Columbia and Justice for women’s choices

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in cases that have to do with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for insurance plans to cover contraception. I renew my prayers to Justice and to Columbia:

Justice, be not blind, but look into our hearts with piercing gaze and discern the ill intent of those who would rule over others with theocratic mandates full of hate.

Let their will be weighed as naught when you lift your scales that judgment be not swayed but find the rightful balance to help us live together in pluralistic peace.

Columbia, matron goddess of your district and our government, stand firm atop the wall of separation between church and state, to ensure that women have control over our own bodies.

So mote it be!

Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul published

Bad news first: Crossing the River has been delayed slightly, because the publisher had to deal with another anthology first. We’re shooting for January now.

Good news: The anthology Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul, edited by Tara Masery Miller, has been published by Immanion Press, and it includes two of my pieces, “Speak for Yourself: The problem of victim-blaming by magical practitioners,” and “Sick or Well: False Dichotomy.”

Here’s the opening of “Speak for Yourself:”

Blaming people with disabilities for their conditions happens all too often. Some common metaphysical interpretations of disability and disease – as indicative of a person’s power, purity, or lack thereof, or as signs of past wrongdoings that are being worked out – carry tremendous potential to hurt people already facing difficult circumstances. Although some tout these understandings as empowering, even narratives intended to be helpful can easily degenerate into victim-blaming. To counteract these destructive potentials, I suggest that anyone who uses these potentially problematic approaches be very careful not to impose it on anyone else; if you are going to use these interpretations, speak for yourself.

Further thoughts

Follow-ups to a couple of recent posts, plus other assorted thoughts.


Salon explains why the answer is not more guns:

But perhaps the biggest problem is the philosophy underpinning notions to arm more people. Goddard of the Brady campaign said it best in an interview: “The idea behind concealed carry is a kind of ‘defend yourself and your family and fuck everybody else’ mentality.”

… “America is not going to shoot our way out of the gun violence problem, and that’s what these people are calling for. And I think that’s dangerous and I think that will lead to more of us being killed by bullets,” Goddard said.

Read the whole thing. Seriously. I quoted the philosophical points, but this is one of the best evidence-dense debunkings of pro-gun bullshit that I’ve seen lately. If you’re going to argue for gun control, you need this information. Another article responds in similar detail to why the NRA’s plan for putting (more) armed guards in schools is a terrible idea.

For a more historical perspective, read Tony Horowitz on the similarities between the NRA’s idea of maximum guns and the proponents of expanding slavery.

In short, the NRA has become a neo-Confederate movement that sees Federals as foes, and that stokes the paranoia of its followers by claiming, as LaPierre did this year, that Obama’s re-election marks “the end of our freedom forever.” That’s more or less what Fire-Eaters said about Lincoln in 1860.

The argument about gun rights in this country has a much longer, more twisted history than most people are aware of. It also cannot be separated from the history of race – I had no idea about the Black Panthers’ aggressive use of gun rights (and the NRA’s calls for gun control in response). It looks to me as if the idea of “gun rights” has shifted from its historical roots in a way very similar to the transformation of Republicans from the party of Lincoln to the party of angry white men, mostly southern.

And on that note, Goblinbooks says something like what I said about how defending oneself against tyranny with household guns is nonsense, but does so much more stylishly.

Love spells:

I don’t think I said this clearly enough last time, but the reason that I’m so concerned about when love spells become rape is not just the magical implications, it’s the practical actions that we take as a result of the way we think. When we in the magical community fail to call out certain kinds of manipulative magic as part of rape culture, we’re enabling not just the thinking, not just the magic, but the actions.

If we say, loudly and clearly and repeatedly – because it’ll take a lot of repetition – that thinking of someone else as an object for your manipulation into bed is rape culture, we’re working to eliminate the so-called gray area where a lot of opportunity rapists operate.

If we leave wiggle room for people to think these kinds of spells are not rape, then that same kind of thinking is going to be used to justify totally mundane actions that lead to rape. If you’ve already done the spell to get her into your bed, why not offer her one more cup of wine after Beltane? What’s to stop you from seeing her stumbling, mumbling, not-really-consent as the manifestation of your magical prowess? Or maybe offering her a ride home, and then taking her to your house, or letting yourself in her place, and, well, encouraging her a little bit….that’s just taking action in accordance with your spell, right?

No. That’s rape. The magical actions and the mundane actions are products of the same thinking, and one will encourage the other. We have to discourage both.

This is very similar to the situation I encountered when trying to explain to people why things like DC 40 and other Christian Dominionist “prayer efforts” are dangerous. Even if you don’t believe in magic, these kinds of actions that specialize in raising emotional energy and directing it towards a purpose have tangible, physical manifestations. People vote based on Christian Dominionist thinking and actions. People rape based on rape culture. The thinking and the doing are both important, and if we’re going to change things, we have to work on both.

