When girls are too strong

I left my home town when I was in my early 20s. I’m surprised it took me that long to leave.

Since then, I’ve lived in a different city in the same country, and in two other cities in other countries. But the crux of it all is I couldn’t stay in my home town. I was the cuckoo that had to leave the nest.

Our parents expectations of who we are and who we will be don’t stop when we become adults.

My parents wanted a daughter who would be pretty, feminine, traditional – and go on in life to do pretty, feminine, traditional things.

I was the exact opposite.

Born that way…

When a child arrives and they’re not who – and what – we expect and desperately want them to be, things get difficult. Especially for the child, if the parents insist on trying to mould them into becoming something they can never be.

There’s a reason why so many gay kids leave their home town, moving far away. I’m not gay, but in the same way as gay kids often do in traditional families, I didn’t meet expectations.

I was too strong to change who I was. The only way I could be true to who I am was to leave.

When a home is not a home

The best thing I ever did was leaving home. Looking back, I only wish I could have left before I even became an adult, had that been possible. My parents are good people, but my home was fiercely patriarchal.

Even now, when I go home to visit, I’m very much at the bottom of the pecking order. It’s expected that I’ll help with the household chores (together with my mother and brother’s wife), while my father and brother sit and drink whisky.

This isn’t a home in which I feel wanted, welcome or equal. I don’t feel loved there, or accepted for who and what I am. I feel like my parents try really hard, but that’s it – they’re just trying to love me.

My failure to accept my patriarchal roots was an expression of my own inner strength and who I truly am, which was only given a chance to develop once I left home and was no longer stifled.

Once I left home, I went on to become a community leader, a mentor to other women, an internationally-performed composer, a competitive athlete. A woman of strength. A person with purpose.

Why women are not equal yet

Again and again, I see articles in the media querying why women haven’t risen to equality across the board in society. After all, the articles argue, we achieved theoretical equality in the 1970s – surely it has been long enough since then?

Surely one generation should easily be able to erase the inequality of thousands of years of entrenched abuse and inequality? That’s not much! It can’t be that hard!

I know the answer: we’re still dealing with the legacy of inequality. We’re still unequal. We’re teaching what we knew ourselves to our daughters and sons.

I see it in the women who are spoken over in conversation, I see it in the absence of movies and media about women, I see it even in the programming club where I volunteer, and among the 9-12 year olds I teach only 1 of 15 is a girl, because it doesn’t occur to local parents that their daughters might like to learn how to program. Or be good at it.

We’re passing on a legacy of misogyny. It cuts to the core.

Strong-Woman-quote.-4jpg-300x300

Why strong girls leave home

Girls leave home when it ceases to support them. They don’t come back because there’s nothing to come back for. I moved cities because, away from home, I could finally be myself without my parents criticising everything I did. It felt like a breath of fresh air.

When I return home for visits, every two years or so, yet again I feel that stifling, patriarchal, controlling weight holding me down and crushing my spirit.

Family dynamics can be difficult, especially when you don’t fit in with your family’s expectations. In anyone else’s world I’d be a success: I’m a professional woman, I’ve achieved in my career and in my hobbies, I’ve made a positive difference for so many people.

But what I wanted to do and be just didn’t fit in with what my family wanted. I was never going to be subservient and feminine. I was never going to be the pretty girl. I was never going to be the perfect daughter – an exact copy of my mother, minus all her mistakes. I was always going to be my own person. I think that came as a shock.

Raising girls is just raising little humans

Our society has a real problem in raising girls, especially non-traditional girls. We’re fine with girls who want to follow traditional paths, and who are beautiful in traditional ways, but we struggle with women who want to be soldiers, or bodybuilders, or engineers, or programmers.

Or even with women who just want to speak their minds.

We do our best to push and shove our girls into a tiny box labelled “acceptable” and anything else we don’t know what to do with. It’s time we started accepting our daughters – especially our strong, unique, powerful daughters – as amazing human beings in their own right.

It’s time we honoured their strength.

It’s time we welcomed them home.

I’m not a partial human! Sidelined and disappeared…

I’ve always felt like a complete human. No matter whether you’re male or female, or what race or culture you’re from, I’m guessing you have too. Not a partial human.

So today I want to talk about this.

I'm sure there was *ANOTHER* Avenger...
I’m sure there was *ANOTHER* Avenger…

And this.

I seem to recall there being *FIVE* "Guardians"...
I seem to recall there being *FIVE* “Guardians”…

And this.

