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Author Topic: Neo-Wicca Bad for Feminism?  (Read 3496 times)

Altair

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Neo-Wicca Bad for Feminism?
« on: July 30, 2012, 11:12:48 am »
This opinion piece by a Canadian author is a bit more than a year old, but I just stumbled across it. I fear there's some truth to it, as well as a serious misreading of what neo-wiccan paths are all about.

Wiccans and Mystical Women: How New Age is Secretly Bad for Feminism

http://www.skepticnorth.com/2011/05/wiccans-and-mystical-women-how-new-age-is-secretly-bad-for-feminism/

"This is why I find New Age thought, like Wicca, so much more aggravating than your average brand of magical thinking. Wicca tends to target itself to women followers. There’s a sense of female empowerment in its imagery of motherhood of Earth goddesses.... It’s a type of magical thinking which lends itself well to taking advantage of those who may indeed feel powerless, unheard, and unseen, providing them with a way to artificially inflate a sense of self-worth using cheap parlour tricks."

Discuss.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2012, 11:16:20 am by Altair »
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The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
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Altair

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Re: Neo-Wicca Bad for Feminism?
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2012, 11:22:07 am »
Quote from: Altair;66619

Discuss.

 
I think we're all aware of the type who fall into neo-wiccan paths as a means to inflate their self-esteem and gain the super-cool abilities they were always meant to have. (The kind who designate themselves priestesses after 15 minutes with a Wicca 101 book.) But I don't think that's all the author is talking about.

The serious misreading, however, comes in assuming that women following a neo-wiccan path are trying to become goddesses in order to be on a par with ordinary men. One doesn't assume that a man following a patriarchal Abrahamic faith is trying to become a god; why would one jump to this conclusion about neo-wiccan women?
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Darkhawk

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Re: Neo-Wicca Bad for Feminism?
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2012, 11:32:00 am »
Just hitting what you've quoted, to start with.

Quote from: Altair;66619
Wicca tends to target itself to women followers.


No.  "Wicca" does not do anything of the sort.  This sort of anthropomorphising is not useful to actual application of brain, since it is ascribing actions to an entity incapable of taking them, in a manner that erases the choices of actual people who are making them.

Addressing questions of why neo-Wicca has appeal to usually younger women would require respecting those women's agency and decisionmaking process, so of course it has to be that neo-Wicca itself is engaging in sex-based marketing.

Quote
It’s a type of magical thinking which lends itself well to taking advantage of those who may indeed feel powerless, unheard, and unseen, providing them with a way to artificially inflate a sense of self-worth using cheap parlour tricks."

 
There's an interesting point to be had here: historically speaking, witchcraft, like hoodoo and a variety of other forms of folk magic, has been largely the province of the powerless, because if you can't get the authorities to listen, and you can't pay for help, and you can't do anyone else, at least you can bloody well hex someone's ass.

Of course, that's not a neo-Wiccan attitude. ;)

Now I'm gonna actually read the article.  Back in a bit.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2012, 11:33:40 am by Darkhawk »
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Re: Neo-Wicca Bad for Feminism?
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2012, 11:47:44 am »
Quote from: Altair;66620
The serious misreading, however, comes in assuming that women following a neo-wiccan path are trying to become goddesses in order to be on a par with ordinary men. One doesn't assume that a man following a patriarchal Abrahamic faith is trying to become a god; why would one jump to this conclusion about neo-wiccan women?

 
I can almost see where the misreading is coming from, almost.  It's the standard "If women speak up more than like 35% of the time they're perceived as totally dominating the conversation" thing.

Consider: commonly constructed views of Abrahamic religion are heavily tied up with divinity as a male thing.  (This varies in actual accuracy from a theological standpoint, but that's basically the groundwork.)  Maleness is a trait of divinity; thus femaleness is not divine.  (And when you get into the more Manichaean forms of Christianity, 'not-divine' thus becomes 'Satanic'.)

This is, needless to say, a problem, and it's a problem that means that it is more likely for a woman to be dissatisfied with her religious experience in an Abrahamic religion than a man would be.

Now:  neo-Wicca explicitly has the divine cast as both female and male.  This opens up the possibility for femaleness to also be a trait of divinity.  This raises women to actual equal theological standing: gender does not exclude one from community with the divine.  (And in more goddess-centred forms of neo-Wicca, sometimes there is the backlashy 'we are all of the nature of the divine, but I as a woman am of the nature of the more important part' attitude.)

