Author Archives: lunamusprime

As Above, So Below – Community Changes and Larger Scale Application

occupy

photo courtesy Geordie O’Brien, 2011

written by Lauren Ouellette-Bruchez

I find myself worrying a great deal these days.  Where are we heading and what kind of world are we leaving behind for future generations?   How do we expect to tackle such widespread and pervasive injustices when our own communities suffer from many of the same intrinsic mentalities that allow those same injustices to be seen as “just the way things are.” With so much to do, where do we start?

Our Pagan communities could really use some help.  So many of the annoying, divisive and damaging behaviors that have been allowed to flourish in our own neighborhoods are small examples of what isn’t working elsewhere.  It is my belief that shedding some light on these ineffective thought processes and behaviors will allow us to create more functional communities, and a jumping off point for more effective activism.

Conflict avoidance

Most people hate getting into a fight.  We are raised to “white lie” to maintain peace, forgive and forget and to not start trouble.  On a situational basis, these are all decent ideas.  It does no good to tell your Aunt Gladys that you think her beloved dog Fifi is hideous beyond all reason, and holding a grudge with a friend because they forgot your birthday is just not worth it if the friendship is in good shape.  But burying our heads in the sand over legitimate issues has caused so much damage in our community, and there are times when facing things head on is the only way to handle it.  Conflict avoidance presents itself in many ways.  Here are just a couple.

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Small Victories in 2014

written by Lauren Ouellette-Bruchez

2014 is coming to a close and for me it won’t be a moment too soon.  One problem with being an activist is that having work to do means something is wrong and this year has had few dull moments.

Times are so tumultuous that I have found myself battling very real, horrifying bouts of depression.  Financially it’s hard to imagine that any poor or middle class person will ever be out of debt.  Discrimination against women continues especially in regard to our reproductive rights.  I find myself worrying that any day now women who live their lives as they want will eventually be required by law to wear t-shirts branded with a giant letter “A”, myself included.  I have lost more than just sleep as I’ve followed many instances of police brutality across the country, especially those involving men of color.  My LGBTQ friends still battle for equality and I fear I will never see an end to that during my lifetime.

I spoke with my father about this.  He’s one of the wisest and kindest people I know.  At the time he visited me, I was having a hard time convincing myself to get out of bed.  I could not sleep.  Food was making me ill and while I meditate regularly I could not quiet my mind.  My father told me that I needed to look at what was going well and put out more positivity.

I would not have paid that much mind if that advice had come from someone else.  I think many people put stock in blind optimism to keep from feeling frightened or depressed, but that is also self-deception and sooner or later reality sets in.  But I know Dad better and knew he wasn’t telling me to fool myself.  He was telling me to recharge and remind myself of why I was doing what I do.  He was suggesting a that I hit the reset button.

So that’s what I’m doing here today.  I’m hitting the reset button for myself and as many of you as I can.  I want to prove to you that your efforts are not going unnoticed and that we are making strides; perhaps not as quickly as we had hoped, but the results are there.  I want to show you that continuing to try is worth it and how many other people are trying alongside you.

1) Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize

Malala Yousafzai is an incredible young woman who is lighting the way for girls’ equality.  In 2012 she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban on the bus which was bringing her home from school. Malala has fought her way through recovery and continues to promote the importance of education for girls everywhere.  She is the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel peace prize.  She is an inspiration to those of us trying to persevere.

2) Marriage Equality is making great strides.

Years ago when we were protesting Proposition 8, I was reduced to tears worrying that marriage equality would never be passed.  I attended numerous protests, signed petitions and educated as many people as I could in hopes that my friends would be given the same rights as I have to marry the person I love.  But this year has given me hope.

The Supreme Court has addressed marriage bans in numerous states.  It’s also been wonderful scrolling through my Facebook feed to see photos of my friends and their weddings from all over the country.  There is still a lot to do but if you look at the map above you can see how far we have come.

3) The Peoples Climate March was the largest march for climate change in history.

On September 21st, I was honored to take part in the Peoples Climate March in New York City.  Marching through Manhattan with fellows Pagans, my partners and over 400,000 people was surreal experience.  It seemed that everyone was there.  People of all races, religions and walks of life gathered for the day to draw attention to a very real problem.  And we were heard.  It’s hard to ignore nearly a half a million people.  And it’s hard to just brush off what a phenomenal achievement it was to get so many people gathered peacefully for a single cause.

