But I hate supporting the patriarchy![1]

I’ve had a few ideas for a post running around in my head for a few days now.  I want to explore how gender is treated in modern Paganism, how a binary view of gender[2] influences Paganism (most notably Wicca and those traditions closely related to it), and whether it’s a good or bad thing.  However, that post is nowhere near ready to go up.  However, thinking about the topic brought up a recent memory that I’d like to reflect on.

Earlier this year, Z. Budapest came to our town and held a tarot workshop at Psychic’s Thyme, in which each woman in attendance received a personal reading from Ms. Budapest.  The event was well attended and from all reports I’ve heard, it was a great success.

As the event approached, I had many customers at the shop ask me if I was planning to attend.  I’d simply smile and point out that I would not be attending, as the workshop was for women only, and express hope that they would have a good time at the workshop.

Apparently, during the workshop, one of the women decided to ask Ms. Budapest why she had made the event women only.  She started her reply by explaining that this was a special event intended to strengthen and nurture women, and that part of that was giving them a special place free with men.  I’m totally on board with her on all of those points.  While I certainly would have enjoyed to meet and learn from someone as experienced and renowned as Ms. Budapest, I agree that — especially in our patriarchal society that tends to devalue and marginalize women — it makes perfect sense to say, “some things are just for the women because they deserve it.”

The ending of her explanation was a bit more problematic to me.  Part of her argument was that men already have a “special place” that caters to them.  She went on to say that the place in question is known as the Vatican.

As I said, I have no problem with women-only events and spaces.  In fact, I highly approve of them.  However, I do take issue with the suggestion — even if done in jest — that as a man, I have my own space within the Catholic church.

The first — somewhat obvious in my opinion — with that suggestion is that as a gay man, I’m not a “proper man” in the eyes of the Vatican.  I don’t meet their understandings of what the proper role of men is, at least when it comes to terms of sexual behavior.[3]  In short, I don’t meet the Catholic standards of manhood and would find any attempt to do so terribly painful.  As I’ve heard some feminists say, patriarchy is hell on women in particular, but it’s ultimately not good for anyone.

That actually brings me to my second issue with the suggestion.  If patriarchal institutions like Catholicism aren’t good for anyone — or even if they were bad for women and perfectly fine for men in general and me in particular — why would I want to take part in it, thereby supporting its continuation.

There are a lot of patriarchal institutions out there, and the problem isn’t just the Catholic church.  Some of those institutions — like my career field — would be hard, if not impossible to simply walk away from.  I have to deal with the fact that I’m a part of them — and I try my best not to feed into their patriarchal nature and even do what little I can think of to help break it down.  But I have no reason or need to be a part of Catholicism, and I certainly don’t want to support or endorse its institutionalized patriarchy.[4]

If I’m going to seek out a male-only, male-affirming space, I’d much rather find one that has figured out how to be male-affirming without doing so at women’s expense.

Note:
[1]  And I pray for the day I figure out how to stop doing so altogether.  Even unintentionally.

[2]  Though it may be more accurate to say that polarities are discussed in gendered terms, but that’s something that needs a full post to explore.

[3]  I suspect that’s not the only place the Catholic church might take issue with my “masculinity,” however.

[4]  Plus, there’s a good bit of Catholic theology I disagree with, being a Vanic witch and all.

8 thoughts on “But I hate supporting the patriarchy![1]”

  1. Interesting. I agree with you that her statement is problematic, in that it doesn’t take into account that not all men actually do have a special place for them at the Vatican.

    I look forward to your future post on the gender binary in Paganism. 🙂

  2. This post somewhat bothers me, I think you have to stop drawing arbitrary lines if you want to truly solve societies problems. You say it’s cool for women to have a man free zone. Then turn around and say that men can’t have female free zones. I know that isn’t exactly what you said, but you seem to imply that. I also think you are victimizing yourself with the catholic church reference, admittedly a poor one by Ms. Budapest, but in terms of the Vatican, it is not that you are a “bad man”, it’s that you’re a “bad person”. Religion does tend to marginalize a lot of people, particularly women, but to say they are calling you an improper man is in my opinion incorrect. They call all homosexuals bad, therefore you as a gay person, are bad, just as fannie as a gay person is bad. You can call fannie double jepodary if you want but in my opinion it’s not your maleness they are questioning.

    Also I’m curious what profession you are in that is so patriarchal?

  3. @anon: Welcome to my blog. If you plan on sticking around — and I hope you do — I would like to ask that you choose a pseudonym for yourself. This will make it easier to identify your future comments as uniquely yours. Also, this will help me make sure I don’t delete your posts, as I get a lot of spam comments from “anonymous” and it’s way too easy to mistake a legitimate comment from “anon” as more spam.

    On to your comment?..

    I think you have to stop drawing arbitrary lines if you want to truly solve societies problems.

    When you say “you” in this sentence, do you mean me specifically or people in general. If the former, I am rather confused. I don’t believe I’ve drawn any arbitrary lines.

    You say it’s cool for women to have a man free zone. Then turn around and say that men can’t have female free zones. I know that isn’t exactly what you said, but you seem to imply that.

    You inferred this incorrectly. In fact, I say that “If I’m going to seek out a male-only, male-affirming space,” which I would think makes it pretty clear that I’m open to the possibility of the existence of such spaces. I’d appreciate it if you’d stick to what I actually said rather than what you inferred. Alternatively, if you’re going to infer something, please check with me to assure that your inferences are correct. Otherwise, you will likely end up putting words into my mouth.

