A month ago or so, I told myself I’d just jump back into this project and everything would be easy. I assumed I’d just go right back into PBP. It was more difficult than I’d imagined. One of the things that has kept me away from this blog is my work: I have started doing rape crisis work. Doing this work, going through the training for this work, has really dampened this blog because I’m not sure it’s the place to share the thoughts and feelings this work brings up. I believe in my soul, doing this work is important, not because I’m a pagan because I’m a Woman. After being surrounded by a group of women also committed to doing this work, I can face my past much more clearly. I don’t have to hide, become quiet, look away, or not remember parts of my past just to be social as I do in other aspects of my life. Aside from two very clear rape-rapes, there were a hundred little sexual assaults and hundreds of ways this dynamic of domination and power stripping simply because I am a woman and an object to be conquered, seduced, used, and ultimately disposed of has harmed me.
I had forgotten, working with men in my professional life and socializing with mostly guys in my personal life, that they cannot see it from my perspective. I had forgotten that my experiences are REAL and VALID: those things were NOT okay, and even if I had made some bad decisions (and I have) it was still not okay. The men in my life were unable to see that if they were violated they simply wouldn’t have had any thought along the lines of “what did I think would happen going out with this guy at midnight” or “clearly, I got too drunk, I have no right to tell him how I feel about what went on.” They wouldn’t have those thoughts because in Rape Culture, they don’t get taught not to go out late at night with guys because girls who would go on a “date” after restaurants except Denny’s are closed should know that guy is only looking for one thing. As a culture we don’t teach men getting too drunk is never okay because only bad girls drink and bad girls get what’s coming to them. We never say to a young man “well, you shouldn’t drink that much because if you get drunk, you will have sex with her” assuming that having sex with that young woman is something that would be undesirable for him. No, in fact, we teach young boys that if he gets her to “loosen up” she will be more likely to sleep with him – which is EXACTLY what we assume he wants. If a young man is violated (or a grown man) we never ask him “what were you wearing” or “why did you get in that car/go to his house?” Instead, we immediately offer sympathy, emphasize, tell him it will be okay, ask him if he is all right – tell him it was NOT his fault. As a culture, as people individually, can you honestly say you do the same to women?
The only way I think for us to actually shift this is through stories. Stories where men are able to see through women’s eyes. This ability to tell women’s sacred stories is what first drew me to Paganism. I’ve already made it clear that my background with Christianity was never bad and was of a decidedly liberal brand of Christianity. However, even in the most liberal of Christian environments, the stories were all from a male perspective. God was a Man: and Man was made in God’s image. So, we can play semantics and say that Woman is also in God’s image and God is also a mother and he formed us in the womb and all of that is well and good and important – but it is not the same as a true feminine perspective. It is not the same as the Charge of the Goddess coming from the Goddess, blessing feminine characteristics. It is not the same as identifying with the divine as a Woman, that you, a woman, a lifebringer can like the Goddess give Birth to a human. Women’s bodies create and sustain Life itself, and that story to me is also important – that is part of why I am Pagan. I do not believe one is better than the other, I simply believe that like Mary Daly, I cannot identify with a male centered perspective. I’m perfectly happy to say this is my own personal shortcoming that I am not able to see around my experience and find some way to relate to the Christian dialogue: I have to break out of that boundary.
Yet, even with goddesses, women’s bodies and femininity reflected in the divine, Pagans often fail at telling women’s stories. We have access to but have yet to fully grasp the feminine experience. I feel like at the moment, we have only momentary fragments. We have stories about women, we have goddess stories in which things happen to them or they act, but the stories are not FROM women. The stories are still yet from an omniscient outside, male (since male is the current default for unsex in Western and Eastern culture overall) perspective. We have the opportunity to tell divine feminine stories through their eyes. Imagine the difference in Bloudwedd’s and Lugh’s failed marriage if told from her eyes: a story of falling in love with a man after you already married the man you were “supposed” to marry. A story that makes divine the all too human mistakes one makes to find happiness in those situations – that would be truly revolutionary.
In paganism we have this amazing state of grace where the fully human experience is divine. Our Gods and Goddesses are not perfect, they are flawed, they were young, they made mistakes, they teach us to be great and they allow us to be human without shame. Through these perfectly flawed Gods and Goddesses we can tell their stories in a way that allows us to emphasize, to see through the others’ eyes. Our divine stories can reflect all of humanity: men, women, children, trans, gay, and lesbian stories are Pagan stories and divine stories. As Pagans we can see the divine through these experiences and learn to accept, learn from, and validate all of these experiences. “Rape” can stop becoming such a he-said-she-said disregarded crime, because we can see around Rape Culture. Leda’s story no doubt will be much more powerful and different from Zeus’s version of events – and so would Hera’s account of that crime. Rape won’t “go away” in our culture but I think within Paganism there is an opportunity to raise men who are powerful allies of women in sexual realms. We can start by telling the stories of rape, and other women’s stories, properly. I think we live in a time in human evolution that is possible to tell these stories.