4) The Maetreum of Cybele wins their case after almost 10 years.

After years of fighting what seemed like a never ending battle with the Town of Catskill for recognition of their tax exempt status, the New York Court of Appeals found for the Maetreum, a Pagan church located in upstate New York.  This case sets the stage not just to assist other Pagan organizations in New York attempting to create brick-and-mortar locations, but for reference for Pagans in other parts of the country in how to better advocate for the recognition of their rights as well.

5) The Senate votes against the Keystone XL Pipeline

Admittedly this is a temporary win.  New representatives will be taking their offices at the beginning of the next calendar year and that this item will come to a vote again but, considering all of the information presented about the pipeline and what it would do (or not do as the case may be) for Americans, this gives us time to educate others and give them the tools they need to contact those representatives.  Knowing who voted against the pipeline may also be useful in gaining the assistance of some very knowledgeable and well connected allies some of whom may not be holding office this term.  Part of visualizing a better future is recognizing opportunity.

6) Chicago votes to accept a higher minimum wage.

Inflation in our country is nothing short of madness.  The expectation that anyone working for the national minimum wage could possibly afford to live  reasonably on that alone is just as absurd.  I’m glad to see that some cities are responding to this issue.  For each city that implements a higher minimum wage, we have access to new information to help us in addressing this on a national level and allow for a better quality of life for minimum wage workers. I believe that if someone is working full time, they deserve to be able to afford a decent place to live.

7) Ft. Lauderdale homeless feeding ordinance is temporarily suspended.

90-year-old Arnold Abbott has been arrested numerous times for feeding the homeless residents of Ft. Lauderdale but a judge has called for a 30 day suspension of enforcement on the local ordinance which prohibits feeding the homeless in certain locations.  Being homeless has been criminalized in many cities across America setting an ugly and counterproductive precedent to addressing homelessness.  Many thanks to Mr. Abbott and others like him who continue to do what’s right even with the threat of arrest.

I think that it’s difficult to see that we aren’t alone in our causes especially if you happen to be separated from others who share your views. Good things happen all the time. These are the things that prove that our voices are being heard.  Often times progress is a series of baby steps.  But every day we are given proof that we can affect our world and improve it. While we do the hard work remind yourself of why you try.  The spark within that encourages you to speak out against what is unjust is fueled by knowing that better days are possible.

You have to imagine the world at its best and believe that it can be achieved.  That vision is a map and even if we have to take a different route to reach our destinations, there’s always another road.  Even if you can’t see it right away, even if the route takes you through the woods, it’s there.

Many blessings to all of you for the upcoming Yule and may the new year be full of opportunities to change to world for the better.

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2014/yousafzai-facts.html

http://www.freedomtomarry.org/states/

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/11/06/3590096/breaking-marriage-equality-just-got-a-first-class-ticket-to-the-supreme-court/

http://peoplesclimate.org/

N.Y. Top Court Rules In Favor of the Maetreum of Cybele

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/senate-narrowly-shoots-down-keystone-xl-pipeline-bill/

http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/city-council-poised-raise-chicagos-mimimum-wage-13-hr/tue-12022014-943am

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fort-lauderdale/fl-homelees-feeding-ruling-20141202-story.html

http://www.msnbc.com/hardball/criminalization-homelessness-the-rise-us-cities

“Get a Real Job” and the Myth of Worthiness

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By Lauren Ouellette-Bruchez

I have often spoken with my grandfather about his life during the 50’s and 60’s.  He has so many stories from his time working at the “old A&P”.  Grandpa told me about what products he used to sell and of the customers he remembered over the years and I can tell he looks back upon it fondly.  I’m sure he had bad days and bad customers but by and large he felt respected and was genuinely making people’s lives better and easier.  Eventually he decided to return to school to become a funeral director. He got his degree in something he truly cared about and wanted to do and I have great respect for his decision to not only go to college when the time was right for him but also to return to his education later in his life.

Fast forward to 2011.  My older sister was working at a department store.  I happened to be at the mall that day and wanted to stop by to say a quick hello.  She was working in the ladies handbag department at the time.  A woman brought her items to my sister’s counter to check out.  She happened to have a department specific coupon with her for something in the men’s department.  Very kindly my older sister apologized and explained that the coupon could not be used at her register but would have to be taken to the men’s department to be processed.  The customer proceeded to tell my sister how useless she felt she was because she didn’t have managerial clearance to ring-up the coupon.

