Posts Tagged respect

Speaking as a Woman

Today is International Women’s Day. This always gets me thinking. Much like Mother/Father/Secretary/Dog’s days, aren’t those every day?

Well, of course. But it’s worth taking a specific day out to think about that particular group.

(Yes, there is an International Men’s Day. That’s not what I’m looking at today).

From an early age, I learned that there were more male role models than female. In the late ’70s/early ’80s, Wonder Woman was my idol. The only superheroes I saw back then were on TV, so while I loved the lonely strength of the Hulk and the corny fun of Adam West’s Batman (where Catwoman always seemed to win, somehow), there wasn’t much else to choose from that I could relate to.

As any so-called minority knows, it’s tough when you don’t see yourself in the world around. You seek out something that reflects You, and hold on to it fiercely when you find it.

It seemed that a certain social group of straight, white men was the norm, the ‘default’. I ended up being somehow tomboy-ish, because the specified female roles weren’t in the least interesting to me. Then that one female leader, Margaret Thatcher… well, no. No, thank you.

I remember adult ladies around me making jokes about the bra-less, freedom-fighting women of Greenham Common and Newbury. Third-wave feminism seemed a long way away from me, and not at all aspirational.

I saw many female teachers, but led by a Head Master. I saw male bosses and female secretaries. Of course, in later life, I became a PA, and understood how deeply true it is that while men stand up to run things, they couldn’t do it without the strong women behind them, hiding their wits and brains behind their battle-armour of Wonderbra, heels and fierce makeup.

It’s often true that women have had to fight twice as hard to gain as much recognition as men do ‘normally’. Which is why on days like this, it’s both fun and necessary to catch ourselves in perpetuating those default norms. Feminism is about equality, for all. This is not about women above men, but asking for equal respect. Be we gay or straight, trans or cis, our stories are just as valid as anyone else’s. No matter our ancestry or current social role or job, we can find commonality, hear each other and stand up together. Our relationships, and the gendered language we use, is still evolving and maturing as it is required to represent new things.Pagans have a great deal of respect for women, given that it is a very female-led spirituality – but again, we still have room to grow. We stand with our brothers, fathers and sons, together in our power, unique and connected. This is the revolutionary act that we can demonstrate, each and every day, in ritual and regular life.We say that we see women as sacred – yet many are still taken advantage of, used or disparaged. In recent years, I’ve got into (rather pointless) arguments about how I call myself a Priest, not a Priestess. While I know that the suffix ‘ess‘ simply denotes the female of the word, once again, the default is male. That always annoyed me, as it seemed so arbitrary. Actress but not directress (or directrix). Many people have called me a Priestess, which I don’t mind at all, but it’s interesting to note that a Priestess is treated as if the title is an honorific, not derogatory (even if you need to be a High Priestess to carry any clout *grin*). That word appears to have been reclaimed, and I’m glad of this. Priest and Priestess, standing together as God and Goddess. And I am deeply grateful to those men who stand at our side.
Today and all days, I call on my lady-friends, women in body and/or spirit, to stand in who they are. Sometimes that’s the biggest battle of all, but know that there are so many others who have your back and love you for that honesty, integrity and bravery. Whether our weapon is a sword, pen, wand or knitting needle, know that we are all Wonder Women at heart.Wonder Woman

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Facing Dragons

I love walking in mud with no shoes. Because shoes weren’t really made for mud, were they? They get dirty so easily, and don’t really cling (unless they’ve got special soles). Toes were certainly made for gripping, holding us firm, telling us what’s underfoot and if it’s safe to proceed.

But we don’t walk barefoot in mud, do we. Pause now, think of all the reasons you’ve been told. You’ll get your feet dirty. Who knows what you’ll step in? It’s cold. It’s wet. Just the feeling of wet, dirty, squishy mud, full of horrors… urrrgh…

Have you ever tried? How about sand? Or grass? The worst surface to walk on barefoot, for me, is gravel or concrete. Hard, cold, with no grip. The natural earth is full of sensation, feeling, and it actually feels so much better. More natural, indeed.

Oh, and soap exists. We can wash our feet afterwards. It’s easy.

This thoughts came to me as I was navigating a tricky path this afternoon, walking the dogs. Yes, there was mud. Fields where cows had been. Slippery wooden stiles to climb over. Brambles.