Something strange is going on here...ummm...do I remember an Avender in a black outfit called "Black" something...Black, black..it's clearly slipped everyone's mind...
Something strange is going on here…ummm…do I remember an Avenger in a black outfit called “Black” something…Black, black..it’s clearly slipped everyone’s mind…

And this.

Here's what to do. If you need to sideline or "disappear" a character, simply double over with more socially palatable characters.
Here’s what to do. If you need to sideline or “disappear” a character, simply double over with another white male character.

And this.

Looks like a bizarre racoon creature is more palatable than some genders of human...
Looks like a bizarre racoon creature is more palatable than some genders of human…

And I won’t even comment on this, which is so awful it just makes me furious.

The t-shirt in Disney girlswear on the left, and boyswear on the right.
The t-shirt in girlswear on the left, and boyswear on the right. This sucks.

Very occasionally, we won’t be “disappeared” but we’ll very definitely be sidelined…

Who is that character with the red hair in the far right? They couldn't possibly be a REAL Avenger! It's clear from their lack of space in the pic that they're a "helper", and "assistant" character, possibly only "eye candy" for the real stars, the males...
Who is that character with the red hair in the far right? They couldn’t possibly be a REAL Avenger! It’s clear from their lack of space in the pic that they’re a “helper”, and “assistant” character, possibly only “eye candy” for the real stars, the white males…(notice the other sidelined character on the extreme left)

Sidelined and disappeared…

I want to point out a few facts now.

We’re nearly 50% of the tickets. Women make up nearly 50% of movie sales at comic book movies (one recent survey suggested the figure of 44%). We’re a BIG market, not a tiny percentage of viewers and attendees and fans.

Women are attending ComicCons in large numbers. This year’s San Diego Comic-Con had 40% female attendance. These events aren’t all white male antisocial geeks from basements. The crowds have changed, if they ever were that stereotype to start with.

Women buy stuff. We want to buy merchandise, and we want that merchandise to feature our favourite characters. Not some of them. ALL of them.

We want fairness. Women are increasingly pissed at the way we’re being sidelined in comics. We want our female characters, and we’re pissed that they’re not appearing as the STARS of movies.

We want to be seen as real people. Women are also pissed at the way we’re being overly sexualized in comics and the movies that spring from them. We want accurate, diverse representation. We want to be seen as real, whole people, with real strengths and weaknesses, and real stories to tell. Because that is what we are.

Most of all, we don’t want to be seen as things. We want to be seen as people.

Speaking for myself and my daughter…and my daughter’s generation

It’s not hard to write real, strong women. Just write us as people, because that’s what we are. We screw up, we have frailties. We’re not governed by our relationships all the time. We are goal driven a lot of the time, especially if you’re writing a hero character.

Women can be heroes. Often we are.
Women can be leaders of men. Often we are.
Women can be strong, yet still completely feminine and powerful and amazing and uniquely beautiful. Often we are.

Even in real life, when I look at some of the strongest people I know, my mind often travels to the women I know rather than the men. We don’t typically hold higher career positions, because of the boundaries and limits that society has set us, but heck, we can be powerful.

So don’t sideline us. Don’t “disappear” us. It’s offensive and nasty and cheap and hurtful. It’s degrading and demeaning to some of the most incredible people I know.

Sure, these are superheroes I’m giving as examples, and you could claim it doesn’t matter. But it does. We all need our role models. We all need to believe we could be that hero on the screen. We all need to believe that we too can be the “chosen one”, the hero with a destiny greater than we thought possible.

We all need to dare to dream. Give us our dreams. We deserve them.

Is monogamy dying? And did it ever really live?

Most of my friends are, publicly or not, in open relationships.

Most didn’t start out that way. Most started with the whole girlfriend-boyfriend dating thing, and moved on to marriage or permanent de facto status. Many even vowed to “forsake all others”, and probably meant it when they made those vows.

But times change, and when you’re in your twenties, or whatever, you don’t really comprehend, at a visceral level, what “forsaking all others” really means.

marriage

I couldn’t have imagined the person I am now, when I was in my twenties. I couldn’t have imagined everything I would go through, and suffer through, to get to this point in my life.

I had no idea of the changes that would happen in me, and in my partner. To say I was naive when I got married is an understatement.

My experiences weren’t typical – I had a harder lot than most – but everyone goes through some hard stuff in their life. And everyone’s relationships change, some for the better, some for the worse.

