Showing posts with label Sexism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sexism. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Sexism and Polytheism Don't Mix


Exceptional liberalism, tolerance and love have been hallmarks of the Pagan and Polytheistic communities. However, that's not to say that there aren't some fringe elements, as there are in every community, religious or not. Although small in number, I have even personally witnessed Pagan leaders who exhibit clear sexism (mainly women toward men), but I would find it naive to think that there are no examples of the opposite.

I'm not playing any sort of blame game at all. The purpose of this post is not to try and call out anyone or start infighting. Over the last few months, I've contemplated the issue of sexism, not just in our own communities, but the world itself. It has led me to believe that one cannot be sexist and a polytheist at the same time. The two are not compatible, and I will explain why. 

Let's first define sexism. Generally speaking, it is the hatred, distrust and/or resentment of someone based exclusively on their sex or gender. This would mean that the sexist individual in question does not like what is male or female itself. That presence in the universe draws their animosity. Therefore, one cannot hate women and worship Goddesses, nor hate men and worship Gods, because they hate what is female or male. When you consider what it means to be sexist, you realize that it doesn't matter if it's toward humans or Gods, because sexism is disdain for nothing except sex and gender itself. 

If we are to ever reach the best versions of ourselves that the Gods endowed us with, if we are ever to become a great people in general, we must free ourselves of hate and prejudice. I think one way we can begin this is by recognizing that even the most liberal and tolerant people among us, have been taught to hate at least one kind of person for one reason or another. Even if our disliking is simply toward someone who has a different belief, we will find a prejudice if we look deep inside ourselves. We all, in this Age, have something to work on. Hate is like a cancer. If you ignore it, it will grow and consume you. But if you find and treat it, you can drive it out.

In all honesty, it doesn't matter if the hate is sexual, racial, cultural, or whatever it may be. Hate will destroy us, our families, our communities, and our world. It has already done so to many groups of humans through history. It will have no different of an impact on our own time if we let it win. We too will be destroyed. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Massachusetts School Bans Odyssey Because Of "Sexism and Hate," Proving How Little They Actually Know About It


The declining intellect of some members of the human race never surprises me in this day and age. A Massachusetts school has actually banned The Odyssey because it teaches "sexism, racism, ableism, antisemitism, and violence." Good Gods, I don't even know where to start, but I'll try, because I'm a Hellenist of 10 years who has actually read the works of Homer and studies ancient Greek religion and civilization. The first thing these historically illiterate people need to understand is that Homer was not merely a Poet to the ancients, He was history. To them, He was simply reciting things that had happened long ago, not advocating a political or social position. It would be like accusing someone who writes a US history book of being sexist, racist, or whatever it may be. 

Claim 1: The Odyssey is sexist. 

False. The Odyssey holds Goddesses and mortal women to some of the highest levels of honor, power, virtue, wisdom and nobility. Without Athena, Odysseus and His son would not have been safe from the suitors. In the beginning, Athena even makes a plea for Odysseus to Zeus, showing how valuable it was to have the favor of female Divinity. If it hadn't been for Penelope's persistence and dedication, Ithaca might have been lost. Without Nausicca, Odysseus may have died before even reaching home. Or perhaps you might think the story is somehow sexist because men at times encounter female opponents or villains. But this is a huge fallacy, especially considering that there are many female Heroes, and male villains as well such as the Cyclops and the suitors who are depicted with great disgrace. At this point, you're finding sexism only because you desire to.

Claim 2: The Odyssey is racist.

Have you ever even read the first book? At the beginning of the story, Poseidon is away delighting with the Ethiopians, a race different than that of the Greeks. So let's put this into perspective. One of the greatest Gods of the caucasian Greeks leaves Greece to go feast and celebrate with the black Ethiopians, and this is supposed to signal racism. In what reality? Odysseus travels to many foreign lands of people different than the Greeks, where He often receives their aid and protection. Sometimes, people in The Odyssey even sacrifice to foreign Gods when they are in foreign lands to gain divine favor outside of their own culture.

Claim 3: The Odyssey supports ableism. 

What shall we say of the idea that abled people are more favored than disabled people in The Odyssey? I would imagine it thinks disabled people can be very capable, since at the end, Odysseus, in the form of an elderly wobbling man, outdid and defeated the younger, stronger suitors in the bow contest, and then killed them all. So the allegation that The Odyssey "doesn't like disabled people," is an invention at worst, and out of context at best.

