THE NEWS: I recently had the unsettling experience of dealing with someone in the Pagan community who saw fit to defend Z Budapest's inclusion at PantheaCon in the name of "diversity." For the uninitiated, Budapest has repeatedly spewed hate-filled speech toward men and transgender individuals. The latest example, in her blog, is the absurd contention that women are "universally hated by the male gender." Further, she placed a sign outside her presentation at PantheaCon explicitly stating that transgender individuals were not welcome.
THE PROVOCATION: The belief that women are universally hated by the male gender is so patently absurd that it's laughable. Do all males hate their mothers? Their wives? Their sisters? Their girlfriends? The statement of that belief by a woman who has, presumably, never been inside a male's head to confirm it, is audacious to say the least. More than that, it's bigoted. But this isn't about Budapest's bigotry. (I've written about this before, and I won't recapitulate it here.) It's about people who indirectly promote such bigotry in the name of what they call inclusion and diversity.
I will preface what follows by saying that yes, I believe in freedom of speech. Z Budapest has every right to spew her bigotry on her blog and in the company of friends or wherever. But I equally have the right - indeed, the responsibility - to condemn such speech in no uncertain terms. Moreover, I believe I have the ethical duty to withhold my support from any event, individual or organization that gives such speech a platform.
When I dared to state this on my Facebook profile the other night, I was challenged by a "friend" who went by the screen name of Earendel Pagan. I did not know this person's true identity, or even, in fact, that she was using a screen name. I have more than 2,700 "friends" on this social medium, and I don't pretend to know all of them intimately.
The person in question proceeded to debate that the issue of bigotry was complicated, arguing that Z Budapest should be given a forum at PantheaCon in the name of diversity. That Paganism is not a "homogeneous blob."
"Does this mean mainstream Muslims should accept suicide bombers in the name of diversity?" I asked.
What did we think of Muslims who failed to condemn 9/11? What do we think of the Vatican when it covers for child-molesting priests? How are Pagans acting any more responsibly in failing to condemn hate speech toward men, transgender individuals or anyone else? I'll tell you how: With extreme cowardice. I don't care about Z Budapest's past, her reputation or her previous contributions to the Pagan community. Such speech cannot and should not be allowed to stand.
I personally will not stand by quietly and simply accept this kind of hatred in the name of diversity, inclusiveness and some inner hope that we can all sing Kumbaya around the bonfire. Yes, inclusiveness is important. But it MUST have limits, or a community will lose all sense of definition. It will become, to use my critic's word, a "blob" - but not a homogeneous one, an amorphous and meaningless one.
Boundaries are important, even crucial, in creating any community. But some people apparently have the notion that erecting boundaries is tantamount to intolerance - even if those boundaries are created specifically against the people who were exhibiting intolerance in the first place. Sound Orwellian? Ironic in a very Alanis sort of way? Sure does to me.
My point in that discussion was, and remains, that people of conscience must stand up against intolerance by creating clear and firm boundaries against it. If I, as the organizer of an event, allow someone to promote hatred and bigotry in a forum I created, I become responsible for promoting that message myself. It was with this in mind that I stated the following: I could not in good conscience attend events, such as PantheaCon, at which such presentations are given. In paying my entrance fee, I would feel as though I were indirectly condoning - and financially supporting - such behavior. This I simply cannot and will not do.
In stating this, my critic, the aforementioned "Earendel Pagan" (I use this name in quotes because it is not her real name) repeatedly sought to argue with me in the name of diversity. As though promoting someone who sought to EXCLUDE men and transgender individuals from an event was somehow an INCLUSIVE stance. If you promote bigotry, you simply can't call yourself inclusive. It's nonsensical. You simply can't have it both ways.
When I got tired of arguing with the person and defriended her, I was in for quite a surprise. I got a message, which I will quote verbatim here, on my private Facebook e-mail: "I take it this means you have no interest in ever contributing to Patheos again? [signed] Star Foster." My first reaction was to question whether this person actually WAS Star Foster, who edits Pagan material for Patheos (anyone can claim to be anyone or anything online). But sure enough, when I viewed her Facebook "fan page," I got my answer: Star Foster was complaining that someone had defriended her over what she termed a civil discussion.
Well, here's my public answer to Star Foster. First of all, I am, indeed, NOT interested in contributing to Patheos in the future. It is certainly Patheos' right not to publish my material. But if Patheos is invoking that right (boundary) - as it has every right to do - simply because I defriended someone writing on MY Facebook timeline under an ASSUMED NAME, how on Earth can it justify NOT setting a boundary against Z Budapest's hatred? In the name of inclusion? Diversity? I suppose that only applies to people who denigrate others' gender and gender identity. Not to people who have the audacity to *gasp* draw a boundary and defriend you on Facebook.
Are our priorities as a society truly that warped? Well, certainly, if Patheos (aka Star Foster, aka Earendel Pagan, aka who knows what else - I have to wonder whether "Star" is her real name any more than Earendel is) wants to champion those priorities, I wouldn't contribute to that particular publication again if I were paid a handsome sum to do so. I have more self-respect than that. A whole lot more.
If speaking out forcefully against hate and bigotry makes some people uncomfortable, that's a good thing - because becoming comfortable with such things leads to something far worse: a lack of awareness that they even exist. If we turn a blind eye to intolerance for the sake of tolerance, we are only furthering the very thing we say we're fighting against. At times, that takes confrontation. It takes standing up for one's ethics and risking a bit of backlash. It takes drawing a boundary forcefully and assertively.
That's what I have done here, and I make no apologies for it. I have neither advocated censoring Z Budapest's blog nor proposed curtailing her right to speak freely. She has a right to say whatever she wants, short of inciting a riot, on her blog and be friends with whomever she wishes on Facebook or via any other social medium. I claim for myself the same right. I am not saying she should be silenced, but rather ignored. I am calling upon men and women of good conscience not to listen, not to promote such ideas and not to give bigotry a voice. I will continue to do precisely this, despite what others who might be more well known in some Pagan quarters might think. Because, as Edmund Burke famously said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."