I have never been so tempted to ram a purse down someone’s throat so badly in all of my life, but my sister needed the job and I didn’t want to endanger her employment.  Not only was this person so terribly disrespectful but she thought nothing of humiliating my sister in front of other customers.  In that moment she didn’t see my sister as a person.  She saw only a nameless, faceless store employee who was incapable of giving her exactly what she wanted when she wanted it.  She saw someone “lesser”.

It used to be that your local butcher was someone you knew by name.  This was a person you trusted to prepare the food you’d be bringing home to your family.  The guy who drove the bus was also not nameless.  He was someone you saw every day.  You trusted him to get you to work on time and safely.  People once understood that service people working in their neighborhoods were in fact their neighbors and people who didn’t have to be doctors and lawyers to be regarded with decency and kindness.

This is not to say that I want the good old days to come back.  There was much to be desired back in our grandparents’ time.  They were fighting some of the hardest battles for equality for African-Americans and women among other struggles. While I don’t put this era on a pedestal, there are some things they really did right and I think it’s important to acknowledge that especially considering our current state of affairs.

So what is the current state of affairs?  Let’s start from the moment most of us begin establishing credit with our first student loans.  Some students are capable of receiving grants, scholarships and financial aid while most people have to take out loans to afford higher education even just to supplement their awards.  If someone doesn’t have the best scholastic record, loans are pretty much all that is available.  Last December CNN reported that the average student will leave a four year program with $29,000 in debt.  That number does not include interest.

What happens from here is largely dependent upon what major one chooses.  Each degree has a different requirement.  Some are largely useless without an advanced degree to go with it.  Others are extremely costly with little chance of placement in a chosen field due to over-saturation.  Some fields require that students work unpaid internships for a certain period of time before they can actually pursue a paid position in their field.  These are just some of the struggles faced by those with degrees.

If you don’t have a degree you have an entirely different set of issues.  It is in fact more difficult to find a job and those jobs tend to pay less and come with fewer chances of decent benefits with less upward mobility.  But you don’t have the student loan debt.  Chances are you just have different debt.  Why does this matter and what does this have to do with how we treat people?

It matters because we are all in the same boat.

For example, there has been much discussion and debate about fast food workers striking for a living wage.  One evening I found myself in a debate with a friend over this subject.  It is my opinion that if someone works full time at any job and performs their duties properly that they should earn a living wage.  I believe that there is no reason that a hardworking person should be unable to have decent clothes, a decent home and food and even be able to save a bit of money without having to apply for government assistance.

My friend vehemently disagreed with me expressing his annoyance that even he does not earn a living wage working at a warehouse packing pallets and loading trucks.  It was his opinion that because he was not earning what he felt he should that someone working in what he perceived to be a lesser field should not either.  What many of us don’t seem to realize is that this mentality of false status is deliberately manufactured to set us against one another instead of working together.

I have watched people lose their jobs to outsourcing after years of dedicated service to a company.  Those same people have searched diligently for work while collecting unemployment. Without it they would lose their homes and starve.  With so many people out of work, they may remain unemployed for months or even years depending upon numerous factors, any of which are outside their realm of control.  They are then told that they are lazy, not trying hard enough and that they are a drain on society.

Eventually unemployment runs out and many people are forced to apply for any job they can find.  They fill out applications to be cashiers at the gas station, managers at a fast food restaurant or cab drivers.  Often they are turned away for being over-qualified.  It’s almost worse when they are actually hired because those same people who would accuse them of leeching for having been on unemployment for so long will be the first to tell them to get a real job and stop complaining.  Chances are those same people are not much more financially stable or much more gainfully employed.

What of people who don’t work in an entry-level service position because it was a last resort, but because it was the best option for them?  Why are they perceived as lesser for doing what is within their means to do?

As Pagans we believe in the power of myths.  They are our stories.  They tell us where we’ve been and where we’re going in ways that we remember.  Myths inspire us to greatness and can show us paths where we may not have otherwise seen them.  But myths can also be terribly misleading and sadly effective.

The myth of worthiness as it has been presented to us, is terribly damaging.

If you watch FOX News (which I hope you don’t) you will hear the lunacy of any one of their hosts spouting poison about who deserves poverty as a result of some arbitrary perception of their laziness or wrong-doing. You hear the same stories from politicians and other affluent people.  It’s a very old trick.  If you find yourself in a position of power but you’re scared that you’re also the minority, how better to tip the scales in your favor than to encourage the disempowered majority to further disempower themselves with divisiveness?