Claim 4: The Odyssey is Antisemitic. 

The largest culture closest to the Jewish people in The Odyssey would be the Phoenicians, who were a semitic speaking people. While they resided in Israeli territory, they in fact had trade and influence all over the Mediterranean. Hardly something you would expect from people who were allegedly hated by the Mediterranean at the time, but there is something vastly important to consider. They were not enemies of Odysseus. They were friendly, helpful and essential to Odysseus completing His journey. In fact, in Book 8, Odysseus blesses them by saying, "The Gods shower down their grace upon these people, so that no evil dwell among them forever."  Odysseus bears no ill will toward the Phoenicians, but in fact is grateful for their presence. Some might even argue that the Phoenicians would not qualify as Jewish people, since their king Alcinous prayed to a Greek God after the blessing of Odysseus was given and encouraged his people to do the same: "Herald, stir the mixing bowl and carry drink to the entire hall, that our dispatching the stranger to his land may be with prayer to Zeus the Father."

The antisemitism that's allegedly in the story was, in fact, pulled out of someone's butt in the year 2020 and placed there. If anyone can locate a section in The Odyssey that is blatantly antisemitic, please post it in the comment section and we will examine it. 

Claim 5: The Odyssey is violent.

Violence is part of the nature of the universe, and part of human nature when necessary. Get over it. Sometimes violence is needed to create, build and preserve. You think the Earth came into being peacefully? You think there were no violent events? What of the United States that gives you the freedom to speak against literature you dislike? You think we maintained our way of life through campfire songs? Get real. Teaching children that there's no such thing as violence is to make them ill-prepared for the real world. It may be unfortunate, but sometimes violence is necessary. On a side note, you know other books and stories, whether fiction or non-fiction, that are violent? Harry Potter, but even with the immense violence and the clear transphobic attitude of JK Rowling, I bet they are still on the shelves of every public school library. 

In conclusion, yes, it is true that in parts of ancient Greece (not all), women were not equal to men. Although they were highly revered and privileged in Sparta, a kingdom which also appears in The Odyssey. But it's also true that women were not equal to men for most of American history as well. So are you going to ban US history books? And what of the violence? You'll have to ban US history for that as well. 

Disabled people in ancient Greece, unlike in other parts of the known world, could become valuable members of society, such as Seers. Some cultures, notably the Abrahamics, wouldn't even let disabled or deformed people sacrifice in their temples or at their altars because of their disabilites or deformities. The Greeks weren't that ignorant. And as said before, the Greeks routinely interacted with the many races and cultures around them. They traded with them, learned from them, and made friendships and alliances. This is not the conduct of racism or antisemitism. 

There is not, nor ever will be, such a thing as a perfect history, culture or people. You're going to end up banning every book known to humankind. The point of history is to learn, but this is the blatant erasing of it.

Update - Apparently the book hasn't actually been banned, there has simply been discussion of it, but nonetheless, it was strong enough to create news headlines, and accusations that should be addressed. 1/5/2021.

In the Goodness of the Gods,

Chris Aldridge.

Work Cited: The Odyssey, translated by Laurence of Arabia aka T.E. Shaw.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Sexism That Never Occurs

Some people, whether they're Hellenic Polytheists, Pagans, or just historians, tend to think of ancient Greek religion as being sexist to some degree. I've even read this from other ancient Greek Pagan authors such as Laura Perry. I think it's clear, however, that some authors and historians simply desire to stick to their own one sided view of things, because they never talk about something even as ancient as the Homeric Hymns saying that Hera is revered "no less" than Zeus. In other words, they are equal in the powers of Divine Male and Female. There is no sexism there. They also won't mention how the most revered religious leader in the Greek world was always a woman (the Oracle of Delphi), nor do they bring to light the societal powers that Spartan women held. I'm not saying there weren't women-haters in ancient Greece, but it's unfair to judge an entire culture by the opinion of one playwright, or even the opinions of 20 philosophers. But this post isn't strictly about historical records. Instead, it's regarding the interesting fact of my own Hellenic worship.