    I also think you are victimizing yourself with the catholic church reference,

    How so?

    but in terms of the Vatican, it is not that you are a “bad man”, it’s that you’re a “bad person”.

    On this, I will disagree with you. I’ve read Catholic officials’ statements on homosexuality. Their belief that homosexuality is sinful is deeply rooted in their understandings of what men and women are supposed to be like, which are in turn deeply rooted in gender essentialism and complementarianism. My being gay is sinful because I will not take my place as a “proper man” by getting marries, having sex with my wife, and impregnating her multiple times.

    Religion does tend to marginalize a lot of people,

    Please note that we are not talking about religion, but Roman Catholicism. Catholics say some very gendered things, as I noted above. So yes, this is about gender as much as it is about homosexuality. (You will also note that much of homophobia is rooted in both misogyny and a desire to maintain male dominance and privilege over women. Indeed, to such people, gay men are despised because they are seen as traitors to their gender.)

    in my opinion it’s not your maleness they are questioning.

    Then your opinion is in conflict with the actual facts of my experiences and what has been said about gay men by many homophobes, including those in Catholic leadership.

    Also I’m curious what profession you are in that is so patriarchal?

    I am a software engineer.

  4. you may be right about the catholic church, religion has had little influence on my life, Catholicism even less so. However as to the arbitrary lines, isn’t the point of feminism to remove the arbitrary lines between men and women, and yet you’re fine with women only spaces?

    Also what exactly does male affirming mean to you, we all have different definitions after all especially in this day and age.

    And how exactly is software eng patriarchal? honestly just plain curious about this one, there are several notable woman in the software eng field of game development, that I know for a fact, so what is being done in the industry to stop women from contributing to an equal extent

  5. @northner:

    you may be right about the catholic church, religion has had little influence on my life, Catholicism even less so.

    Like most QUILTBAG people with a religious upbringing (and probably a good many of them who don?t have such an upbringing), I?m quite familiar with religious teachings on the topics that affect me. If you?re admittedly unfamiliar with these things, I find myself why you would challenge me on these things. Why presume to know more than I do about things that directly affect me and not you?

    However as to the arbitrary lines, isn’t the point of feminism to remove the arbitrary lines between men and women,

    In a sense, yes. As I understand it, however, it would be more accurate to say that the point of feminism is that women deserved to be treated with the same basic human dignity, respect, and justice as men.

    and yet you’re fine with women only spaces?

    Given that our world on the whole tends to be unsafe for women and privileges men, I can understand why women might need and deserve safe spaces created by and for themselves in order to escape and regroup, yes. I don?t consider that arbitrary at all, which is I suppose why I find your question confusing.

    Also what exactly does male affirming mean to you

    This is a good question, and one I?ve been exploring in my own mind a lot. To be frank, one of the problems that I have with the idea of male-affirming spaces is that our entire society tends to be quite male-affirming and male-privileging. On so many levels, it?s a man?s world.

    Where the world seems to hurt men is when when men are betrayed by the strict gender stereotypes of our society and then told they aren?t ?man enough? because they show emotion, like to cook, like the color pink, or some other ridiculous thing. (Quite frankly, this is why I think the more I want to help men hurt by our society, the more I want to promote feminism.) Some male-affirming spaces start out seeking to do that, yet tend to fall back into the trap of defining what makes men so great in terms of ?not being women.? Also, they tend to fall into feminist-bashing and even woman-bashing in general.

    And how exactly is software eng patriarchal? honestly just plain curious about this one, there are several notable woman in the software eng field of game development, that I know for a fact, so what is being done in the industry to stop women from contributing to an equal extent

    Of the total number of game coders, what percentage of them are women? I can tell you right now that if I were to stand up in my office and start counting the people inhabiting the fifty cubicles nearest to mine, less than 20% of those people would be women. I?ve worked at three other companies since 1998 and could make the same statement about them. Given that more than 50% of the general population are women, that?s a troubling figure. Yeah, women are getting into software engineering, but they are still relatively few in number. It?s still a man?s world, and many male software engineers treat it as such. Ask some women who work as software engineers about their coworker?s attitudes toward her and other women in the office sometime.

  6. I presumed because of your wordings and yours alone, incorrect as I may be. My Mistake

    Yes software engineering and computer science in general are probably the last bastion of pure male domination in any higher ed profession. I don’t know if I would call it patriarchy though because a lot of what the patriarchy calls upon men to be, are things that the avg software eng is not. There is certainly an immaturity in regards to women in a lot of workplaces. It’s slowly leaving a lot of the industry, among companies worth working for especially. I just don’t think it’s the insidiousness of patriarchy, just the immaturity of a bunch of guys who didnt grow up with enough female interaction

  7. Yes software engineering and computer science in general are probably the last bastion of pure male domination in any higher ed profession. I don’t know if I would call it patriarchy though because a lot of what the patriarchy calls upon men to be,

    If it promotes and maintains male dominance over women, it’s patriarchy. Even geeks and “non-manly men” (including me) often benefit from patriarchy.

  8. I never said it promoted or maintained male dominance over women, I just said that numerically speaking it’s a male dominated field. The only way to change that is to convince more women to get involved in the field and I really don’t see how that’s possible. I’d be fascinated to hear suggestions for how we could get more women interested in computer science related fields but personally I have no real ideas. Bio, Chem and to a lesser degree Physics are easier topics to get women into due to their prevalence in schools. Comp sci programs are limited at best in schools and rarely mandatory. So I guess a massive change in how it’s taught might help otherwise I’m not sure. Have you had any thoughts on this topic, discussions with coworkers and the like?

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