What makes someone deserving?  Is it their work ethic and if so, what aspect of that work ethic?  Does higher intelligence or education make someone worthy? White? Male? Married? Christian? Does being a parent help?  So many of the traits required to be “deserving” are the factors which would also make a person fear for themselves and what they have.  When a person is disempowered, hurting and scared and someone powerful tells them that they’re worthy and someone else is not, it provides them with a focus for their anger and fear, even if it has been misdirected.

It’s also important to realize that those who have accepted this mentality aren’t stupid. They’re not inherently “bad”.  They’re looking for the reason why unfortunate and frightening things are happening to them and their loved ones.  It is much easier to accept that those who are responsible for their misfortune are those they could stand toe-to-toe with as opposed to the rich, powerful and power-hungry.  Far too often we equate “good” and “deserving” with financial and social success, but we don’t live in a dualistic world.  The “good” don’t always prevail.  The “bad” don’t always suffer.

To be clear, this is not my battle cry of “be nice”!  While I do believe in the power of kindness, I believe in what is effective far more.  In this case the most effective tools are compassion and setting aside one’s ego.  Know that we are all struggling.  Know that if you are having a hard time financially, chances are that your problems have little or nothing to do with a McDonald’s employee who had to apply for food stamps or happens to be fighting for better pay and far more to do with bad economic and job policies and a whole lot of corruption on the part of powerful people.

Set aside your desires for status recognition.  Research the motivations of those who would present themselves as leaders and be wary of anything that feeds your ire before it appeals to logic.  Most importantly, don’t give power to stories which were created to take your power from you with your permission.  Find your power in no longer accepting that having less makes you or anyone, less.  Find your power in community.

http://money.cnn.com/2013/12/04/pf/college/student-loan-debt/

http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=561

Karma, The Just-World Fallacy and the Magick of Action

Activism and Boundaries : Not Every Cause Must Be Your Cause

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Being an activist is hard work.  Most of us understand that the road to improving our world is riddled with potholes and boulders.

We spend hours reading about instances of injustice and atrocities.  We sign and create petitions to get the attention of our representatives, attend rallies, perform civil disobedience, fundraise and blog.  This list could go on for days and still wouldn’t cover the many things various activists do for their beliefs.

Planet Earth is a messy place to live.  The war on women continues and gets worse all the time.  Our LGBTQ community is constantly under attack in any number of ways. Political corruption is rampant.  Pagans and practitioners of other non-Christian faiths are often discriminated against.  On top of everything that is going wrong with the world we still have jobs, families, hobbies, and passions and there is only so much of a person to go around.

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The Nail Polish Debate and How Good Ideas Can Be Taken to a Bad Place

alcoholic drink

 

 

There has been a great deal of controversy about a new product being developed by four students in North Carolina; a nail polish which can be worn and used to detect date rape drugs in a drink.

The concept is simple. You can put on this nail varnish and if by chance you are concerned about the safety of your drink, you can just stir it with your finger and if the color changes, you drink has tested positive for date rape drugs.
Now when I first heard about this I was impressed. While drug assisted rape is not the most common form of rape it still happens and even a small percentage of an epidemic problem is significant. I was glad to see that there were people who were doing what they could think to do to address the issue.

Then I began to see article upon article slamming the product stating a number of different concerns. Some are more reasonable than others. Many women feel that the drug-detecting nail polish is a fantastic idea while others believe it actually furthers rape culture concepts. Here are some of the discussion points that I’ve seen.

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You Might Be a Predator If… A Simple Guide in Case You Didn’t Know

By Lauren Ouellette-Bruchez

In light of recent issues, the Pagan community has finally begun discussing how predators have negatively affected us. So many people from numerous traditions have shared their own terrifying experiences in countless stories. As I’ve searched the internet and read articles and looked at comments pertaining to said articles I’m finding more and more people who don’t understand what defines a predator and even worse, those who believe that predatory behavior is in fact defensible. Today I am going to highlight a few items to more clearly outline what constitutes unacceptable behavior as I believe that members of our community deserve to be safe. Please note that in addressing these issues I am not referring to those who participate in BDSM relationships with terms and safety conditions decided upon by all involved parties of appropriate age.