But now, talking privately with close friends the other night, it came out that not one of us was in the closed, monogamous relationship we’d envisaged when we’d made our vows and promises as our younger selves.

Some of my friends are cheating on their partners. Other have divorced, or are separating. Many are in open marriages, with regular partners on the side for one or other of them.

Some have had affairs. Others separated and got back together and separated again. And some are still with their partner, but just don’t have sex and are plain old miserable.

I’ve friends who have been so lonely in their marriages that they cried themselves to sleep at night while their partner snored on unknowingly beside them. Others who might as well be celibate, for all the sex they’re having. And others who have taken on same-sex lovers, after realising that the reason their marriage didn’t work is because they’re gay.

My friends aren’t unusual. They’re a pretty typical mix of 30 and 40-something middle class New Zealanders. Some better off, some worse off. Most in professional jobs, some in blue collar work. Some are stay at home mums.

But all of this got me thinking,

– Is monogamy dead? Is it something that only ever existed in name only, on a church register, while in reality it never actually worked for anyone outside of a Disney fairytale?

– Are we the first generation to experience this? Or did previous generations do the same? Are they doing the same?

– Why is society clinging to the idea of monogamy if it isn’t working for most of us, maybe for any of us? Is it time for a change? And, if so, what do we replace it with?

We’re no different to previous generations

I honestly think, looking at the evidence, that we’re no different to previous generations. With one major difference: women can leave miserable situations, whereas in the past they often couldn’t.

I look at my mother, who was the “love child” of an affair her mother had, in between two marriages.

I look at my paternal grandmother, who had (I think) five, maybe six, marriages in her life. Serial monogamy, maybe, but not exactly Disney. And one of the guys she married was a bigamist – there was scandal attached at the time!

I look at my distant family tree in the past, with relative after relative whose paternity was “under question”. My family was no different from any other. The world is full of bastard children and “young aunts” who were actually unwed mothers.

Looking at all of this, it seems monogamy was always something that people aimed for, rather than the standard everyone typically achieved.

And it shows me that we are no different to the generations that went before. Yes, single mothers get a lot of criticism – but there were always single mothers, and lots of them. It’s just that in the past their ‘sins” were hushed up and the children taken away.

I think the Disney fairytale, the “happily ever after” we’re led to believe in, is cruel and hurtful.
And it’s a fairytale – not true, nor likely to be true.

Why does society cling to monogamy, if it clearly doesn’t work?

I really don’t know the answer to this one. Maybe you do. The best I can do is wonder what would happen if monogamy didn’t exist.

Would people reform into tribes, or poly groups, rather than “nuclear” family units? Would the shape of housing change? Would children be better off with potentially more adults caring for them?

Or would women be left with the burden of supporting any children they gave birth to alone, as men moved from one partner to another without legal responsibility?

I don’t know.

In name only

What I do know is that monogamy doesn’t exist among my friends. It’s probably pretty rare everywhere, once marriages hit five years old or so.

I wonder at what point this will all become open and honest and people will start to discuss what’s actually going on in society?

Food for thought.

What do you think?

Same sex marriage laws change in the UK – and the Churches get all confused

With the change in laws allowing same sex marriages to take place in the United Kingdom, the first marriages have taken place.

gaymarriageuk

Not everyone is happy of course. The Churches are looking all confused – on the one hand preaching that “God is love” while on the other hand saying, “wee-eeeell, maybe God is love – but not quite for all people. Not for you gay people over in the corner, anyway.”

And the politicians who, in not too distant memory were all iffy and uffy about same sex marriage, now rush in their full acceptance of the cause, saying, “We were on your side all along! Yes, really!”

Then there are groups who claim that same-sex marriage will persecute traditional marriage types. I’m not sure how – and neither are they, as they don’t quite specify the details – but they’re vehement on the matter.

Vaguely familiar

The thing is, all this denying and delaying and complaing and whinging about being persecuted sounds eerily familiar. The same complaints were heard, and the same arguments, every time a persecuted minority (or majority) has gained rights.

The same arguments were used against the civil rights movement in the US (didn’t you know whites are discriminated against?), and the same against women rights (men are being persecuted now – didn’t you know?). It’s the same old line, used over and over.

It never held water then, and it doesn’t now.