Every step of the way, my shoes slipped and skidded, my coat caught in things… the very clothes I wore to keep myself warm and dry were actually impeding my progress. It was both funny and frustrating.

Yes, we do things a certain way for practical concerns. Of course we do. But it’s so easy to trap ourselves in the prison of what we ‘must’ do. Not because we decide, but because someone else has, and we obey unthinkingly.

It’s interesting to consider our own personal boundaries. Which ones have we put up, and why? Which ones did someone else build around us, which we might actually be curious to take down?

Not everyone likes bare skin on mud. But you could do it easily if you wanted to – that’s the example that came to my mind today.

I’ve also spun, arms thrown out wide, in a thunderstorm… on a busy high street, full of people scuttling past to find shelter. I’ve skipped down a London street with a friend, through falling snow, as people got out of our way. I’ve stood naked in a field in Oxfordshire, screaming at the sky.

For each of these, I either was (or would be) stared at. None are illegal. All are rather societally frowned upon. Not British, perhaps, or not done by ‘civilized’ people.

But oh, how freeing they were. To feel that urge within me and to follow through with it. To feel the fear-walls fall away: less like tumbling bricks, more like smoke, that faded as I pushed it, challenged it. Overcame it.

I think of close friends, and things they’ve done, which are marvellous to me. Walking alone through busy city streets on the far side of the world. Leaping from a plane, falling back to earth at the end of a thin rigging of cloth and rope. ‘Coming out’ – as a particular sexuality, gender or faith – in an unfriendly environment.

My little mischiefs seem trivial in comparison.

When I wrote my last post, I did worry. How many people would respond accusing me of ‘privilege’, of not knowing ‘how lucky I am’, of how I should ‘be grateful’. I was only talking about having photos taken, for goodness sake…

Words like that were the bars of my inner fear-cell as a child. Always being aware of how I appeared to others, and how I had to act. I always wondered why, how this sort of thing was known. I felt as if I’d been left out when the instructions on such things were being given out. My biggest mistake was often being honest. When I was, I usually got mocked, laughed at and ridiculed. I learned to stay quiet.

But the response that I actually got to my writing was wonderful. People thanking me for my honesty. For being so brave as to talk about such things. For putting into words what is so difficult to even feel, let alone express.

Whenever I let the words come. When I feel so full of emotion that I have to let it out, to express it in some way… people thank me. This confuses me – because as I said, that used to be precisely the wrong thing to do! But now I’m allowed to say it, somehow. Or rather, society has turned enough that we have learned to listen, both to the words being said and to the intention behind them.

I still see words being censored. I’ve had bosses tell me to ‘use different language’, that certain phrases are ‘too negative’. That’s because the situation is negative, perhaps? I see journalists fight in America to express bigger truths that need to be heard. I see everyone figuring out how to tell their own individual tale.

We can only share the stories as we live them. If this means identifying privilege as part of it, then so be it. I’m a white, cis-female, living in a wealthy country – of course my view is going to be limited to that. But this isn’t a prison either; it’s just a perspective. My story is no better or worse than anyone else’s, and by sharing, we can open the doors to each other’s experiences too.

I may be using hard language here. I’ve often felt ‘imprisoned’ by societal demands, by the expectations of others, of that strange ‘map of life’ that I’ve somehow stumbled away from (you know the one: birth, school, job, marriage, kids, death). I’ve often said that I left that behind a while ago. I’m in the back pages of the atlas now, drawing in the blank space. As the medieval maps would say, Here Be Dragons.

I’d rather the dragons of my own experience and exploration than those snapping at my heels. The adventures and stories give me the power to fight them… or fly.

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The Sacred and Me

Years ago, I came across a beautiful prayer in a Pagan book (I believe by Francesca de Grandis, but I’ve sadly not been able to find it since).

The prayer thanked the Goddess (if the speaker was female, God if male) by honouring Her/Him in every day life. Something like ‘I walk on Your body, with Your feet, and raise Your hands’…

I love playing with language, and this is just delicious. Boundaries are being pulled down, the binary of Me/You being removed. I am You. Goddess is Me.