If someone is pursuing this religious experience as an apotheosis thing - which is entirely possible on many paths - then that path is open to men and women in neo-Wicca (and possibly other-gendered people who can flex in useful ways).  However, because women have been subtextually excluded from achieving that community with the divine previously, the fact that they have access at all, let alone equal access, becomes overwhelming: instead of equal access it is "harpy-bitches are keeping the men down!" or, as in this article, "women are diverted into pursuing nonexistent fluffy sekrit power instead of real life" - which does not recognise or care that men have the same potential to pursue nonexistent fluffy sekrit power in most forms of neo-Wicca.

Because, you see, men having the power to achieve closeness to God is not news.
as the water grinds the stone
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we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Nyktipolos

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Re: Neo-Wicca Bad for Feminism?
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2012, 11:50:33 am »
Quote from: Altair;66619



Quote from: From the article by Sara E.
... the absurdity that women need supernatural power in order to bring themselves to the same level as ordinary men.

 
This part bugged me, although I'm not sure why. It may have to do with the fact that in certain Native cultures (or at least the ones I am familiar with, which are Cree, Ojibwe, and Metis, so I can't speak for all of them) women do have a certain type of innate power that men do not. I haven't been able to figure out though if it's just a different type of power (although this is my assumption) rather than having MORE power than another sex.

(I'm not including two-spirit people here at the moment, although many Native cultures ascribed different or more power to them.)

This is talked about quite a bit in Life Stages and Native Women: Memory, Teachings, and Story Medicine by Kim Anderson, if one is interested.

So after writing this, I think what bugged me about it was that it came from a Western-based assumption about women. And, well, I probably should've realized that when the main focus of it was on Wicca. :P So, take this for what you will. She also vaguely hand-waves over "Eastern Asian religions" as also being misogynistic, with very little example. I just tend to get very uncomfortable when white, Western feminists trot out of the misogyny card against other PoC religions or cultures with little examples.
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monsnoleedra

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Re: Neo-Wicca Bad for Feminism?
« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2012, 12:06:37 pm »
Quote from: Nyktipolos;66628
This part bugged me, although I'm not sure why. It may have to do with the fact that in certain Native cultures (or at least the ones I am familiar with, which are Cree, Ojibwe, and Metis, so I can't speak for all of them) women do have a certain type of innate power that men do not. I haven't been able to figure out though if it's just a different type of power (although this is my assumption) rather than having MORE power than another sex.


That matches up with some of the things I've read in regards to other peoples.  I think it was the Roma that atribute having a different type of power to women that men do not possess.  It's similiar to notions I've encountered in the mountain folk traditions that women had a special power that men did not have.  Especially so in regards to divination, healing and low magics.  Especially pushed that it was a different power not a lessor or greater power.

Quote
(I'm not including two-spirit people here at the moment, although many Native cultures ascribed different or more power to them.)


Two-Spirit and Contraries seem to be something that is omitted from many forms of european notions.  If not omitted then hidden really well.

Quote
This is talked about quite a bit in Life Stages and Native Women: Memory, Teachings, and Story Medicine by Kim Anderson, if one is interested.


Thanks for the reference.

With regard to the feminism facet can't really speak on that aspect.  Especially given that most of my interaction is based with my siblings and aunts which is definatley 1st and 2nd wave feminism.

StudiodeKadent

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Re: Neo-Wicca Bad for Feminism?
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2012, 12:32:36 pm »
Quote from: Altair;66619

Wiccans and Mystical Women: How New Age is Secretly Bad for Feminism

http://www.skepticnorth.com/2011/05/wiccans-and-mystical-women-how-new-age-is-secretly-bad-for-feminism/

 
Well, apart from the lack of detailed analysis there is an important grain of truth in this article.

Wicca and Neo-Wicca both tend towards a belief in Platonic Gender Essentialism (i.e. eternal forms of 'correct' masculinity and femininity existing transcendent above the world). This leads to the proposition that there is a "correct" way to be male and female, i.e. gender roles.

Many feminists (although not all) have criticized gender roles because they deny individual women mastery over their own individual lives (there are exceptions... Carol Gilligan's In A Different Voice is based upon gender essentialism, albiet from a feminist angle).

Also, some of the men's rights people also criticize gender roles because they do the same to men; they deny individual men the positive liberty to self-determination. Warren Farrell made this argument, but unfortunately a lot of men's rights types get into the gender essentialism themselves as a way to find some spiritual male identity.

But yeah, the point is that Wicca does have a strong tendency towards gender essentialism, and this proposition is often targeted as bad for both men and women by denying them full individuality.

That said, not all Wiccans necessarily buy into the gender essentialism. Indeed, from my (admittedly limited) experience, most accept the theological principle but don't really act on it, so the potential harm of the proposition is mitigated.