Australia is a backwater

My home country of Australia is starting to look more and more like a backwater of human rights. I’m embarrassed. I’m living in New Zealand now, but I follow the Aussie news, and I feel ashamed that Australia hasn’t led the way on this issue. Especially when so much of the population is clearly in favour. It seems like the politicians have stopped listening to the people. Or maybe that happened a while back…

But you can’t stop change. The Churches in the UK are against this, but popular opinion is changing so swiftly in favour of this issue that they’ll soon be left behind, if they aren’t already. Just one more way in which mainstream religions are losing touch with popular culture.

These are interesting times we live in. I think there are some issues that are changing a little too fast for my liking, such as the amount of violence on TV and film. But other issues, such as rights for minorities, can’t change fast enough.

What do you think?

My great-great grandmother knew Gerald Gardner!

I’m sure you’ve met one. Who knows – maybe you are one. You know, those Pagans who claim lineage.

Some claim to be descended directly from Gerald Gardner (Britsh Traditionals).

Still others claim to have been part of some hidden coven in the New Forest that taught them everything (oh wait! That’s Gardner again).

Gerald Gardner. Creepy looking dude, huh?
Gerald Gardner. Creepy looking dude, huh?

From then on, of course, they’re infinitely better and so much more Pagan than you.

Feel insecure and insufficient yet? Yep. That’s the idea.

My potted history in Paganism

You want to know my Pagan lineage? Here it is: I got interested in Paganism through various books as a teenager, and then got together with a few like-minded friends. And we made stuff up.

We flew by pulling ourselves up by our shoelaces.

woman-flying

We knew nothing except that we wanted to learn. So we supported each other in the learning process, did a whole stack of courses and training, some more reputable than others, and gradually started figuring things out.

Some stuff worked, other stuff really worked, and a lot of stuff didn’t work at all. We were really, really eclectic! We read everything we could get our hands on, from Campbell and Frazer and Kramer to Starhawk and Fox and Buckland – and a whole lot besides.

I was involved with two main covens through the 90s and early century – MoonSpell Coven (which I originated) and then Akasha Coven, which I created and for which I was the HPS. Many of the members of those groups are still practicing, and almost all of them remain my friends.

Akasha in particular was very active in the wider Pagan scene in Melbourne, Australia, offering classes and public gatherings that attracted large groups of people and were very sucessful. My involvement in the Pagan scene wound down when I had children and just couldn’t keep up with the hours required for regular work.

But lineage? I have none. None of my friends do either – or they didn’t when I was working with them. Maybe they do now. But I still don’t. I’ve been in the Pagan scene since I was a teenager, I’m 43 now, so that’s about 25 years of practice, and I’m still unlineaged.

I’d say I’m pretty experienced now. I’m still considered a Pagan Leader in certain circles, and quite knowledgeable, but I feel like a novice in a lot of areas. I’m learning all the time. I love learning all the time! I’d never call myself an expert, although I know quite a bit by now.

Time is, change is…

That’s just it with Paganism though. It’s such a huge field that you never stop learning. Nobody is ever really an expert – not of everything, anyway. If anyone calls themselves an “expert” or starts giving themselves titles in my presence, my Bullshit Detector starts twitching. Like a Timey Wimey Detector, it goes Ding! when there’s Stuff.

timeywimey

bs

Does lineage matter?

The truth is, lineage doesn’t matter. Not one bit. The whole point of Paganism is that you do what you want, what works for you – without the need for a clergy. So you certainly don’t need someone Uber Important telling you what to do.

No practitioner is more important than the rest, simply because of who they happen to know or claim to know. Or claim to have learned from.

I’ve been fortunate in my time to have taken classes with some of the “big names” in Paganism. Did they teach me anything that was intrinsically better than what I figured out on my own? No. Maybe I’m just not someone with a “groupie” mindset, but although the experience of working with these people was generally good, it didn’t make me a better practitioner.

What has made me a better practitioner has been experience. Years and years of it. Making lots of mistakes. Learning from lots of different people from all different walks of life. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t – and doing the figuring out for myself.

I’ve made some big balls ups in ritual. Some of them at large public events I was running. I’ve stuffed up, screwed up, and ballsed up. It all helped me learn. I’ve had to learn humility, and I’ve had to have a healthy sense of humour.

Skills for becoming a better practitioner

I can’t reiterate it enough – a piece of paper, or a certain lineage, or a course from an education centre, no matter how reputable – none of these can make you a better practitioner.

