By Steve Provost
When I was in high school, some buddies and I formed a group called the He-Man Woman Haters Club. The name came from one of the old Little Rascals shorts, in which Spanky, Alfalfa and some other boys formed a club by that name because they were fed up with romance.
Our club's name was entirely tongue-in-cheek. We were a bunch of young, single guys who didn't have girlfriends and desperately wanted them. It was our way of sending a raspberry - with the distinct flavor of sour grapes - toward the female population who had the temerity to reject such dashing young eligible bachelors. The point is, we really liked women. We were just bummed out (to use a phrase in vogue at the time) that none of them, at least then, seemed to care much for us.
Flash forward 30 years. I still like women. In fact, one of the things that drew me toward Paganism is the balance it offers between the masculine and feminine. Most Pagans acknowledge both god and goddess, a refreshing change from the all-male triad of Father, Son and Holy Ghost (though some will point out, with some justification, that the third person of said trinity was originally feminine - the dove being an ancient symbol of the goddess Astarte).
The Old Testament seemed to be ruled by a god with more testosterone than he knew what to do with, flying into jealous rages over his "bride," aka Israel, and her flirtations with "other gods." And goddesses. (Did I mention Astarte?) This self-proclaimed jealousy was used to justify genocidal attacks against nearby cities and towns that dared to worship another deity. Men, women, children and even animals were butchered without mercy. I found such stories horrifying, as they seemed based on nothing more than bigotry and ethnocentric egotism: "We are the chosen people!"
Says who? A possessive and somewhat paranoid god who was badly in need of some anger-management classes? Sorry, but I didn't find such a source particularly credible or authoritative. The god of the Old Testament seemed like an abusive husband trying to keep his harried housewife "in her place." If that was the attitude of this god toward his people, it was hardly surprising that his disciples were telling women to put their dreams on hold to serve their husbands, to love, honor and obey because the man is the head of the woman (1 Cor. 11:3). In other words, she's too stupid to think for herself.
I found this brazenly insulting and simply unacceptable.
It was natural, therefore, that I should gravitate toward Paganism. It seemed to balance out all the testosterone-laced tirades of the Old Testament with more nurturing and, at times, fiercely protective attributes often associated with women - and too often discouraged in men. It also seemed to play up more positive, traditionally masculine traits such as confidence, courage and a sense of honor.*
So far, so good.
But imagine my dismay when I found some women within Paganism behaving just as badly as the paranoid patriarchal god I had rejected. The only difference: Instead of directing their venom at women, they were spewing it at men, declaring, "We are the chosen people!" with the same vehemence used by the Judeo-Christian crowd. Rather than acknowledging both god and goddess, masculine and feminine, the trend here was to magnify the latter and degrade the former.
Longtime activist Pagan Z. Budapest traced male aggression to something she called sperm wars: "Men have to realize that they are acting out sperm wars on each other. Sperm attacks each other, and kill each other, only one percent will make the journey to the egg. The rest is wasted. This is acted out by men in other areas of life as well ... "
Excuse me, but that's nothing more than a mouthful of pseudo-scientific bullshit. The last time I looked, every human being was the product of both a sperm and an egg. Not just men, but women as well. Applying Budapest's logic to basic biology, women would be just as likely to engage in "sperm wars" as men. After all, every woman started out as one-half sperm.
Sperm are not men. They're not even animals. They don't form little armies and go around launching attacks on each other like soldiers in a microscopic Battle of the Bulge. The idea that sperm go to war with one another is based on a hypothesis that's been around since the 1970s and has been refuted under scientific scrutiny. A 1999 study by researchers at the University of Sheffield (U.K.), found "no evidence for killer sperm or other selective interactions between human spermatozoa." Still, the idea persists because it's a convenient tool to use in bashing men as warlike, barbaric brutes. It's in their nature to behave badly.
What Budapest appears to be doing - probably without realizing it - is merely repackaging the Christian idea of original sin, the concept that we are all guilty of something that happened before we were even born. The difference lies in the fact that, instead of blaming Eve (the archetypal woman), she's blaming Mr. Sperm (the archetypal man). Both conclusions are equally sexist. And equally wrong.
