Monday, July 24, 2017

So. This #HavamalWitches thingamabob

Okay, it's about time to comment on this shit. Careful, snowflakes, there's going to be some mansplaining ahead! Because I'm a man, and I'm explaining stuff. Which makes it wrong, apparently. Because men aren't allowed to explain stuff, but that's not sexist at all. Whatever.

Jokes are not oppression, and words are not violence. Just sayin'.

About a month ago, one Jade Pichette started a bit of a brou-ha-ha by posting some pretty jejune feminist sound-bites on Facebook. Here's what set off the thing, it seems:

Let's just unpack "to critique sexism in heathenry," for a minute, if we may.

The definition of sexism is "attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of gender roles." So isn't this a sexist remark on its face? Aren't Valkyries and witches a stereotypical gender role (in this case, a female gender role)? And of course there's the unspoken but completely obvious assumption that this is aimed at men; assuming men are somehow chauvinistic against women is in and of itself a gender stereotype.

So one post in and you've got two counts of hypocrisy against you. Well done.

Naturally, the Usual Suspects in the SJW crowd just love this (and the fact that Jade is trans plays into the SJW adoration), and their web outlets have been short-stroking this all over the place

But it gets better. Let's look at the second half of that initial statement:

It references the fact in the Havamal there are some really sexist stanzas...

That's very true, when looked at through modern eyes. As we live in the West* the second decade of the 21st century, we live in a society that is vastly removed from that of 11th century Scandinavia. I personally think the author had just gone through a divorce or something. Check these passages out:
Like the love of women whose thoughts are lies
is the driving un-roughshod o'er slippery ice
of a two year old, ill-tamed and gay;
or in a wild wind steering a helmless ship,
or the lame catching reindeer in the rime-thawed fell.
Praise day at even, a wife when dead,
a weapon when tried, a maid when married,
ice when 'tis crossed, and ale when 'tis drunk.
The speech of a maiden should no man trust
nor the words which a woman says;
for their hearts were shaped on a whirling wheel
and falsehood fixed in their breasts.
There are others, too. But since we're talking about "the witches the Hávamál warns you about", let's take a look at the passage that does warn about them:
Sickly calf or self-willed thrall, witch's flattery, new-slain foe,
brother's slayer, though seen on the highway,
half burned house, or horse too swift --
be never so trustful as these to trust.
There are a couple other passages that have the word "witch" sometimes used in the translation, but they're not really warnings about witches per se. But you know what's weird about that passage? The Old Norse phrase that is translated by Olive Bray as "witch's flattery" is völu vilmæli, which literally means "a prophetess speaking well of a person."

So the only warning we get in Hávamál about witches tells us not to trust them when they say nice things about us.

No problem, guys. I think that's pretty much a moot point. Ain't gonna happen.

From there it gathered steam:

"Get out of our way"? "Join our shieldwall?" That sounds like some toxic masculinity right there. 

See, now, here's where I'm going to start asking for citations. Or at least an example or three to justify the accusation. The assumption here is that at least some men in Asatru (or Heathenry, as Jade puts it) use the appellation of valkyrie as a way to objectify women and make sex jokes about them.

Could we get a link to a couple of examples on this, please? Because I've been doing this Heathenry thing for going on 30 years, and I've never seen it happen. In Normandy, the ale-wenches were called Valkyries for a while, but that went out of style, and it was never a sexual innuendo in and of itself (although ribaldry in general isn't sexism or objectification, and certainly went, and goes, both ways, in my experience).

This is a terribly phrased meme, because what it should say, if it is to actually convey the meaning that it seems to want to convey, is:

When it is assumed that 
women and femmes know less
about the Gods because they aren't men
and have it mainspained to them (Emphasis added)

See the difference? 

At the risk of sounding immodest (and let's not forget that bragging about one's abilities is actually considered a virtue in our religion), I know more about Heathenry than Jade does, or, frankly, is ever likely to. So yes. I assume that I know more about the Gods than Jade does. Because I've been studying the lore for 28 years, and performing rituals and Workings and running or help to run hearths/kindreds/theods/tribes/fellowships for most of that time. 

But that has nothing to do with the fact that I'm a man. It has to do with ability. But, to take Jade's words at face value, none of the actual facts matter. It's all about gender. And if you're a male, you are on the bottom of the pile.

I'll grant there is probably something to this one, but it has to do more with demographics than prejudice. It's a simple fact that there are more men in Asatru than women. So when you see a women you don't know at an event, it's not chauvinism to assume they're there as someone else's plus-one. It's simply playing the odds.

Personally, I take that as a good thing. As in, it's an opportunity to grow Asatru. I'm all in favor of bringing more women into Asatru, but then again, I'm all in favor of bringing in more people into Asatru in general, so that by definition includes women.

Because, silly me, I'm interested in people as a whole. I don't exclude half of them because of their sex, or gender, or whatever I'm supposed to call it.