What will make you a better practitioner is learning to listen to your own, inner self.
Learning to take in what works for you, and toss what doesn’t.
Learning to discriminate between the good and the not so good.
Learning to accept that everyone is different, and that what works for your friend may not necessarily work for you.

Having a sense of humour will make you a better practitioner, as will learning to not take yourself too seriously.
Learning that you will always, always be a novice in the world in most fields will help, while recognising that most of the people who claim to be adepts are actually novices too is also useful.

Learning to have a fully functional Bullshit Detector is a valuable asset. Learning that most people are just fumbling along in the dark is another useful asset. And being especially wary of anyone with titles or claims is a real, serious asset – hang on to that, no matter who you meet or what they claim to be!

Lineage isn’t important. The biggest fool can train, and the biggest fool can make claims. What is meaningful, in the end, is what you choose, what is purposeful and worthwhile for you.

meaningful

My path continues…

Like I said, I have no lineage. It is meaningless to me. I’m self taught, and taught by many, and taught by Life, and taught by the Goddess Aphrodite. That is humbling and empowering and enough for me.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to teach many, many others, and help them find their own paths, their own journeys.

I started on this path 25 years ago, maybe more. I’m excited to see where it leads me. But one thing I do know – I don’t need titles or claims or lineage or Big Wazoo outfits to impress anybody.

This journey is for my Goddess and for me.

path

Swings and roundabouts at Mabon

Have you ever noticed how history is cyclical?

I was at a Pagan meeting this afternoon.

The Pagan scene in Dunedin, New Zealand, where I live, has been very, very quiet for a long time. It was very active a few years ago – a little over half a decade ago – then it all died off for various reasons to do with a conservative element and a few nasty elements in the community – and everything went really quiet.

Until now.

greenman

Interestingly, I’ve also got a Munch (social gathering) tomorrow for the kinky community tomorrow. The kinky community in Dunedin has also been very. very quiet for a long time.

It was very active a few years ago – a little over half a decade ago – then it all keeled over for various reasons to do with a few nasty elements in the wider community – and everything went really quiet.

Until now.

At the Pagan meeting I went to, I heard how the University Women’s Officer used to do Womens Rituals. I just about died from shock when I heard that.

Imagine that! In conservative Dunedin! That all stopped of course, a few years ago. About the same time as everything else.

About that same time, the conservative city council of Dunedin began closing down student pubs, tightening up student behaviour they deemed inappropriate for various reasons, and generally restricting anything they considered to be not “suitable” for a staid and stodgy town.

To “clean it up”, was the excuse given, among a number of other excuses.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

Pots boil over

The thing is, life goes in cycles. And as much as a conservative trend may try to close down stuff it doesn’t particularly like, pots will always boil over in the end.

You can’t bully whole communities into submission and expect things to last that way forever without dissent and uprising and change.

I think that’s what’s happening now. The wind is changing.

eclipse

Written in the wind…

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the sub-communities are struggling to their feet again at the same time, afetr being all but killed off.

I don’t believe that you can close down pubs and venues for fun and letting off steam for students, and just expect that they’ll stop needing those outlets for fun and relaxation. Life doesn’t work that way.

Life is swings and roundabouts. Life is change. You can’t keep the Old Gods down.

ivyruins

Too conservative stifles our breath!

In Dunedin, there’s a really strong and powerful element, and it’s in charge, that would like to see Dunedin as nothing but a conservative, neat, polite, vanilla town full of suburbanites who wear suits and go to Church on Sundays and watch TV in the evenings and never, EVER would consider going to a Drumming-Trance-Pagan event or a play party.

Oh no, not ever.

That same element doesn’t approve of student pubs and student experimentation and kink and creativity and challenge and free thought, because those things are scary and uncontrolled and can’t be made a profit from easily.

But what it forgets is that we’re human. Not machines. We don’t come in little boxes, one size fits all. A fair number of us like to party. And drink. Some of us even like to do Pagan ritual, or kinky sex.

Or both.

The lid has been kept on the pot a little too long. All the while we’ve been here, quietly simmering away, but now we’re boiling over, and expanding out into the world again.

We're coming out of our closets again - but not quite like this! ;)
We’re coming out of our closets again – but not quite like this! 😉

Swings and roundabouts.

The more you restrict a subculture, the more it will grow and expand and thrive. Right under your nose. You just won’t see it happening until – bang! – suddenly it’s on your doorstep demanding rights.

Dunedin may seem a conservative town on the surface, but beneath that surface things are beginning to get really interesting.