And we call this progress? Sounds more like the same malarkey coming from a different source, with a different target. Psuedo-science has been used to bolster bigotry before. Nazi attempts to build a "master race" of blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan supermen come to mind. They're no more acceptable in this context than they were in the Nazi laboratory.
Even more absurd is the assertion made in some quarters that all life is fundamentally female and that that the male Y chromosome is a "broken" or "defective" version of the female X. The She-Woman Man Haters within the Pagan community conclude, based on this, that the X chromosome is superior and that women, therefore, are also superior. News flash: Without men, there wouldn't be any women. The last time I looked, human beings reproduced sexually (stories of virgin births notwithstanding). We're not simply amoebas who divide and conquer. Women need men, and men need women.
It's through sexual reproduction that we arrive at a world as wonderfully diverse as the one we're in. That diversity includes people of different races, sexes, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and so forth. If we truly want to celebrate that diversity, we should affirm the diversity needed to create it - reproductive diversity. Then again, some extremist Pagans don't seem to care much for that diversity in the first place. Budapest, for instance, derides transgender individuals in the following caustic terms: "Women are born, not made by men on operating tables."
Excuse me? I'm going to be blunt here: When the whites-only KKK condemns African-Americans for the color of their skin, how is it any different than a women-only group condemning men for the shape of their chromosomes - or their genitals? And how is that any different from the Augusta National Golf Club refusing to admit women? There's a joke going around online that some Pagans use "tiny axes, just the right size for amputating a penis." Ouch! Yes, it's a joke, but there are those within the community who have reacted to Freud's absurd notion of penis envy by going to the opposite extreme and declaring penis hatred.
I guess we'll have to tear down the Egyptian obelisks and lop off the phalluses on all those ancient statues of Pan and Dionysus in order to conform to this New Pagan Order.
Some of those who target masculinity excuse it by pointing to painful abuse in their own lives. I can understand that. I've been subject, myself, to various forms of verbal and emotional abuse from both men and women.
What's eye-opening about this is to discover that those who have been harmed by bigotry in the past are often so willing to practice it themselves. But bigotry isn't justified by an abusive relationship or social discrimination. Indeed, the opposite should be true: Victims of bigotry should be at the forefront of the fight against it, regardless of its target. To degrade all women - or all men - because some have treated you poorly, is simply taking the Old Testament principle of "an eye for an eye" and applying it to innocent bystanders. By condemning half the human race, you're gouging out millions of eyes, metaphorically speaking, to avenge the loss of just one. That hardly seems fair.
One doesn't hear words such as blasphemy, impiety and sacrilege much in Pagan circles. Still, it's hard for me to think that the Goddess invoked by so many Pagans would be pleased that her name is being used as an excuse for bigotry. Even the virgin goddess Diana, often invoked in criticizing the masculine principle these days, was originally a fertility figure in Roman lore. As such, she helped women conceive and give birth to children - the former being impossible without a male partner. At Lake Nemi in Italy, several ancient sources indicate she was served by a male priest. All this seems to have been lost to some modern Pagans, who focus on her identity as virgin goddess of the hunt while ignoring her other attributes.
Be that as it may, Diana isn't typically referred to as simply "The Goddess." That term is more frequently used to invoke an Earth Mother figure such as Gaia or an archetypal composite figure with aspects of many female deities. She's as much Venus as Diana, as much Aphrodite as Artemis.
Modern devotees of Diana often exclude men from their circles, based on the ancient practice that men were forbidden to enter her temples. But I'm not talking about freedom of association here. If you don't want me in your circle because I've got a penis, fine. Chances are I won't have any burning desire to grace you with my presence anyway. I know that sounds egotistical, but it's far less egotistical than thinking you're somehow better than I am because I had the "misfortune" of being born with a Y chromosome. This isn't about freedom of association at all. It's about respect - respect for individual identity, and respect for diversity. Lack of respect for those things, in my mind, amounts to bigotry.