It felt like that moment when you fully understand what walking on the body of the Goddess means – if you regard the Earth beneath us (and around us, and above us) as Her form. After contemplating this when first starting out as a baby Pagan, I was actually daunted to even take a single step. But I did, and I moved on. I felt a bit silly for worrying. She caught me, after all. Gravity’s a blessing too, and the Earth is pretty sturdy. Just don’t take it for granted (toddlers know this wisdom well).

Now, I know not everybody works with deity as a male or female form/idea – but many do, as it helps us to personify a very large concept in order to better understand it.

But you don’t have to acknowledge that personification to understand my point here: Your body is deity. Your hands are those of a Goddess or God. Your ideas have value, your words speak sacred truths, your spirit is immortal…

I can almost hear the doubt in you now. But bear with me.

I know we don’t regard ourselves as anything approaching deific, and the ego required to walk that path can perhaps be too monstrous to contemplate. But again, not quite what I mean. This is not about power or ego; this is about the sacred, value and intention.

Consider this idea for a moment. You are sacred. Your every word carries power, your touch is magical, your hugs are a blessing.

Isn’t that true? Even just a little bit? Certainly if you’re a parent to a young child – you are their universe, their guide and guardian. Best Mum/Dad Ever!

So if we walk in this truth, how do we honour ourselves as sacred? Do we dress well, in clothes of quality that suit us, or do we throw on a t-shirt and jeans? Do we nourish ourselves with well-cooked food or grab a pre-packed sandwich? Do we even notice as we clean ourselves in the morning, or just get done what needs to be done before rushing off to the next task?

I’m sure you see where I’m going now. This isn’t intended to be judgmental at all (I do all of those ‘lazy’ things above), but simply ask for consideration.

The intention of my challenge to myself was in the back of my mind as I began my day. I decided to get on with a reluctant job that I’d been putting off, and go through some old clothes (I’ve lost weight lately due to running). And I discovered the sheer value and appreciation of clothes which fit well and serve their purpose – whether that’s decent underwear, a sturdy coat or a fitted top. So many items ended up in the pile for charity because it didn’t fit as I’d physically changed, or – as I realized – it likely never had fit well, not really.

I don’t go clothes shopping for fun. It’s never been easy for me, as I do like things to look good, and am very aware of not fitting into the ‘trendy’ mould that society requires. But this means that sometimes I’ve had to make do. Being happy with how I present myself has had to be sacrificed to what I can afford and making do with the best I can find.

I’ve heard this from friends who are healers. We have to sacrifice decent cleansing and body products for those we can afford, regardless of what they contain. The same with food.

Again – this is not a guilt-trip. As I walk my day today, I am considering. If I am Goddess, how do I honour myself? If I wish to adorn myself, what fabrics, scents and colours do I use? Am I ‘making do’ or putting in effort? How much do I value myself, after all – would I treat friends or family this way?

And while I consider how I represent myself, how do I speak to others as I go about my day? Do I gossip and whinge, or share a smile and a happy story? Do I honestly seek help when needed, or hide in pain? Truth or falsehood, balance and power… inspiration and connection. The old song: What am I doing?

I honour my Goddess in my journey as I explore with good intention. Because by doing so, I am honouring my Self. I must remember, at heart, to care. To love.

I try my best. And I trust Her (Me) to catch me when I fall, and find the strength to try again.

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Ranting and Listening

After the personal and depth-plummeting previous post, it’s time for something a little lighter. I promised folk recently that I’d post up something I’d been wanting to rant about for a while, so… I’ll try and be balanced, here. Honest. 🙂

I often hear people say that if they won the Lottery, they’d love to organise a Pagan Communal Place. The general ideas seems to be something like a retreat/monastery, where those who wanted to could live and learn, while others just visited when they felt like it. In blissful unity, of course, all worshipping together without the problems of the Real World.

Think about that for a minute.

I think this really is one of those ideas that is far better in theory than in practice. Can you imagine what living at such a place would be like?

Consider. Those who clatter with crystals versus those who know where they came from (and which ones are beads). Omnivores versus vegetarians versus vegans. Witches, Wiccans, Druids, Heathens… while there’s the makings of a reality TV show, I really doubt such a thing could ever be done, for one very simple reason.

Pagans Are People Too.