This one's interesting, because there's actually some meat rather than just a pithy but unsubstantiated one-line accusation. This time we have a four-paragraph unsubstantiated accusation. So we're making progress!

Grammar thing: I think what you meant to say in that first paragraph was "...and more are shedding light on sexisim within the Heathen community." Otherwise you're saying that Heathen women are mocking your assertion that there's widespread sexism in Heathenry, and I'm pretty sure that's not what you intend to say here.

Just trying to help. (Question: If help comes from a man, does that make it "manhelping"?)

But here's the interesting bit:
But to any men who wish to critique me... I am one of the witches the Hávamál warns you about.
First off, if there was any "warning" in the passage to which you seem to be referring, it's not aimed at men. It's intended for humanity as a whole. And I know I include women in my own personal definition of humanity. Do you?

Not quite the model that I would hold up as some sort of feminist icon, but what do I know? People are also holding up a comic book character whose genesis was in female bondage and submission as a feminist icon. Expecting any internal logic from these people is the surest road to madness.

Again, a little context, or even a link, would be helpful here. Was this a Twitter thing? Who's saying Jade isn't Heathen? Sources, damnit! Sources!

And... I'm pretty sure using a hashtag doesn't qualify as "starting an international movement." Just sayin'. 

So... women aren't different from men? We're all just interchangeable cogs in some vast corporate machine designed to get us to consume and produce and make babies who will go on to consume and produce?

News flash: only half the population is biologically equipped to bear those children. But it goes way beyond that. Even out brains are different. And that, naturally, leads to behavioral differences.

Men and women aren't just interchangeable cogs in the machine. And our ancestors knew this. There's nothing wrong or immoral in saying that women are better at some things, and men are better at others. Physiologically and psychologically, this is empirically true. And Germanic culture reflected these truths. Does that mean there weren't exceptions? Of course not. Does that mean we have a perfect understanding of those societal roles? Equally not so. In fact, I have a shrewd suspicion that women had a lot more to do with fighting in Germanic culture than is normally recognized (more on that in a future post).

But to say "women are different" than men is somehow an indictment? Stuff and nonsense. Of course they're different, both physically and psychologically, and biology makes that abundantly clear. "Different" doesn't carry with it any notions of "better" or "worse" that you don't bring into the meaning yourself. Are men inferior because we can't bear children? No, just as women aren't inferior for having less upper-body strength on average. Just different, and pre-Industrial society recognizes those differences and allows each sex to build on its strengths. That doesn't mean there aren't exceptions - certainly there were and are - but societal norms speak to society as a whole.

I daresay this might be one of the first instances where there's actually a substantive claim being made. That is, Heathenry needs to be "a more welcoming place" (for women, presumably). It would have been nice to have some examples of what Jade is talking about here (but of course that's a theme of this whole thing), but at least it's something.

Now obviously without any examples, one is left to one's imagination to figure out what exactly is "unwelcoming" to women in Asatru. I confess I have a difficult time seeing the issue, since the tribe to which I belong has about a third female membership. The same is true for most of the other groups in the area (with one notable exception), and on a national level both the AFA and the Troth (being charitable and including the Norse Neopagans here for the sake of example) always have very large representation among the fairer sex. So what could Jade be talking about here?

Of course, there is the vaunted Leftist tradition on display of being in favor of freedom of speech and being willing to engage with people who might disagree:

..if you are not supporting me... I am not going to be bother [sic] at spending my energy when you disagree with me.
Ah, the true Enlightenment spirit of inquiry and the willingness to push one's intellectual boundaries through conversation with those who do not share one's values.

Again, citation needed, but honestly, what a disingenuous and condescending attitude, not to mention being completely over-the-top. "Injustice & oppression"? Again, no examples given at all, but I have to wonder what the Hel Jade is burbling about here. Is it the fact that Asatruar still look to the Hávamál as one of the primary sources for our religion? The fact that men and women aren't seen as some weirdly asexual interchangeable meeples that fit modern post-industrial society's needs?

Here's another hashtag for you:



* With all due apologies for using what is, apparently, a racist term. Which is, none at all.


  1. Another poignant, brilliant response to a sad attempt to divide our community by social justice driven imaginary gender discrimination. In my 25 years of Heathenry I've NEVER seen any kind of discrimination aimed at our Heathen women based solely on their gender. Pichette's feminist tactics are straight out of the Marxist Frankfurt school text book called "critical theory." I'll quote from the article "The origins of political correctness," It says, "...this theory is called Critical Theory. The term is ingenious because you’re tempted to ask, “What is the theory?” The theory is to criticize. The theory is that the way to bring down Western culture and the capitalist order is not to lay down an alternative. They explicitly refuse to do that. They say it can’t be done. (Hence the absence of any actual examples of gender discrimination in Pichette's accusations) What Critical Theory is about is simply criticizing. It calls for the most destructive criticism possible, in every possible way, designed to bring the current order down. And, of course, when we hear from the feminists that the whole of society is just out to get women and so on, that kind of criticism is a derivative of Critical Theory. It is all coming from the 1930s, not the 1960s." (Replace "60's" with 2017.)I don't know what pagan circles Pichette's running around in, but it sure as hell isn't the Folkish ones. Our women are highly respected, treasured, and looked on as our equals in every way. They are our valued wives and partners. They are our inspirations, our counselors, our seers and volvas, our spiritual guides. Are they different from us men? Yes! Yes they are. In many many ways. And we love them for that!

