would be preposterous!

When I was starting to write out my frustration about this, one thing that kept popping up in the comments (don't read them, do I say that enough?) was the idea that the movie was inspirational anyway and so we should all just shut up and enjoy it.  This sentiment was displayed even at very liberal, oppression-aware venues.

I would not tell you that you can't enjoy whatever entertainment you want to--like I said, before I learned the awful backstory I also enjoyed the movie--but there is a dearth of people willing to meaningfully challenge this trend.  There are complaints, but they're shoved under by people who insist that people should just enjoy movies without deciphering what the presentation of those movies is representing... in this case, like the movie itself or not, it was cast without any consideration of the reality of the situation.

Similarly, movies often change the races of people involved to make them European white, because apparently it's impossible to relate to a white protagonist.  Some famous examples of this include Avatar: The Last Airbender, Argo, The Last Samurai, Prince of Persia, and 21 among others.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Belated Blurry Birdie

I don't remember when I took this picture, and it's blurry, but wow!  I've never seen a Pileated Woodpecker before, and this one decided to explore my feeder tree (the scrapes on the tree are from the dozens of other woodpeckers who have come before her).

These are big birds, roughly the size of a crow.  I never expected to see one on my deck.

My Magickal Ethics Consideration

I think about ethics a lot, being a relatively devout individual who pretends to be a member of the clergy on a regular basis.  In many ways I could be said to subscribe to an expanded/reworked Wiccan ethical system, but I feel most Wiccans would disagree with that assertion.

When it all boils down to it, when I'm thinking about doing some sort of controversial magick, there are two things I think about:
  1. How do I expect the spell to unfold, knowing that I will likely be a huge part of the catalyst, and am I OK with that?
  2. If I were to imagine opening up a newspaper and reading about a person doing what I want to do--using mundane means rather than magick--would I sympathize with them?
Number one came as a revelation when I cast a very nasty curse on somebody who, quite frankly, totally deserved it.  I'm not going to go into details (although I have told the non-magickal part of the story on this blog before), but the gist of it was this:  Somebody wronged my family.  I cast a spell to drive them away.  They wound up driven away, but only after dragging me into the situation in the most insulting way possible.

This is how I would interpret the Wiccan "threefold law."  The threefold isn't some cosmic calculator that doles out good and bad times three; that's ridiculous.  Good and bad are subjective.  What's really happening is that regardless of whether or not what you're doing is immoral, you will likely be a major part of the catalyst, and so you need to really think about whether or not you would be OK with that.

To use my prior example, there are plenty of things I wish would happen to the person I originally cursed, but I cannot in good conscience use magick to ask for it--and I try not to hope too hard, either--because I am not willing to be a part of those things.  The original curse, though, was totally worth it.

Number two is where we get into actual questions of ethics.  As I said before, good and bad are usually pretty subjective.  I could go on and on about whether or not individual types of magick are ethical, and if you ask me on these subjects I will be honest about how I feel, but unless I already have the rapport with a person to allow them to trust me on that point they're inevitably going to self-reference anyway.  Number two is a manner of self-referencing.

See, it's easy to get into the habit of using magick as a replacement for unethical behavior.  Psychologically it's easy to see murdering somebody as less ethical than casting a spell requesting somebody die, and there are plenty of people who cast coercive love spells without considering the parallels to rape culture.  We wind up completely ignoring intent, and while intent is often a total cop-out in the mundane world, in the spiritual world intent is extremely important.

That's where my newspaper exercise comes in.

In my example, yes, I cursed somebody... but were I to see somebody--myself or someone else in my situation--go through the legal channels of getting the job done without magick, I would sympathize with that person.  I would see nothing immoral or irrational about it.  I paid for it.  I'm happy with the result.

But then I think about the types of spells I cast when I was more interested in rebelling against Wicca than actually worried about ethics.  I would have hated a person who did what I was requesting without magick and am eternally grateful that I did not have the mental acuity to make those spells actually work.

The point is, remember that when you cast a spell, you are sincerely putting out a request for something.  Whether or not the spell works--or even whether or not any spells work--is irrelevant, ethically speaking, because that sincere request already says a lot about your character.

Sunday Roundup - March 17

"What are you doing, Jack?  You tried this already!  You failed!"  I know, I did.  But sometimes there's stuff I really, really want to post, but I don't have enough material to write a full-on essay on that one thing.  So I'm going to try it again.  Stuff I found, posted, reposted, or otherwise found interesting for the week of March 10th:


  • My alma mater has Peregrine Falcons living in the dorm I totally used to live in.  They even have a live camera so you can watch them!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Well-Meaning Racist Religion

Have you ever, say, friended someone on Facebook, and then within a couple weeks realized you've made a dreadful mistake?  I friended somebody against my instincts because I like meeting new people.  I don't think I've ever seen the word "white" used that many times in status messages before, and I have a lot of openly anti-racist friends who use it a lot.  It didn't take too long before I realized there was no way I was going to be able to tolerate having somebody like that on my friends' list, no matter how many times they claimed they weren't racist for it.

Germanic Paganism is basically famous for this shit, which is interesting considering how non-reconstructionist the idea of whiteness as the end qualification for working with Germanic Gods is.  Not all participants in their ritual structure were descended from Germanic people.  Adoption was not unheard of, and when slaves (captured in travel, which Germanic people did a lot of) were freed they could also be adopted into the culture... regardless of race or ethnicity.  The idea that Germanic Gods will only interact with ethnically Germanic-descended people is racist fiction.  There is no evidence to support it.

But you know what?  This attitude has never come from a misled idea about what the reality was for ancient Germanic people anyway.  It has always been a case of justifying already-present racism, which is clear from the fact that they talk about whiteness so damned much.  If you can't carry on a piece of religious discourse about your faith without intentionally injecting your whiteness into your rationale for having that faith, you just might be (in other words, you probably are) a racist.

The standard cop-out is to claim that this has nothing to do with racism, that they're just "proud of being white."

Demand for a distinct, open celebration of whiteness in the name of racial equity is a pretty firmly-embedded racist tradition.  The reason it's racist is because it makes the assumption that whiteness is not already abundantly celebrated.  People petition for "white history" classes or "white pride" or in this case "white religion" without stopping for a second to realize that we already have these things.  We have celebrations of various European ethnic groups, religious figures are re-written as European whites when they clearly weren't (Jesus Christ, anyone?), history classes and entertainment alike overwhelmingly portray white people, there is absolutely no possible way to argue whiteness is not celebrated!

So you're a Heathen, and maybe you feel your connection to the divine is in some way connected to your Ancestors.  This isn't inherently bad; I am a huge proponent of bringing Ancestor-based faith back into the public Pagan spectrum.  But being white is not a prerequisite for honoring those Gods and it never has been.  Bringing your whiteness into the issue is racist, no matter how much you wish it wasn't.