It’s a sad truth that harassment and discrimination occurs within the Pagan community. However, I want to call some positive attention to several Pagan events that have adopted safety and anti-harassment policies at their events. While a lot of Pagans tell me, “Duh, of course we’d kick someone out for racist comments/sexual misconduct/gay bashing,” the truth is, this is not always the case. And further, some issues–such as discrimination against transgender people–have only recently become something that more Pagans are even aware of, much less working to address.
What would you do if a Pagan was being murdered by the police once a month? What about once a week? What about more frequently than that? What if a bunch of Pagans in some cities started protesting, but nobody else cared? What if a riot broke out? Would you stand there blaming those Pagans for being too violent?
Having just taught workshops at three of the big four Pagan conferences, and having attended a number of large Pagan festivals, I wanted to offer a bit of context for how some of these larger events have handled issues of social justice. While these events don’t represent the entire Pagan community, they do reflect issues and trends that ripple out to Pagans across the globe.
I’ve noticed a definite contrast in how specific events/communities are dealing with issues of racism, rape culture, harassment, cultural appropriation, transphobia, and other related issues. Some communities and events are actively embracing dialogue, and others don’t address these issues at all.
Yesterday Pantheacon ended. Pantheacon is the largest Pagan conference and has almost 3,000 attendees and takes place in San Jose every year. I’m posting this a day late because I’ve been at the conference and wanted to write about activism within the Pagan community and specifically on activism-related issues that come up at Pantheacon.
Several years ago, Pantheacon was rocked by the exclusion of transgender women from one of the women’s rituals, and that controversy rippled out (and is still rippling) across the broader Pagan community.
This weekend I was proud to be part of a panel discussing racism within the community. Unfortunately, that panel began on a sour note as I learned that there had been something hurtful and racist written in one of the various newsletters distributed at Pantheacon.
Hi, I’m Shauna, and I’m a racist. No, not one of the ones clearly defined by the pointy hats and white robes. And not one of the racists clearly identified by hateful invective.
In fact, I’m in some ways the more dangerous kind of racist; or at least, I was. Once upon a time, I was the kind of racist who didn’t realize how bigoted I was. I still struggle with my own blind spots and how much this impacts my thoughts and actions on a daily basis.
How did I come to be this way? This kind of racism is systemic. It’s ambient. If you’re raised in it, you can’t see it any more than you can see the air you breathe. But just because you can’t see the air doesn’t mean you aren’t breathing it in.
I used to believe I lived in a post-racial society, that I was “color blind.” And then…I used to believe that Pagans couldn’t be racist. Yet within the broader Pagan communities, we do unfortunately have problems with racism just like the dominant culture does.
But what do we do about it? Because #BlackLivesMatter .
I have heard from many people who felt pressured to undergo a sexual initiation with a teacher, coven leader, or other person in a leadership position. And by definition, if someone’s been pressured into sex, that’s not consent. It’s rape.
I believe in transparency so I want to be clear I debated with myself about posting on this topic. Why? Specifically because I have never belonged to a tradition that conveys mysteries/initiation through sex.
I’ve been accused of “destroying Wicca” with some of my blog posts about sex and consent, so I felt it was important to explore this topic. As with any of these big questions, I’m left with more questions than answers.
Lately I’ve seen a lot of examples of Pagan leaders acting badly. Or, perhaps to be more accurate, spotlights on leaders who have acted badly and are finally being called on the carpet for their poor behavior. There are a lot of conversations happening in the Pagan blogosphere, particularly since the arrest of Kenny Klein on charges of child pornography, about problems with sex, abuse, and poor leadership.
The ripple effects of that–and the questions it has raised about Pagan community and events–have brought up further issues of leadership. What does this have to do with activism?
If you’re an activist, you’re a leader. Whether or not you wanted to be one. And when you are a leader–when you stand up, when you take an action–your actions have more consequences, more impact. Leaders must take more responsibility because we have a greater impact.
— By Shauna Aura Knight
This post is inspired by Gavin and Yvonne Frost but isn’t actually about them. It’s about how Pagans continue to support Pagan leaders and teachers who have written or done highly unethical things. (And by unethical I don’t mean gray area, I’m talking about issues of rape, abuse, and consent.) It’s about how Pagans continue to sweep abuse under the carpet.
What does support look like? Support is hiring people to teach at your event or in your area. Support is hosting teachers in your home or at your venue. Support is attending their workshop or buying their book. Support is keeping silent.
Why is it important to talk about these issues? Largely because there are so many abusive patterns in the Pagan community What I hear over and over is that Pagans want this to stop. To stop it, we have to address it.
And then we have to actually make changes and stop making excuses.
In the movies and on TV, when someone blows the whistle and reveals the illegal doings of a company, or speaks out against their rapist, or outs an abusive leader, there’s always a happy ending. And–the person is always telling the truth.
The middle part of the movie might have a lot of dramatic tension where the whistle-blower is in danger, or people think they are lying, but ultimately they come out as the hero. I wish it were always that easy. I wish that people believed the activists who rise up to speak the truth.
For that matter, I wish the whistle-blower was always the truth-speaking hero. Continue reading
There’s an elephant in the room. Pagan communities allow completely inexcusable behavior by leaders, teachers, and group members. There’s a range mental health issues (particularly untreated mental illness) that we don’t talk about that add to this problem.
You’ve probably heard about the arrest of Pagan author/presenter/musician Kenny Klein for possession of child pornography. Following his arrest, many Pagans came forward alleging that when they were teenagers, Kenny sexually abused them.
We have a huge problem in our overlapping Pagan communities. We enable unacceptable behavior from participants, leaders, and teachers. In my observation, this is the root cause of at least 75% of groups that explode/implode.
This article covers potentially triggering topics. Continue reading