I don’t know what will happen, but I’m sure looking forward to finding out.

And Happy Mabon! 🙂 May the Old Gods rise again!

mabon

So….what does a Priestess of Aphrodite *do*?

I get to wear funky robes and have sex with thousands of hot male slaves, of course 😉

muscle_slave_by_builtbytallsteve-d5ri0so

Who wouldn’t want to be Priestess of Aphrodite with a gig like that? Sheesh!

Seriously, serving the Goddess of Beauty and Love is all about intent. I honour Her with my actions. She gives me confidence in everything I do, in all my acts – especially those to do with beauty, sexuality and love.

Practically minded.

Aphrodite is an enabler. A facilitator. In other words, She gives Her Priestesses and those that serve Her the powers that She governs.

Aphrodite is the Goddess of Love, Beauty, Sex and Sensuality, among other aspects. So when you decide to tread Her path and follow Her you begin to find all aspects of those parts of your life and your personality falling into place.

This doesn’t mean that the moment you decide to honour Aphrodite as your patron Goddess that you’ll suddenly wake up the next morning all sexified or hunky. But it does mean that you may find that your own unique form of sexuality and beauty begins to make sense to you on a level that it may not have before.

Creating focus.

If you felt scattered or uncertain about what you wanted (like I did), everything pulls into focus. If you lacked confidence or security in expressing who you are, your own inner, sensual self will be made clear.

You’ll feel – if your experience is anything akin to mine – like you suddenly don’t have to fit in with society’s demands any more. They weakened you. Instead you find yourself, independent and unique, and the world begins to listen.

That is the power of Aphrodite.

Shedding the skin of superficiality, and creating real beauty

Priestesses and Priests of Aphrodite – and I am beginning to know a few around the world – are not cookie-cutter Barbie doll types. Far from it. They stand out in a crowd. People stop to look at them. They’ve found their own form of power through serving the Goddess.

They’ve learned, or are learning, how to shed the skin of superficial beauty society attempts to force us to mould ourselves into. They’re learning how to embrace our own, unique, powerful forms of beauty and sensuality.

Serving the Goddess is all about strengthening women. Creating balance. Supporting freedom of sensuality. Expressing our sensual selves. Connecting with the sea, and the water. There is a reason Aphrodite is often portrayed balanced upon a scallop shell – She is an image of balance between the genders, a symbol of the re-assertion of femininity.

Botticelli. The Birth of Venus.
Botticelli. The Birth of Venus.

Aphrodite enables women to make choices regarding our reproductive and sexual freedom. Curtaining the reach of patriarchy. Limiting the rule of men over women, wherever we find it. Recognising women’s intrinsic power over men, and being unafraid to use it. Shamelessly so, but fairly.

Aphrodite isn’t a great one for Olympian-style ritual. She’s one, instead, for action. Serve Her in deeds, not in flowery performance. Serve her with your body, soul and mind, not with words and theatricals. She grows stronger as women grow stronger.

Remember that She is an ancient Goddess – according to Hesiod, She is the daughter of Uranus, the primal Greek sky God, and absolutely worthy of reverence, possibly older than any of the other Olympian Goddesses.

As a Priestess of Aphrodite, it is my duty to usher in her Rise. Aphrodite – and other ancient deities – has been persecuted for nearly two millenia under the push of Christanity and Islam across the world. Only now, as Christanity at least is in its death throes, is She re-asserting herself.

Goddess_Venus____by_Villenueve


The image of the hot male slave is, as far as I can tell, by artist “Built By Tall Steve”.

Madonnas and whores, and that awesome double standard

Are you a Madonna? Or a whore?

For a long time the whole Madonna-Whore Complex gave women two roles – we could be “pure” as wives, mothers and virgins. Or we were “dirty” as whores – women who enjoyed and appreciated sexual fulfilment.

prudewhore

Madonnas and whores – the two categories for women.

Nothing in between. The thought that sex could be a normal healthy part of a person’s (particularly a woman’s) life was, and is still, problematic for people who see women as either madonnas or whores, as pure or impure.

Because sex is such a massive stepping stone in the madonna-whore world, such a huge item of goods to be traded and sold by a woman’s father on her wedding day to the prospective husband, it can never be seen as a normal healthy thing that humans simply do because its enjoyable and natural.

In the Madonna-Whore world, virginity is of incredible importance. Without her virginity, a woman is worthless. Soiled. Trash.