Why the s0-called fiscal cliff is a feminist issue:

Women get lower pay all their lives. Then they tend to live longer. When we’re talking about further impoverishing our nation’s seniors, we’re disproportionately talking about women. Talk to your political representatives and tell them to push back against the chained CPI and raising the Medicare eligibility age, which would actually cost more. Tell them to raise the cap on Social Security taxes (that is, tax income over $110,000 for Social Security) and solve this puppy without putting more people, and more women, into poverty.

Science, climate change, and cash:

If you’re younger than 27, you’ve never experienced a colder-than-average month. Never.

Therefore any memories you have that you’re using to judge how much our weather is shifting over time are themselves already skewed.

This enables people like the Kochs to make gut-based appeals that cover for their lack of solid science. I haven’t read the whole report there yet, but I have been following a few other stories about how the Kochs and their cronies are so very deeply invested in convincing us, by hook or by crook, that we should keep making them rich and making our world hotter.

Notice the similar dependence on appeals to uninformed instinct between the Kochs’ denial of climate change and the NRA’s denial of gun violence. Our memories make it easier to disbelieve that the climate is changing, because our memories themselves are shaped by that changing climate. Our instincts tell us that we’d be better off if we were armed, because our instincts are shaped by the culture of violence, complete with magically perfect good guys who, as far as evidence can find, don’t actually exist in real life.

Life is messy, and complicated, and understanding it takes real work. But that understanding can be the first step to change. Won’t you try with me, as the light begins to return in this new year, to take those first steps, to change?

Limited success on Virginia TRAP laws

That previous post might have seemed to come out of left field. It was in response to a handful of the latest events in the war on women, particularly the conjunction of the impending vote by the Virginia Board of Health on targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) and the Minnesota legislature deciding that vagina is a wirdy dord (sic, that’s a spoonerism).

ETA: Here’s a great piece by one of the silenced legislators about how her minority religion (Judaism) influenced her position, and how she sees increasing anti-choice legislation as theocratically driven. (h/t to Hecate for the link!)

There’s limited good news after yesterday’s vote in Virginia. The part of the legislation that would have forced existing women’s health clinics to undergo massive, expensive, and wholly unnecessary rebuilding, which would have caused many of them to close, has been dropped. But new clinics would have to meet these unreasonable standards, and there’s some pretty nasty stuff still in the regs that poses a significant threat to the privacy of women being treated at these clinics – whether it’s for reproductive health care or for regular checkups, cancer screenings, or anything else. (And of course, the state’s odious attorney general is going to try to put back the bit about forcing clinics to close, so this battle isn’t done yet.)

Many thanks and kudos go to the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health and all of the amazing people who attended the meeting yesterday to protest. Unfortunately, we’ve still got a lot of work to do.

Catching up but still speechless

I haven’t been posting much for a variety of reasons. It’s spring break here, in more ways than one, and I’ve needed the rest. But I’ve also been alternately too appalled, too angry, too depressed, too scared, and too speechless to even begin to summarize my reactions to the assaults on basic humanity and women in particular the last few weeks.

Sometimes I hesitate to write about these kinds of things because I worry that my blog won’t be “Pagan enough,” whatever that might mean. I decided to stop worrying about that because this is my Paganism, my Witchcraft. Here, in this body.

One of the things that makes most forms of Paganism different from most forms of monotheism is that Pagans tend to hold pantheistic or panentheistic beliefs and certainly tend to practice in ways that honor and respect the presence of the divine in the physical. I will resist my natural tendency to go all theaological about this, since it would mostly be a diversion from my main point. (For theaology junkies, I’ll get back into it later, promise.)

The point is that a key tenet of my religion is that the divine is present here, now, in me, in my body, in you, in your body, and in everybody. My body is holy, and sacred, and most of all, it’s mine. Mine to live in, not yours.

So for me, protecting women’s rights to their own bodies – pregnant or not, on birth control or not, having sex or not – is an expression of a fundamental value of my religion. It is a practice of my religion.

I recently had a very dear friend express concern over the state of my reproductive health. She rightly acknowledged that it wasn’t her business, and that she was trying to walk a fine line between being loving and caring and not being too intrusive – which she did with a grace and elegance I am in awe of. But she was driven to discuss a personal matter with me because she was genuinely afraid for me, given the trends in US law.

How sick is our world when women express love and look out for each other by discussing how to keep politicians and theocrats from putting their lives on the line?

So as a Witch, I’m going to try to work with my speechlessness; I’m going to go inside, to accept and experience those feelings, and figure out how to bring that back to my work in the real world. And though I may be speechless for now, I will not be silent, nor will I be silenced.

A prayer to Justice

Since conservative Christians have decided to go on a prayer offensive about the upcoming Supreme Court hearing on the Affordable Care Act, and will do so again in hopes of trying to take away women’s freedoms, here is my prayer to Justice:


Justice, be not blind, but look into our hearts with piercing gaze and discern the ill intent of those who would rule over others with theocratic mandates full of hate.