    1. I am from Jade's community and we have not had that same experience. For us when we do our spiritual work we are questioned unless we have sources. It makes it very hard when we work with the Goddesses from the Eddas that have no real lore, simply a name and relation to a male God. These are the gaps we wish to bridge but we have constant roadblocks. These same roadblocks do not seem to apply to men in our community. Our women are often criticized and treated like we don't know anything to the point where if we say something it is easily dismissed but when the same thing is said by a man it will be accepted with little to no question.

  2. Try looking at this issue with as allies rather than enemies. If the grievances are being reported around the world there is probably some truth behind them. It's easy to say "it wasn't me! I dont see any of these problems!" And ask for sources and pick apart statements. But Pichette and the others are not asking anyone to admit guilt. They are simply asking for change on some issues that affect them. If someone says "the floor is dirty" and you respond "I didn't do it" at the end of the day you still have a dirty floor. Just grab a broom. If someone in your tribe needs help, you help them. If you dismiss their struggle then what is the point of being a tribe?

    1. Alien space invaders are oppressing me and the environment I am in are maddening as I am dealing with stupid people... they are everywhere, They are trying to thought police and charge me with thought crimes. Help.... (Any truth behind that? Just because some people say it doesn't make it true.)

      Next, he talks about his tribe and if someone in his tribe needed help, Jon would most likely help them. But just because I share the same religious faith with Mr. Upsal doesn't make us kin or part of the same tribe.

      I believe you mistake what being in a part of a tribe actually entails from your post.

  3. Serious question. Can you hear the gods? You say you have studied them for 28 years but do you commune with them? Do you practice seidr? Do the gods teach you directly? I'm legitimately curious. A lot of what you didn't understand and requested context for there was but you simple didn't include it as these are from before the posts were elaborated on or you edited them to not include it. You also lack context of experiencing sexism against you specifically for being a woman because you aren't one. Almost every heathen woman I know has had experiences of sexism within the heathen community. We can't change the world but we can change heathenry to be inclusive. You pride yourself on your 1/3 female population but that is not 50% which sort of invalidates your idea to begin with. Women are half the population after all. Claiming Asatru is male dominated so it simply makes sense that most women there are spouses is rediculous because that statistic alone proves how exclusive it is to men and their kin. Women like heathenry and choose to stay home because if we aren't attached to a man we get ignored or shamed. You want context but you refuse to listen. We're not the only women that have been using the tag. Women from all over have been, and the experiences listed do not need context for those they are meant for. They are meant as solidarity for the women experiencing sexism in the community and to shock people into reevaluating their behaviour. You seem to think this is just targeted to slight men but you're very far from the truth. Sexism is perpetuated by all people and especially by culture and society. If you choose to continue to disregard women and their experiences because they don't have it on tape and only have their first hand accounts then you are refusing to listen. Times have changed and gender equality is important to new heathens. Funny you're mad at Jade because she doesn't want to spend her energy on those who don't need it when that is exactly what one has to do when they are burnt out from trying to explain things to people who simply do not have the ability to put aside their privilege long enough to empathize with another human being. You hide behind old texts full of sexism because that is the old ways instead of accepting the fact that Asatru is a new religion and as such is a recreation made from not just Norse history but also Greek and Roman. You pride yourself on accuracy and sources but you only targeted one person and you refused to include the context you keep asking for. You want your sources sited go talk to that 1/3 female population you claim to have. Get it from the horses mouth. You are just trying to invalidate women and keep them down by saying their experiences are not valid because our word isn't good enough for you. I wonder if a man said something happened to them if you'd take their word for it.

    1. Oh boy, allow me to help you understand something. Your word means nothing to me. Jon's word actually means something to me. Reason: I have an idea of Jon's deeds and his words and works and I know what he is; he is consistent. I disagree with Jon on his take on Nazi's and on an old account. Yes, we should be mad because you say he refuses to listen but then you are defending someone named Jade who is refusing to listen as well. People have good reason not to listen. We have something called honor and if someone has no honor or integrity or it is unknown to the person then guess what, I am not going to trust but I will try and confirm or deny it but if one is regurgitating SJW talking points with a Heathen Slant. No thank you. Because their words are not good enough for me. You are calling Jon out for refusing to listen and yet you defend someone who said they don't want to spend her energy on those who disagree. Echo chamber much? Not accepting a challenge of ideas. Jon will approve posts even those that disagree with him. But if you can't give a defensible position then expect to get ripped apart like Jade did and chances are you would too.