You might be a predator if…

1) You think it’s alright to harass and oggle the people around you.
          The world is full of attractive people. It’s hard not to notice when someone carries themselves in a way you find alluring or has a look about them that you appreciate. I think we’ve all found ourselves checking someone out a time or two. It is one thing to gaze in admiration. It is entirely different to undress someone with your eyes, follow them around, make comments at them or yell at them as they pass. You are not entitled to the attention of those you find attractive.

2) You don’t comprehend that “no” takes different forms.
          Many people, women in particular are frequently subject to aggressive attention from others, particularly men. Some of us are practiced at saying “No, leave me alone” while others have developed different defense mechanisms. In certain cases a woman will not verbalize her “no” but will show it in body language. If she does not respond, does not make eye contact, does not stop to greet you or is obviously trying to leave, that means no. If in your world that doesn’t mean no, if you feel that means “try harder”, you are exhibiting predatory behavior and you need to stop. This person is obviously not interested. If you can’t take a hint, you’re being a creeper. Even worse, if you find yourself excited by their discomfort you are definitely a predator.

3) You feel that certain styles of dress or behaviors are an invitation.
          I’ve gone to any number of Pagan events, most of which take place during warm weather, on beautiful days. There are drum circles and bellydancing and hoop dancing and all manner of joyous activities that many of us feel are celebratory and life-affirming. Many attendees wear less clothing or even none at all. Hey, it’s hot out. They’re really comfortable with their bodies. They enjoy the freedom of it. They are dancing in ways that people may find enticing or they share their art in a way that speaks to you. Many of us express sexual energy in our practice through dance and art. That having been said, you may not assume that you are entitled to partake of that sexuality. Nudity is not an invitation. Just because someone is not wearing clothes does not mean you get to stare as long as you want, follow them around or have sex with them. They didn’t attend for your enjoyment and they don’t owe you anything.

4) You use the unseen as a means to get people in to your bed.
          I don’t know how each and every person practices. I’m not familiar with all methods of teaching. I am aware that some methods of study do include sexual elements. That’s fine as long as all parties involved are of age, totally aware of the decision they are making, are not coerced and that safety is considered. Coercion, I repeat, is not okay.
          For example, a person goes to another for spiritual instruction and is informed that if they want to “get to the next level” they have to sleep with their teacher, or that the “Gods” have decided that the student must sleep with the teacher to open them to new experiences in “enlightenment” or some other such nonsense. If you impose such a thing on a student, you’re a predator. If you don’t have clearly defined agreements and try to push sex on someone, you’re a predator. Should you include sex as an element of your teachings and practice you are responsible for making certain that every person who comes to you for instruction knows the specifics right away and is capable of making an informed decision about their own path. If you would deny someone this, guess what? You’re a predator!

5) You threaten spiritual retribution if someone refuses your advances.
          It sure does suck when someone you have a thing for doesn’t reciprocate. Everyone has been there. It hurts. It can be humiliating. But it’s also a part of life. Most of us are pretty well in touch with reality and know that it’s better for someone to be honest regardless of how we feel about it. If you’re the person that gets turned down and decides to threaten someone with a hex or a curse, you have found yourself in predator territory.
          You’re not that powerful. Sorry to break it to you but your magick-fu is not mighty enough to destroy someone for not liking the cut of your jib. It’s also equally wrong to threaten the significant other of the person who turned you down.

6) You threaten character assassination.
          This is a frequent tactic practiced by members of the Pagan community. I have seen this myself and frankly it is far more damaging than threats of hexes. People look to their community for support and encouragement. Threatening to destroy someone’s reputation because they aren’t interested in you or have broken up with you is sick, twisted and abusive. It is one thing to commiserate about a bad break-up with friends. It is a different story when you go out of your way to exaggerate or lie about someone because things didn’t turn out the way you planned. Of course it is imperative that you be honest if someone has harmed you or someone else. That’s what this entry is all about! But the act of cutting someone off from their support system because you’re hurt over rejection is predatory.

7) You would eliminate someone else’s right to say “no”.
          The Pagan community tends to have some very liberal views in regard to sex and nudity. I know of events where nudity is allowed, where people practice sex magick, where swinging is common and any number of other practices. As long as these practices are safe, sane and consensual amongst adults, I take no issue. However if you would pressure someone to give up their right to say no, that is inexcusably predatory.
          There are covens who choose to practice skyclad. In all instances there must be full disclosure that such a thing is required prior to anyone showing up for ritual. If a teacher ever runs a ritual or event and springs required nudity or sexual participation on someone last minute or utilizes peer pressure to convince someone to participate, that is coercion and said teacher should be considered a predator as well as anyone else who backs his or her play.

