Wednesday, October 23, 2013

On Offense.

I am a practicing member of a minority religion. I have been since I was twelve years old, officially, and sort of before: This is the religion my mother raised me to, though she now no longer "really identifies with anything". I am a Witch, I chant invocations and do spells. I own a Besom, or ceremonial broom (which I also sweep the kitchen with, because a Practicing Witch is also a Practical Witch. My kitchen is Magically Clean whenever I can be arsed to clean it...). Wicca, for those who don't know, is a lot like Catholicism, only without the guilt and shame aspect, and without so much massive organization. My roommate also happens to be a practicing Witch.

So: While it is appropriate for me to jokingly say that I was late to my appointment because my broom is in the shop, it is not appropriate for you to ask if the particularly selfish and obnoxious friend of whom I have just been speaking flew away from the incident in question on her broomstick. Also, I'm sorry if I shocked you by becoming offended by the comment, and pulling out my pentagram and telling you that I am, in fact, offended, and a Witch, and have a broomstick. (Also, hearing anti-Iranian sentiment on your lips earlier in the night was just a little jarring and disconcerting to me, given the circumstance. It might have been funny had it come from your husband... Might...)

I really, really don't care that these views are simply those espoused and disseminated by Hollywood -- It's still offensive and rude to the pair of Witches sitting around your table. Intent is not magical, regardless of what so many seem to believe. (Seriously. Why have I had the "intent is not magic" conversation with so many people? What did they teach you? If something is offensive, it's not okay, regardless of what you meant by it. If someone is hurt by something you say, the appropriate response is not "Well I didn't mean for you to be offended!" or "Well that's not what I meant by that!" it is in fact "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be offensive." There is a huge difference.)

In ninth grade, I had my pentagram grabbed from around my neck, held in my face, and was yelled at because "Do you know what this is?!" by an irate christian girl at my school, who proceeded to tell me that my religion was devil worship. While I do in fact follow a man with horns and hairy legs and hooves, he is called Cernunos, the Lord of the Hunt, and in point of fact they're called antlers... And I do not remember how I reacted. I think I just snatched it back and ran away. I know I later wrote a heated post on the internet about it, on the one place on the web I felt safe talking about my religion.

I am finding that, rather than sit back and passively take whatever is being said about me, or my friends or family, I would rather tell the person being offensive that they are doing so -- and letting them see it by getting a little offended is something I am suddenly unafraid to do. Even around their own table at dinnertime. I am unafraid to let people know that they have hurt me, made me angry or upset -- and this is a big step for me.

I strove for years to "put up with" ridiculous bullshit, insults and injuries and endless criticism for not living up to some imaginary standard. If not at home, where I was mocked for doing ritual to the point that I was mostly unable to practice my religion throughout highschool, then at school where I was constantly the butt of jokes and slurs. The classroom-appropriate word for "bitch" is "witch", after all...

I don't feel like taking gut-punches silently any more. This applies to things beyond Wicca, and people beyond myself. If you say something racist, I will call you on your racism. If you say something sexist, I will call you on your sexism. It may not be loud, it may not be something that shocks you, but I will say it. If you say something outrageous, I will be outraged. Yes, even at your own table. Especially if I love you.

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