And a man who has had sex with many women? Well…

fortunes-men

Have you ever noticed how there are so many words for a woman who has had sex (or a woman who people think has had sex) but there are very few for men?

slut

madonna-whore.xxlarge

The outcome of “sluts versus studs”

So we get the politicalisation of contraception – because only a whore would need it. Once a woman is married, her role becomes simply that of “Mother” or “Prospective Mother” and contraception is an unmentionable. Although almost all couples use contraception in modern society, it’s an unmentionable topic. People pretend it doesn’t happen.

And we get the politicalisation of abortion. Only a whore would abort. A “nice” pure girl doesn’t get pregnant in the first place (because she’s “abstinant”). And if she does (whoops!), she’ll marry the father and have her Happily Ever After.

Except life doesn’t always work out that way. And atheists have a lower divorce rate than religious couples. Hmmm…something seems to be going a bit wrong.

This very narrow view of women – as pure or impure, madonna or whore – stems from patriarchal religions, is tied up with the old worldview of women as chattel and property, and is directly at odds with the direction society is headed in. Hence the clash between the patriarchal churches and society at large.

And the churches are losing. You can see this very clearly in the political landscape in the United States at the moment, the likely collapse and fragmentation of the Republican party – it has aligned itself with the old, white, extreme right religious sects of society, and is finding it simply doesn’t have the numbers. Those numbers are reducing at a very rapid rate, reflecting the way society is changing.

So what’s happening?

Sex is coming out of the closet. That’s what’s happening.

Women are starting to talk about sex, we’re starting to proclaim loudly that it is natural to enjoy sex – with however many partners of whatever gender we wish – and that whatever sex we happen to enjoy does not value or devalue us as individuals. It is simply something we, as human beings, do.

The changes we’re seeing in society, and the death of the madonna-whore complex, are part of women’s movement towards full equality as human beings. That’s all it is.

A group of people cannot be equal as long as they continue to be put into boxes for their behaviour and stereotyped. The “purity” concept needs to die – and the sooner the better. Purity is a concept that should be attached to clean water, or safe food. Not to women and girls. Not to people. We’re not a commodity. We’re human beings.

Aphrodite is a Goddess who represents the sexuality and power of women. She is strong, and fearless – and yes, she is sexual, and sensual, and beautiful. That is why she is intensely uncomfortable for people who have traces of the Madonna-Whore complex instilled in them. Because we’ve been taught that sexuality should be secretive, that is doesn’t give us strength and power. Yet it does.

This is why I think women need to embrace Aphrodite and what she represents. Make peace with our beauty, our sexuality, our sensuality. Be proud to say we enjoy sex. With whomever we choose. In whatever way we wish. Our bodies are our own to use as we desire.

That is why we do the Slut Walks, and why we support the womens shelters. That is why we do NOT bitch against other women, or criticise them for their sexual choices. That is why we support the right to choose, and the right to have safe, freely accessible contraception. Because all of these things are about the right to control our own bodies.

I’m no Madonna. I’m no whore. I’m a human being. And so is every other woman on this planet. It’s time to throw the boxes out the window. None of us is pure, or impure. There is no such thing as virginity – I’m tossing that out too.

We’re all just women. And we’re amazing.

Not enough workers!

I was at a local superket the other day.

I don’t know if your local shops are the same as mine, but around here we’re getting more and more do-it-yourself checkouts (where the customer does the scanning and paying themselves). More and more we’re seeing fewer and fewer actual workers on the checkouts, and more and more “closed” signs on the full checkouts of the supermarkets.

We’re experiencing what that means. It means we get days like the instance I’m about to relate to you, where there were lines of six to eight people with HUGE trolleys full, lined up at only two checkouts open in a supermarket. Everyone else had to either line up behind them, or self-serve it.

So there was me, with about 40 items in my baskets – plus a six year old to manage – scanning everything and piling bags up all across the DIY floor, blocking everyone’s way with scanned, bagged shopping that wouldn’t fit on trays that are designed to hold much less scanned shopping.

And a woman opposite me, in exactly the same predicament.
And a man next to me. Same situation for him.
And all of us NOT HAPPY about it.

Most stressed of all was the single check out attendant scurrying madly about, trying to help all of us every time something didn’t scan, or a machine demanded a salesperson to confirm something.

What has this to do with Aphrodite and women?

Quite a lot, actually.

Mostly it is women who work these low-paid jobs in supermarkets around the world. They’re overworked more and more as more women are laid off in favour of the self-serve machines, which are a cost-cutting (profit-making) exercise for the huge supermarket chains.