8) You have no respect for boundaries.
          Boundaries are key to maintaining a safe environment for everyone. Each person is going to have different boundaries. Some people don’t like being touched. Some are not comfortable being nude in front of others. Other people don’t like speaking in public. These are examples of some personal limits people may set for themselves. They must be respected.
There are other considerations such as ethics. Ethical boundaries include things like not participating in sexual acts with someone who is too drunk to consent, or not engaging in sexual contact with children. These are boundaries that don’t have room for negotiation. You don’t do these things. They are not okay. If you would cross these boundaries you are without question a predator. If you would advocate for anyone who would, you are part of the problem.

Sadly it’s going to continue to happen until people stop yielding their will and free thought to self-appointed authorities and experts. It’s going to continue until victims speak out. It will still happen until every Pagan educates themselves about what is acceptable practice and what is not. It is up to us to create the community we want.

Don’t accept abuse. Do not stand idly by and watch as others are abused. Don’t allow people to destroy the message of the spirituality that you love by using it as a means to further their own goals and to support their disregard for others. Let predators know that their behavior will not be tolerated.

Not Just Words – Catcalling and Why It Needs to Stop

by Lauren Ouellette-Bruchez

 

I’m pasty.  It’s the truth.  I come from an Irish and French background so in general there is not a whole lot of pigment here.  I love running but as the days grow warmer and brighter if I want to go for a day run, I have to dress like a beekeeper.  Thus, I tend to run at night.

Running is my meditation.  I’m usually busy but when I run there is an entire hour at least when I won’t be answering to anyone else.  I can listen to the music that uplifts me without having to compromise and I can really take in the world, the way I feel we’re all meant to.  I have the cool breeze and the occasional stray cat as a running mate.

Just this past week I headed out for one such run.   As I took the last leg of my tour I noticed that a beat-up Buick was barreling down the road at a much higher speed than is advisable with the windows down.  As the car passed, the guys inside made sure to lean out the windows of the car and yell inappropriate comments about me, my body and what they wanted to do to me.  Luckily the incident was done within seconds and they just drove off.

I was annoyed but also scared.  It irritates me when an adult man decides that it is somehow acceptable or even flattering for him to yell at me in public.  As I am not a plough horse or a show dog, I don’t respond well to being barked at regardless of what’s being said.  But part of me is always wondering when such an encounter will turn ugly and violent.  Whenever I’m out alone, which I frequently am, I am on guard.

I am self-employed and frequently travel for work.  I’ve worked very hard to not sit in an office all day long.  My life is hectic and I am almost always moving.  Because I’m on my own so often, I have had to create a system of covering my tracks in case something happens to me or I go missing.

If I am meeting a new client or business contact I text their information to my husband and let him know where we are and when I’ll be there.  Depending upon how long the meeting goes, I will text him to let him know that I am still good.  If he doesn’t hear from me in a certain amount of time he knows to be concerned.  I call once the meeting is finished.  I am also a trained martial artist and assistant instructor for my dojo.  Just in case something goes wrong, I can defend myself, though I hope I never have to use those skills for anything beyond centering and personal development.

Not a week prior to my running incident I was participating in a psychic fair fundraiser for the local Pagan group I currently lead.  I arrived at the location which had parking meters and I was uncertain as to whether or not the meter had to be paid on Sundays.  A couple of men happened to be eating lunch nearby and I apologized for interrupting their conversation but I asked if I needed to feed the meter.  One of the two men immediately stood up and approached me a bit too closely.  Luckily I was aware enough to leave a fence in between us but when he noticed the tarot card related materials I was carrying he immediately told me that I needed to “touch” him to tell him something about himself.  Once again I was fortunate that there were other members of my Pagan assembly not far away.

Later that same day I walked down the street to get a salad for lunch.  I was yelled at and told how sexy I was and how certain guys wanted to take me back their place. This was in the span of a two block walk during which I simply kept to myself.

This isn’t about concerns of feeling self-conscious or being propositioned by someone I consider unattractive.  Frankly the moment a man, any man, begins to yodel at me like a yak in heat, any thoughts of attraction that may have been there go right out the window.