When I am praying to the Gods, calling out male and female names, there's never, in my mind, a dependent connection between their power and their gender. In other words, I don't think Zeus is King because He's male. I think He's King simply because He's King. I don't think Athena to be the champion of battle because She's female, but simply because She is. Besides, with most Divinities of the Greek world, you can normally find a reasonable gender counterpart, such as Poseidon and Amphitrite, or Aphrodite and Eros. It's true their sexes are essential parts of their identities, and it's disrespectful to call them something they're not, but a gender preference never occurs to me. Sexism is just not something that makes itself a relevant factor, nor should it. To me, the Gods simply are, requiring no other reason. And indeed, there are certainly female Gods who hold positions higher than some male Gods.

I suppose for some people, no matter their religion, it may be hard to see Deity as someone different from their own self, but when it comes to a Polytheist I think we understand the immense diversity of the universe and all the life around us, that we as humans are but one part, and everything and everyone doesn't have to reflect our personal selves to be powerful, beautiful and relevant.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Was Ancient Greece Sexist?

Historians usually pin up ancient Athens when they want to talk about the sexism that existed in ancient Greece, or at least Athens of the Classical Period. While I am certain that sexism existed, as it has existed in many forms throughout human history, I have also found myself increasingly skeptical of its magnitude in ancient Greece. 

Ancient Greek sexism is normally applied to a starting point with the writer Hesiod, although the alleged statement he made about women isn't even 1% of his writings. What we must remember about Hesiod's writings is that, what we have today, could, in some cases, be entirely different from what he actually wrote. It's very possible, and likely, that Greek cultures down through the centuries did their own editing based on the culture of their time period. Unlike the bible, there was no "change nothing nor add nothing" when it came to Greek literature. But in the Hesiodic writings, it is claimed that he said that anyone who trusts a woman is a fool, and that she is after everything you have. But depending on translation, such as the one found in my copy, what he actually said was that to trust a woman is to trust a flatterer; do not trust flatterers. Hesiod was only able to look at the world from his own eyes, which were that of a man, so the flatterer to him would have been a woman, whereas a flatterer to a woman may have been a man, and that to let your lust lead you astray without thought and reason, may end up costing you everything you have. He was probably more so warning against a lack of moderation and recklessness than against women themselves.

We are led to believe that in the more Archaic Era of Athens, according to Plato's Dialogue of Critias that, "Military training for both men and women was very common in the ancient days. Athena was adorned with armor - an indication that all the female and male creatures that live together can pursue in common the special talents that are suited to each (Plato Complete Works, 1,296).

But even in the Athenian times of Socrates and Plato, we find that the City, ran by men, venerated a Goddess (Athena) as the Patron of the City, and did so in place of a male God (Poseidon). That's not something you'd expect from a culture that is overly sexist. You normally see that in monotheistic cultures where the worship is centered around one male deity. While the religions have many prominent female figures like the Virgin Mary, they are never considered divine or deified. You'd also not expect a culture, like ancient Greece, to be highly sexist while putting their trust in a female oracle, who was the greatest and most revered one of the ancient world; the Oracle of Delphi. The office was always held by a woman, who had been appointed by Apollo. So a mortal woman was always selected to bring the messages of the Gods to mankind, whereas in the male-dominated monotheistic cultures, women weren't even allowed to be clergy.

Being that Greece in the times of old was not a unified nation, but rather a collection of numerous City-States with their own laws, governments, calendars and religious denominations, it would also be entirely inaccurate to assume they were all the same when it came to societal roles. The women of Sparta were highly revered by the men. Women in Sparta could own land, receive an education, and gained a reputation for being the heads of their households. The Spartan society wanted thriving soldiers, and an essential part to that was a thriving female population to have and care for the men in the military, and naturally to look after things while the men were away at war. So you can't really say that ancient Greece was "this way or that way," because each culture was different.

If you knew nothing of ancient Greece and went back in time to judge their culture by simple appearance, it would shout at you, "We revere the female as well!" There would be no doubt as to what your eyes and mind would automatically interpret as the religious and spiritual foundation of their culture, and in many cases, even in the foundation of their societal roles.

Depending on where you went in the ancient Greek world, and the time period, you were likely to find women in several professions, including priesthoods. A notable woman may have even found herself being worshiped by a locality after her passing, like Helen of Sparta/Troy. Did sexism exist? Of course it did. But were women always viewed as moles of society? Certainly not.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Work Cited

*Hesiod, Works and Days, trans. Lattimore, Richmond, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor Paperbacks, 1991. Print. (pp. 63).

*Plato, Plato Complete Works, edited by Cooper, M. John, Indianapolis, Indiana, Hackett Publishing Company, 1997. Print. (pp. 1,296). 

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