Are you a misandrist? A misogynist? A homophobe? A racist? It's all the same to me: Each of these terms falls under a single category.
And if you're a bigot, I reserve the right to exclude you from my circle of friends.
Yes, virgin goddesses, like Hestia, Artemis, and Athena, were invulnerable to the call of Dionysus, the god of wine, lust and lechery, and resistant to the seduction promoted by Aphrodite. For the ancient Greeks, these three goddesses were the symbols of female power and independence.
On the whole, all ancient goddesses from different cultures had a consort who was either human or semi-divine if not a god. As part of the human experience even if the goddess came first before gods there would still be a male connection to the goddess and something we share with women and is a mistake not to include men as part of this devotion any more than excluding women as is done in patriarchal religions.
is a mistake not to include men as part of this devotion any more than excluding women as is done in patriarchal religions.
I agree. But there is no particular reason to make the male divine figure the equal to the female one in such paths.
But there is no particular reason to make the male divine figure the equal to the female one in such paths.
I wasn't suggesting we should as I said the goddess came first and then the divine male figure as consort/son came later but in a cooperative relationship each with their own roles and responsibilities which tie together.
btw I know this is 8 years old.
This is the most rediculous thing I ever heard. An unabashed woman basher, and complaining about men bashing. Great comedy! This is likle doing brain surgery with a hatchet!
There really is no evidence of the exclusion of men from the Temple of Diana, that I know of, but there was evidence of gender exclusion of men AND women within certain ancient cults of Greece and Rome. It was not widely common, but it did exist. According to Peter F Dorcey, women could not sacrifice to Hercules at the Ara Maxima in Rome, and men were denied access to the inner sanctuary of the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum, and the Shrine of Diana on the Vicus Patricius in Rome.
Now, to get to the woman bashing...
Complaining about this issue as a personal grievance in real time is the biggest waste of time that I can think of. However, anyone is entitled to their opinion, whether that being misandrist, misogynist, bigot, homophobe, racist or whatever, regardless of how ill thought or arguable it may be.
Tradition or no tradition, anyone who wants to exclude someone from their church or temple, whether that being a black church, a white church, a female cult, or male cult, or whatever, is free to do so, in my opinion. Other than that, this is nothing more than hot or cold air.
Assorted public whyners who are not so sure of their own deficiencies, because they have become so emotionally invested and delusioned over their own bullshit, with no concept of what is reasonable or rational for anyone but them.
Women bashing, men bashing, If women want to bash men, that's their business, and vice versa. Which means that Z Budapest is entitled to her own theories of biological evolution, whether that is accurate or not. Her so called analogy of the behavior of men vs that of sperm may sound funny, but who should care what she thinks is another issue. Whether "killer sperm" exists or not, is ultimately gender neutral. But the fact is that people do kill other people, and all the pissing and whyning and questioning human behavior and racism and bigotry and pseudo morality will not change that. I suppose that is because of "killer DNA."
But yes, by all means, let's just use emotional baggage to light a fuse for more emotional baggage.
"Women need men, and men need women". Perhaps an unintended contradiction. Biologically in order to reproduce, yes of course. But that is probably the last thing on Z's mind.
"The She-Woman Man Haters within the Pagan community conclude, based on this, that the X chromosome is superior and that women, therefore, are also superior."
Ha h a ha, that's very funny! What is a "she woman"? A hybrid freak of nature, I'll guess. Self perpetuated gender bashing bait, I suppose.
What should be helpful to the most empty headed gender activist is that nature never intended humans to be male and female homogeneous, but not to evolve absent of ethnocentric egotism. And of course, that presents many social issues pertaining to the differences of physical and emotional attributes in comparison of the two species. I suppose one can use nature to make their misandrist/misogynist/misanthropic argument, if they so choose! And you can use nature to do the opposite.
The only legitimacy in this is, if you dig hard enough, is when and how these opinions are transcended into issues where it goes beyond opinion. Situations where certain people are denied certain rights, within reason, under constitutional, and other statutory provisions, and some type of harm or breach of intellectual property as a result, is evident.