So, why is catcalling a problem?  Because we are all told that words can’t really hurt us and that is a lie.  While those guys were bellowing at me something did happen.  Nothing violent perhaps, but something did occur.  What is sadder; an adult man yelling at a person minding their own business because it amuses them to demean and objectify a person they’ve never met, or those hearing about this who don’t believe it is a threatening act because no one raped or assaulted me?

Why does it have to go that far to register?  Why don’t we take harassment seriously unless a woman is wearing a toe tag?

Because boys will be boys of course!  Right?  It’s completely okay for men to be aggressive because in order to be considered a big strong guy you have to gain the respect of other big strong guys.  How better to do that than to dominate a woman?  Because women are walking pleasure centers.  Because we exist to sate the sexual urges of men who feel entitled to our attention.  Because the thought of “conquering” a fellow human-being is just too delightful to resist.

So here’s the question.  What do you do when you see a woman being catcalled?  Do you object?  Do you join in?  Do you ignore what’s going on?  Are you the recipient of the harassment?

Catcalling is just where this starts.  A few days ago this happened. A Chinese woman was at a McDonalds when a group of men began harassing her for her number.  According to reports some witnesses believed they were trying to get her number for personal reasons.  Others say that it was an information gathering tactic used by a cult to which all 6 men belonged.  When the woman refused to share her information she was beaten to death in broad daylight while onlookers did nothing but yell and record the beating!  This is far from the only instance.

So why was nothing done? Why did no one stop them?  Considering this happened in public view, is it any wonder why I was afraid when I was out running? Do I seem over-dramatic for being leery as I walked to get my lunch?  How often have you or someone you know told a woman she was being too sensitive when some jerk decides to hoot and holler at her?

Words are not just words.  If you are a Pagan practitioner you know the power of words.  Words program the mind and the mind controls will.  Will changes everything.  Words can educate.  They can teach compassion and self-awareness.  They can also teach and enforce entitlement and misogyny.  When those words can create monsters like Elliott Rodger, or the Chinese cult members, or any number of other guys we all have met at one point or another, we are obligated to assert our Will and rewrite dangerous and antiquated modes of behavior.

Guys, we need your help here.  I am so proud to have men in my life that respect me and care about me.  Those same men would never raise a hand to a woman, would never feel that she is required to give them attention or sex and would not ever allow another man to assault a woman in their presence.  These fellows know that yelling obscenities at a woman isn’t manly.  It isn’t funny or witty.  It’s lame and harmful.   For the “men’s rights activists” who feel this is going to work out for you, think again.  The only thing you’re showing is the reason women find you repulsive — because you don’t know how to treat them with respect.  And for the record MRA’s, PUA’s, or any other guy  behaving poorly,  we owe you nothing…ever…regardless of how many times you’ve been turned down or for whatever reason. You’re not a “nice guy” or even a “player”.  You’re just another fool hanging his head out the car window interrupting my jog.

 

Death and Taxes : Pagan Legal Discrimination

Temple Altar Maetreum                                                   Written by Lauren Ouellette-Bruchez

Growing up in America we are all raised with the understanding that there is religious freedom in our country. I know that where I went to school, I had classmates who were Jewish, Christian and Muslim. I was blessed to live in an area of the United States with some diversity. While I was raised Catholic, my parents taught my sisters and I to respect the beliefs of others even if they differed from our own. My mother and father always let us know that people of all races are beautiful and equal, and that sexual preference was a person’s own business. They were also accepting and supportive when I told them that I was a Pagan.

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The Ugly Side of Womens’ Health Care

 

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written by Lauren Ouellette-Bruchez

This week has been full of controversy in both politics and Paganism. I had a few different items in the works for my Pagan Activist blog contribution but it appears that the Gods had other plans in store for me. Let it not be said that they don’t have a keen sense of timing.

For those of you who may be squeamish in regard to matters of ladies reproductive health, you may wish to jump ship now because we are going to become very well acquainted over the course of this post. You have been warned.

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Karma, The Just-World Fallacy and the Magick of Action

written by Lauren Ouellette-Bruchez
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I am an avid social media user. It’s one of the best resources at my disposal to conduct business, keep up on the latest news both personal and worldwide and to see pictures of kittens and puppies wearing sweaters and hats…for science, of course. Facebook also provides a unique opportunity to take a look at the trends in thought processes and tropes.