I’m not noticing any savings being passed on to us, the consumers. Are you?

Because of the lay-offs, there are also fewer and fewer of these unskilled jobs available to the women who may not have had the chance at an education, and who sorely need them. Or who need a few extra dollars to support their families. Or who are putting themselves through education. Or whatever.

It’s not just women of course, but the majority are women.

I’m sure by now some readers are calling me a “Commie” and signing off, figuring it has nothing to do with them in their own cushy life.

Good for you. Have a nice day feeling superior.

But these jobs are HARD. In a civilised world we should be doing what we can to ensure that jobs are fair and reasonable to work in. The woman who was doing the job of two that day on the self-serve line because the staffed check-out lines were closed wasn’t getting a fair deal. She was getting shafted.

I, as a consumer and user of the supermarket, was getting shafted too. I had to deal with my shopping all over the floor. I had to pick it up off the floor. Someone could have tripped over it and hurt themselves.

How would an elderly person – or a person with a back problem – have dealt with this situation?

The woman across the aisle dealing with the same problem, and the man next to me? They were getting shafted too.

The whole thing sucked. Maybe the shareholders are making a few more cents a year at all our expense, but I think they can go screw themselves.

What I did – the power and value of freedom

I complained. The overworked woman took more of her time, overworked as she was, to find a complaints line phone number for me. I thanked her and assured her it was nothing personal at all – I was angry at the supermarket manager.

I got the impression she really, thoroughly understood!

Then I went home, put my shopping away, and rang the complaints line. I asked for a job number, and have put it in my diary to follow up in a month.

Share our opinions

Another thing I’m doing is writing this blog post.

We consumers do have power. But if nobody complains about people being shafted, nothing will change.

Think you’re getting a better deal when a burger chain pays their workers less? Think again. They’re going to be overworked and tired and possibly make mistakes that could cost you your health. Or theirs.

Shafting people and not giving them a fair deal doesn’t benefit you. Not by a long shot. And do you really want to be a scumbag to save a few cents, making someone’s life a misery? If so, what sort of person are you?

The issues of decent working conditions and decent pay are women’s issues. They’re at the core of Aphrodite. If women are shafted at work, how can we be happy, healthy, functioning beings? And how can anyone we share our lives with?

Everything is connected.

So next time you go to a supermarket, or a burger joint, or anywhere you see there aren’t enough workers, take some time. Ask for the complaints number. Or to see the manager. Make a point of it.

Be the decent human being you were meant to be.

WitchCraft and Bonfire

At the Beltane Fire, 2012
Bonfires have special significance not only in Paganism, but right the way through human history.

Circle: When a group meets at a bonfire, we automatically form a circle. It’s a gathering of equality, just like King Arthur’s round table.

Sure, you can arue that some points in the circle are more important than others – the position to the direct right of the King, for example, is always going to be favoured in Camelot.

But generally, a circle is as egalitarian as it gets.

Interestingly, the word “Church” comes from the Old English word “cirice” (pronounced Kih-Rih-Kuh), and is directly related to the word “circle”. So you could argue that we Pagans are still doing it right, keeping the tradition of circle alive through the centuries, long after others have abandoned it in favour of a “stage show presentation” style of worship.

Our backs to the dark: When we light a bonfire at night, our backs are turned to the dark. At the same time, we are aware of and recognise that the beauty of the light, in the form of the bonfire, can only truly be appreciated when it is fully dark. Both dark and light are needed for balance in this world.

Energy moving upwards: When we burn wishes in a bonfire, our wish is directly sent skywards in smoke and heat. The bonfire connects the earth, and products of the earth (wood) with the sky above. As above, so below.

All elements: The bonfire is a gathering of all four elemental states of matter: air (gas), fire (plasma), water (liquid, in the form of steam) and solid (fuel). Our inner selves recognise this balance – I believe this is why we find fire so hypnotic.

Elemental positioning: Have you ever noticed that people will gather at the elemental compass point they feel most attuned to? For example, I’m a Fire sign, and in the southern hemisphere, I always gravitate to the north of the Circle. In the northern hemisphere, you’ll find me at due south. I don’t know how – it just happens. The Bonfire brings out our true selves.

Celebration: Fire is a celebration of humanity. Humans are the only creatures able to create and manipulate fire. When we build and maintain a bonfire, we are celebrating our own humanity.