August 24, 2017

Havamal Witches (Satanic edition)

via Spiral Nature
So, there's this thing about the Havamal Witches going around the interwebs. There's a great write-up covering the entire thing over at Spiral Nature and it's a really interesting discussion for the parallels it draws, but if it can be reduced to a simple statement it's this: women's voices are being marginalized in Heathen communities. I'm not a Heathen, so I really can't speculate on anything specific to Heathenism to explain why this is happening, but more generally it sure fits the ignorantly sexist pattern observed pretty much everywhere else: women aren't seen as having the same strength, authority, or wisdom as men; women are being interrupted and talked over because "the men know better;" and while the men do all the magic, ritual, and fighting, the women are being shown to their assigned place tending the homefires, watching the children, and cooking the meals.

The Havamal Witches debate is kind of amusing to me because there's decades of literature saying that although men and women have some obvious biological differences, when it comes to matters of the mind you can find men who are simpletons and women who are rocket scientists. And sure, you can also find women who are daft and men whose minds might never be matched, but no matter the emotional masturbation of the MRA's, PUA's, and garden-variety misogynists, men and women have the same potential for wisdom and genius.

Whether that potential is given the opportunity to develop is another discussion entirely, but as it relates to the topic of the conversation - which I promise is going to lead back to Satanism any moment now - men and women participating in religious communities are probably on the whole standing on equal footing in terms of their opportunity to develop their potential as people who understand and are capable of articulating and explaining their views. Some people are better educated and more capable than others, so they'll naturally gravitate toward the top of the hierarchy, but as far as the subject matter is concerned this isn't rocket science. 

Regardless of their physical abilities, men and women who intellectually invest themselves into a study of their foundational documents are both fully capable of achieving the same strength of knowledge. So why in Heathen communities are women so regularly finding themselves dismissed by men who allegedly believe that they know best? Maybe it's because this is ignorant sexism that's been corporately accumulated either by accident or design, but the Havamal Witches debate is specific to the Heathen Community so I can't really answer for them.

I'm not even sure that I can offer an explanation based within my perspective as a Satanist. Owing largely to the insular and anti-collectivist culture of the Church of Satan, "community" has become a taboo word, and I think that's unfortunate. Satanism is a religion which embraces man-as-animal, so why such a push-back among Satanists against the human need for social interaction? It amuses me when Satanists rail against community yet see no hypocrisy in their participation with online groups for Satanists.

So yeah, owing largely to the hermetic culture of the Church of Satan, I don't have any good comparisons to the Havamal Witches. There are Satanists who'll say that there are no comparisons because Satanism just doesn't suffer the ignorance of sexism, but I don't believe in the myth of Satanic exceptionalism. Judging by many of the memes, essays, videos, and podcasts that I largely don't consume anymore, Satanism is no more immune to its preferred variety of ignorance than is any other religious organization to its own preferred variety of ignorance.

The canon literature of the Church of Satan is definitively against the ignorance of sexism, and the official news feed regularly features news items that easily demonstrate this, but I've observed a difference between the official position of the Church of Satan stated in the canon literature, and the personal expressions of Satanism from individual members. I've encountered Satanists who are just like the Christians whose individual practice is vastly different than what's actually taught in the Holy Bible.

The most notable example I can provide was an interaction I had with another Satanist regarding a Satanic YouTube show in which the hosts had what was apparently a serious discussion in which they explained that they don't call transgendered people by their preferred pronouns because they "haven't done anything to earn it."

The hosts of the show are surely welcome to interpret the 4th Satanic statement as they like, but I find it difficult to reconcile their stated position that they aren't going to address somebody by his or her preferred gender pronoun and then say that the CoS has since it's inception been inclusive toward all sexual and gender orientations.

Which is it? Are the hosts going by a hard interpretation of the 4th Satanic statement and waiting for people to transactionally prove their value in order to be called by their preferred gender pronoun? Or do the hosts actually accept the principled position set forth in the canon literature that they should be accepting of all sexual preferences and gender orientations? I feel like that's inconsistent and that those two positions can't be reconciled.

In conversation with the Satanist who evidently cared very deeply about showing me why he thought I was wrong, he backed up the hosts' position by saying "I don't give 2 shits what your preferred gender is and I am not going to respect it, either." In his mind, I think he thought that he was being totally fair by treating everybody like shit. Which is okay - if he thinks that's the best way to live his life, he's welcome to it. But treating everybody like shit isn't the same as accepting the gender-inclusive principles set forth in the canon literature of the Church of Satan.

The Satanist I was speaking with was firm in his opinion that gender pronouns don't matter and that it's rude for others to even discuss their preferences with him, so I just turned the tables and addressed him as if he were actually a woman: "I'm pretty sure you're a woman, and I know that the canon literature says that Satanism embraces all gender identities, but I really think you should work for it. See? Satanism is just a tool-kit, and I use whichever parts work for me. And I gotta say, you're really irritating me. Could you try to be more polite when you talk to me? You're not scoring much in the way of respect here, little lady."

The excerpt you see above is just one small part of an hours-long conversation played out in my Facebook inbox. To say that he missed the point is an understatement. The conversation was ultimately a massive waste of time and judging by his responses there was nothing I could do to persuade him to the position that in order to call oneself a Satanist, one must actually accept the fundamentals of Satanism which include gender-inclusive attitudes. 

Satanism might not include any Havamal Witches, but it sure includes some bigoted Satanists. How much can I really do about this? I don't honestly know. What I do know is that I think that if members of the Church of Satan are going to get regularly triggered over the mere mention of the Satanic Temple and even the slightest hint of a discussion that there are other branches of Satanism, then they should adjust their internal selective outrage machine to trigger in response to sexist and gendered ignorance. Why do they fly off the handle in response to the Satanic Temple because it's allegedly "not Satanic," but not in response to sexism which is definitively not Satanic?

I think it's hypocritical to claim that Satanism (the religion) is open and accepting of all sexual preferences and gender identities, yet it's totally alright for a Satanist (the individual) to reserve the right to still argue in support of sexist ignorance. To my ears, that's hypocrisy, and I think it should be accused and opposed whenever it turns up.

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