Nachtigall

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Re: Neo-Wicca Bad for Feminism?
« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2012, 12:41:27 pm »
Quote from: Altair;66619
This opinion piece by a Canadian author is a bit more than a year old, but I just stumbled across it. I fear there's some truth to it, as well as a serious misreading of what neo-wiccan paths are all about.

Wiccans and Mystical Women: How New Age is Secretly Bad for Feminism

http://www.skepticnorth.com/2011/05/wiccans-and-mystical-women-how-new-age-is-secretly-bad-for-feminism/

"This is why I find New Age thought, like Wicca, so much more aggravating than your average brand of magical thinking. Wicca tends to target itself to women followers. There’s a sense of female empowerment in its imagery of motherhood of Earth goddesses.... It’s a type of magical thinking which lends itself well to taking advantage of those who may indeed feel powerless, unheard, and unseen, providing them with a way to artificially inflate a sense of self-worth using cheap parlour tricks."

Discuss.

 
If a woman finds spiritual fulfillment in Neo-Wicca (or any other religion, really), how can it ever hurt feminism - that is, the kind of feminism that actually fights for women empowerment and their right to make their own choices? This is something I won't ever get, probably.

Catherine

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Re: Neo-Wicca Bad for Feminism?
« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2012, 12:57:42 pm »
Quote from: Altair;66619

Discuss.

 
Honestly, all I really got out of that article was that the author doesn't really know a whole lot about Wicca or neo-Wicca. Sure there is the whole gender polarity thing that can be problematic for a lot people, but if she mentioned any of that stuff, it didn't stand out as much as her use of words and phrases like "superstition", "absurdity", "cheap parlor tricks", "lends itself well to taking advantage of" etc.

Basically, she thinks it's silly so it must be bad.

cigfran

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Re: Neo-Wicca Bad for Feminism?
« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2012, 01:37:14 pm »
Quote from: Nachtigall;66636
If a woman finds spiritual fulfillment in Neo-Wicca (or any other religion, really), how can it ever hurt feminism - that is, the kind of feminism that actually fights for women empowerment and their right to make their own choices? This is something I won't ever get, probably.

 
"Empowerment" based on a malformed source can easily supply excuses for ideology and muddled thinking. Everyone has the right to choose those things, of course, but it may be arguable whether it qualifies as a good thing in any broader sense.

yewberry

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Re: Neo-Wicca Bad for Feminism?
« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2012, 01:52:41 pm »
Quote from: Catherine;66638
Basically, she thinks it's silly so it must be bad.


Pretty much this.  A fundamental ignorance of Wicca seems to be at work.  I find her argument weak because of this.

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Re: Neo-Wicca Bad for Feminism?
« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2012, 03:37:04 pm »
Quote from: Catherine;66638
it didn't stand out as much as her use of words and phrases like "superstition", "absurdity", "cheap parlor tricks", "lends itself well to taking advantage of" etc.

Basically, she thinks it's silly so it must be bad.

 
The post appeared to be written from a cranky-atheistic point of view.  That flavor of atheist is prone to such language, but they at least do so with equal-opportunity bile.
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Altair

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Re: Neo-Wicca Bad for Feminism?
« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2012, 03:50:03 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;66654
The post appeared to be written from a cranky-atheistic point of view.  That flavor of atheist is prone to such language, but they at least do so with equal-opportunity bile.


I was about to note the same thing. I have a soft spot for atheists, as I share their rationalism and rejection of mainstream interpretations of God, so I tend not to get riled by that tone.

Shorn of the derisiveness (which does indeed seem to be aimed at all forms of religion, not just neo-wicca), her point seems to be that the Abrahamic stuff is awful for women, and while neo-wicca would seem to be better for them, ultimately it's not.

It's an interesting argument, but one prob (among some of the many others noted in the comments so far) seems to be that the author focused primarily on the magical aspect of neo-wicca, as opposed to the worldview. It's hard to see how a worldview that restores equal (if not superior) billing to the feminine is bad for feminism.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

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Re: Neo-Wicca Bad for Feminism?
« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2012, 03:57:45 pm »
Quote from: Altair;66656
It's hard to see how a worldview that restores equal (if not superior) billing to the feminine is bad for feminism.


Yep.  It's been said already, but the author of that piece doesn't appear to be too informed about Wicca.  
Equating it with "New Age" is Red Flag #1.
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Re: Neo-Wicca Bad for Feminism?
« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2012, 04:29:24 pm »
Quote from: MadZealot;66658
Yep.  It's been said already, but the author of that piece doesn't appear to be too informed about Wicca.  
Equating it with "New Age" is Red Flag #1.
I wonder if the author thinks all pagan movments are so called "New Age"?
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