Monday, August 16, 2010

I am who I am who I am who I am/ Requesting some enlightenment/ Could I have been anyone other than me?

Gather around, my children of the corn, it's time for a personal statement of purpose. I'm not talking a magical one, though my PEH summed up my magical one quite nicely as radical practicality. We're talking about me.

Some magicians/occultists/your cat who does magic/whatever would prefer to see magic more as science, factual by results and comforting through the written word. But here's the thing, nothing is unbiased. Not science, certainly. After all science once believed the sun circled the earth, men were smarter than women due to brain weight and that people of color were empirically less intelligent than white people.

Not you, not me, not anyone is unbiased. When you step into your magical circle, into the forest, into the kitchen, you don't magically shed your biases. Neither does anyone else. Susan doesn't stop being mad at you for boning her husband, Alan doesn't stop thinking that you're a cheapskate because you always bring dessert and never a main dish for feast, etc., etc, etc.

Where I am going with this is that a big part of who I am as a person is a feminist (in case the Dianic Wicca part didn't tip you off). I got my college degree in Women's Studies. I've worked for and been paid by the National Organization for Women. I'm part of the Amethyst Circle of Sisters (my Dianic group). And when I do magic and when I write about magic, this doesn't turn off.

I am the first to say I come from a place of privilege - I'm a white middle class American citizen and I do constantly examine my place of privilege. But that also means I'm constantly contemplating others' privileges and the places I come from that aren't privileged when I am treated as lesser for my less privileged aspects. And I can't shut that off. Jow and I have had many discussions about privledge, to the point that he can recognize when Not Cool Shit is Going Down. And it can be a drag. We were minding our own business watching Warehouse 13 when he said, "Oh man, it's totally happen on my show! Noooooooooooooo! There are these three women of color who have magical capabilities and are bad ass in their own right but here it is, random white dude coming in to supervise and he's not even magical! Why is he in charge? Oh man! I can't shut this off! I can't stop seeing it! Grrrrrrrr!"

And for some of us who have spent a lot of time examining our own privledge and all the ways big and small various people get treated as lesser, that's exactly what it is. I can't shut it off. Not just because we're talking about magic and here in our safe little corner of the blogosphere people have disagreements and hissy fits but we all respect each other as equals, not because it makes you uncomfortable, not because you don't want to talk about it here, not because some of my experiences of being treated like crap by my so called magical brothers and sisters make you feel awkward. Never. I can't shut it off until everything's right when it comes to race/gender/sexuality/class/ableism and um that's not going to happen any time in my life time in all likelihood, sadly.

And you don't have to like it or agree and you don't have to read me if it bothers you, you can't all like me or love me as charming as I am. But it's not going away in any of my writing. And some of my bias *is* when it comes to the larger occult community and higher magic, because of how I've been treated there. Maybe the "battle" about how people treat each other magically and who is respected more than who due to their lineage and teachings is over for you and that's cool. But it's not over for me, I still fight it every day. I still get treated like I do Barbie magic every day of my damn life (among other things) and I won't pretend the battle is over to make you feel comfortable. Because you know what? It's not over for me and that's my experience which is as valid as yours. This blog is about my magical experience and my views on privilege is part of it.

Don't get me wrong. I got upgraded to Business Class for the first time and dear goddess, it's awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwesome! There's, like, as much booze as you can pour down your throat in a three hour flight, more leg room, as much tv as you want to watch, bejeweled to play, food, real actual good food that's not chock full of fat and served on plates. Who the hell would willingly want to give it up? There are some feminists who would argue that one must in order to be a good global citizen. I don't think it's possible though, honestly. What I *do* think is possible is to be honest with yourself about your privilege, to examine it and to realize that just because you may see Ted as Ted, not Ted the gay black dude, that doesn't mean that Ted feels the same way. Ted may see you as Arnold the white dude who is my friend but gets out of traffic violations much easier and has a larger dating pool and has not been disowned by his family for being who he is.

It's the instinct of many to want to downplay others' negative experiences from being treated as lesser, whether on the street or in the work place or in the magical community because man, you're not like that. But it's much harder to consider that just because *you* aren't like that doesn't mean that Ted doesn't get treated like shit in big and small ways in a lot of other places. And to my mind, the best way to deal with your privilege isn't to fall on your knees and apologize for others' douchebag reactions even if you have a lot of privilege personally. The right thing to do isn't to tell Ted that he's being too sensitive either and people aren't like that anymore. The best thing, the most right thing you can do from your place of privledge is simple. You say, Wow, Ted. That really sucks. I'm sorry you had to go through that. And hug him if that's your thing.



Jason Miller, said...

Sucks about you being treated like you do Barbie Magic. FWIW I have done magic involving barbie dolls stuffed with herbs and bound in tape and it worked out GREAT!

Also, I have a close friend who uses a Hello Kitty light up baton as a wand. She is one of the most powerful enchanters that I have ever met.

Deborah Castellano said...

Awwww, thank you for the examples of the other awesome girls in the field. :)

This is something I had just wanted to clarify for a bit in terms of my writing and background.

I don't plan on beating my oppression drum all the time because that too is a drag (imo) but I wanted to make sure it was known it will come up at times.

It does suck re: Barbie Magic but it feeds my fire to start a revolution! Or, you know, write a book about what I do. ;p

Anonymous said...

This is a fabulous post! I could not have said it better myself.

For the most part I've learned to avoid the larger Pagan community for the exact reasons you mentioned. The "witchier than thou" attitude turned me off 20 years ago when I first started on this path and it has not gotten any better with time. If anything, I'm getting less and less patient with ass-hattery as I age.

Lavanah said...

I suppose I could say "why the fuck do you care what other people think?" But that isn't always an easy attitude to hold onto. (it gets easier as you get older, though.) As for the background check? We are all the results of our own previous experiences, yours are not mine, which are not his...stands to reason that each of us view the world and respond to it a bit differently from one another.

Unknown said...

the sad part is that these are the people you are supposed to be looking up to and should be guiding you..... but i suppose this is no different in any type of social circles out there.

Rei said...

Thanks! I remember the first time I met with bias in the Pagan interwebs and that was when a very well known author posted that you should never ever enter a circle with anyone who has a mental illness. Since I have a severe one and am completely under control of meds that hurt pretty damn bad coming from someone I had previously respected like crazy!

Unknown said...

I'm ashamed to say, I've never considered "Ted's" perspective before. Thank you for opening my eyes. Well Done!

Unknown said...

Miss Sugar,
I hope you don't mind, but I referenced this post on a post of mine at Journal of Evolution ( I'm new to blogging and don't know the proper etiquette. If I've mis-stepped, please let me know.

V.V.F. said...


Subscribed. Just don't go all Julia Roberts on us, Ms. Business Class. ;) I think you will enjoy that link.

@Lavanah: I do feel I must insist that social privilege is not simply a matter of "personal views." It is a real and observable phenomenon with real and observable consequences.

Carmen Esposito said...

I found you through a comment you posted on Kitchen Witch's blog. I'm new to blogging. This post was eye opening especially when you illustrated Ted's example. I'm a solitary practioner who despite the passing of the years still feels like a newbie. I came out of my comfort zone briefly and joined a group. Everyone was very nice, but there was definitely the 'helpful' criticism that deflated a person. Eventually, I returned to my comfortable solitary habits. I find I'm much happier.


Deborah Castellano said...

Hi Carmen! Thanks for your thoughtful comment and thanks for reading!

Rose Weaver said...

Wow, this post is almost a year old? I just stumbled into this space and find it incredibly true. Thank you for illustrating Ted's perspective, your perspective, my perspective, the perspective of so many, so well.


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