Have you ever been in a Pagan chatroom, on a Pagan internet forum, a Pagan Facebook group? The arguments when hidden from each other behind a computer screen can be fairly epic, certainly heated and often irrational based on belief rather than fact. Again, idea is preferable to reality, and some folk like to think they live that way.

Have you ever been to a Pagan pub moot, a Camp or retreat? It’s never as smooth, peaceful and idyllic as you’d hope. Arguments fester behind smiles, passive-aggressive Heated Discussions go on in the queue for the bar, those who are aware of ‘communal space’ face off against those who treat the entire thing as an organised affair for their own personal benefit, and whinge accordingly afterwards, having not moved a finger to help…

I’m not saying these should stop, nor that they’re entirely as awful as I’ve said here. But sadly, it’s a truth at the moment that Paganism (of whichever path) tends to attract the needy, the broken and the socially unskilled. Or, as we know them, HUMAN BEINGS.

We all have our needs. We’ve all been broken. We all get confused by those around us holding different views. But for some, it’s easier to throw up barriers, stand your ground (no matter how unsteady) and argue, rather than… well, listen.

OK, some folks have views that I’d really have trouble accepting into my own worldview. The Fruitarian lady who screamed and ran from a ham on the dinner table. Those who require ‘special treatment’ when they are fully able-bodied and well-off enough to themselves be helping, but are The Chosen of the Goddess. Those with huge Magickal titles whose pedestals are so high that I hope they fall off. And, of course, those who attempt to ‘convert’ others to their way of thinking via guilt. I *know* about the poor ickle fwuffy bunnies, thanks. I’ve skinned them, and watched them get taken down by a hunting hawk.

To be honest, it’s as Eddie Izzard said. None of us suffer fools gladly, much as we might like to think so. None of us have infinite patience. But we can do our best to truly listen first.

I have truckloads of time for those who are truly passionate about their beliefs and is willing to share that (whether in story, song, art, whatever). Hearing someone speak their own truth, whether shy or nervous, is the most wonderful thing, and a true privilege. Please join me at my campfire, I’d love to hear your tale.

Seekers, too, are fully welcome. We are all on a learning journey called Life, and to admit it and settle down for a good discussion is fantastic. Especially when your own beliefs can be challenged, exercising both mental and spiritual faculties, but (hopefully) with enough humour that the light of inspiration is kindled.

However, hearing someone tell you how they personally caused a hurricane over a country in the far East because that country eats dogs makes me want to plant that person’s face into a wall. Yes, really.

I firmly believe that spirituality is not incompatible with reality. But nor is it a crutch, or an excuse for certain behaviour. I may be fairly liberal-minded, but the level of criticism that some Pagans throw at other faiths leads me to think that while they’ve had bad experiences, I don’t blame those other faiths for yelling back. Nobody has ever been converted by others yelling at them. No, I’m not going to Hell. Yes, I have considered how God affects the world today. I’ll listen to you, if you listen to me…

And don’t even get me started on those who use a made-up title to play power games with others (especially the young). You’ll get what’s coming to you, sir or madam – maybe even times three. But allow me to help…

These views are entirely mine. The examples above are all absolutely real (scarily). We are all human.I have my faults too, Lord knows. (Yes, my Lord. He’s fully aware, thanks.)

But my path encourages connection and relationship. Responsibility and consideration. If your words aren’t helping, then what are you saying them for? If you’ve made a promise, why haven’t you kept it? We all do it, but learn from your mistakes.

I think, ultimately, while the old ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all’ adage can be useful (a simple ‘smile and walk away’ response works wonders), if we as Pagans – and humans – took a little more responsibility, lived the tenets of the faith we profess to follow, and had more awareness for others of our path, we’d be taken far more seriously by those others, as well as the wider world. True respect is a powerful thing.

I’m sure this post will piss some people off. It’s not really intended to, but it’s a possible and acknowledged consequence of not being as polite as I perhaps should be. But as I said at the start, it’s a rant – so a bit tongue in cheek, but which grew out of actions that genuinely pissed ME off. Sometimes, things need to be said, or you end up yourself being fluffy and tolerant to the point of ludicrous.

If you don’t like something, that’s fine – move away. Or challenge it. Challenge me, I’m here.

Fancy a discussion?

😉

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