Let their will be weighed as naught when you lift your scales that judgment be not swayed but find the rightful balance to help us live together in pluralistic peace.

Conservative Christians to “encircle” Supreme Court

In just a few weeks, the Supreme Court will hear the case that claims the Affordable Health Care Act is unconstitutional. Conservative Christian groups have latched on to this as part of the ongoing war on women in an effort to prevent the law from requiring coverage for reproductive health care. Now they’re planning to “encircle” the Court on the day before arguments start in order to pray that the Court rules the legislation unconstitutional.

In short, this is another prayer war.

These groups like to paint themselves as the victims, so they’re not using the aggressive language that we’ve seen from the NAR and others. But it is another blatant attempt to use the power of prayer (functionally the same as magic in my understanding) to sway a court decision in order to make public policy conform to their religious views.

I’m seriously considering showing up that day in order to counter-protest and counter their metaphysical attempts. Anyone want to join me?

I stand with Sandra Fluke

Add Janet Mefferd to the (apparently long) list of people who think I should die. She thinks I should “pay for” having sex. Well, I have paid, and it wasn’t cheap. But the alternative was death.

Reproductive health care isn’t about sex – it’s health care. And for entirely too many women, like me, it’s absolutely essential health care.

I’m not even going to try to express my wordless howl of rage at Limbaugh. Fred and others already said it better than I could anyway.

So, in short: I stand with Sandra Fluke.

From the trenches of the war on women

If in some aching dreams you too could pace
sleepless with the choice we find ourselves in,
and hear the fear and loathing we will face
as people tell us aught we do is sin;
If you could feel, with every cramp, the blood
ready to gush forth from ectopic wound
to salve your conscience in its crimson flood
and leave behind my lifeless form marooned,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To women ardent for a martyr’s glory,
The new lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro blastocyte mori.

With homage to Wilfred Owen and respect to veterans, I would like to point out that the war on women is still going strong. So-called personhood was defeated in Mississippi. Almost 60% of people voted against giving fertilized eggs all the rights of corporations  people, which would take away fundamental rights (like life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness) from the real, live people who would become little more than incubators.

I’m happy that it was defeated, believe me. But that vote was the result of tremendous work by women’s rights organizations, and even after major investments of time and money, somehow 40% of voters still thought the bill was a good idea. Why are we even having to fight this fight in the first place?

But fear not! Personhood USA is going to expand its efforts and bring similar legislation to more states. Satan won’t win every time, they insist. Others are misappropriating the history of the Holocaust to try to convince people that it’s a good thing to let women die. And in the next election cycle, graphic, gory ads may be coming to a TV near you – but they won’t show the horror of the pre-Roe days.

That’s my war today. It’s one I was drafted into the minute I was born with a uterus and a disability. And in that metaphor, I desperately want to become a veteran, to lay down arms (and coat hangers) and rest secure in my person and in my right to appropriate health care. So I pray, today, for all the veterans of the past, and for current wars to end so that there are more veterans and fewer soldiers, and I reflect on the value of life and how I fight for it.

Why I work on women’s health issues

Lit Spouse and I were recently deciding on our donations through the Combined Federal Campaign, an all-in-one fundraiser that allows federal employees to contribute to non-profit groups through payroll deduction. We talked about how to apportion our donations to different causes we care about, and I skimmed through most of the catalog of charities.

I was interested in donating to groups that work on women’s health, especially reproductive health care. As I paged through the catalog, I noted that there were several anti-abortion organizations of one kind and another; various groups that talk about “life,” and even some “crisis pregnancy centers.” I sighed and shook my head at the strange feeling of seeing groups that work at direct cross-purposes listed near each other.

Then I realized something. Reproductive health care was the only cause for which I could find directly oppositional groups listed. Think about the equivalents: there are charities for taking care of homeless animals, but no Kick The Puppies Foundation. There are charities for taking care of needy people, but no Give Money To Rich People Association. There are groups doing medical care or feeding the hungry both at home and overseas, but no one organizes a non-profit group for the purpose of making people sick or denying them food. These don’t even exist, let alone solicit funds from federal employees.

The closest equivalent is that there are some single-issue (or nearly so) anti-gay groups, some of which have non-profit status. I didn’t see any of them listed in the catalog. There are also groups like the one that promotes the idea that Christians are persecuted, which personally I see as an approach that’s likely to support limitations on the religious liberty of others, but that’s not their announced purpose. There are lots of other groups that deliberately or not support the hegemonic status of Christianity in the US, but again, oppressing minority religions is generally not their announced goal.

When people ask why I care so very much about reproductive health care, and why I am willing to work for it, this is the answer. There is no other single issue that I care about that is under attack in the same way. It is socially acceptable for people to raise funds to deny me and other women our rights to control our own bodies – even in cases where we would be badly hurt or killed.

Let me say that again: It is socially acceptable in this country to raise funds to institute laws that will kill women.

That’s why I work for women’s access to reproductive health care.