So a while back I was at a meeting for pagan students and we had a guest who is a second level priestess and elder to our group president. It was an interesting experience, and I think she is going to be joining us for a panel about paganism at the university, which I will no doubt post about.
One of the big things she kept pressing me and the only other guy there (not as bad as it sounds, the group really is just three of us) was “what are you doing to help those young men who are coming up and coming of age in Paganism?”
The answer is complicated, really. Which is why I’m going to be running several posts off about this subject and the larger one of men in Paganism. Because this is something I really don’t see getting talked about a lot.
Really, you don’t see a lot of issues involving men, young men, or boys being talked about these days. Half the time, you’d think that nothing was ever wrong and that they were the luckiest, most healthy, and most well of group in the world. Which, is really pretty far from the truth. Young men have about the highest suicide rate in the country. A young man gets raped by an authority figure, most people laugh it off as a “you lucky dog” type thing. Sometimes that young man is then made to pay child support to his rapist if she gets pregnant. A girl gets hurt, there’s counseling, shelters, and options. A young man gets hurt, and well…there are no resources. I’ve read and heard stories that would chill your blood. Of young men comparing scars on a bus, not from streetfights or epic adventures, but from where their girlfriends beat them up and cut them, and how it was best to just keep your head down and walk away, because calling the police would get you arrested and charged with a crime. Of these same men being chanted down by girls on that bus about how “they had the power” and “would fuck you up with the police.” I’ve seen a man made to pay more than he earned in alimony and child support, and when he couldn’t pay, get thrown into jail for contempt of court, lose his law license, his job, and everything, be released by his ex-wife, who two days later had him sent right back into jail. For no other reason than she could.
I see men constantly be called dumb, ignorant, savage, rapists, sexists, abusers etc. Men who have done none of these things, who are none of these things. In the recession, more men lost their jobs than did women, yet when it came time to have a “shovel-ready” program to get men back to work, certain organizations insisted that it wasn’t fair to help men and not help women, and in the end more women got newly employed, while unemployed men were left unemployed. Hel, these same organizations, when they found out that the percentage of women dying in the workplace had increased demanded that something be done about it, despite the fact that it wasn’t that more women were dying, but that less men were (namely because of the loss of employment for men in dangerous professions). Not to mention that most jobs these days are the kind where you have to sit still for hours on end and multitask like crazy. Two things men are not very good at, but that women are.
At every turn men are told that we are oppressors, privileged, and racist (at least if you white, or lighter skinned at this point). At ever turn we see where there aren’t options for us any more, where a man can be abused in a relationship and know he is alone, where a man can get married and has a Greater Than Fifty Percent Chance that not only will it end in divorce, it will end in a divorce that leaves him homeless, bankrupt, losing his children, and possibly even ending up in jail, Even If He Does Everything A Good Man Does Right!
How do you help someone who is facing that? How do you help a young man who it hitting his teens, trying to become a man, but who is told at every turn that being a man is evil, who doesn’t have any real male father figures in his life because they’ve been systematically wiped out, and gets to learn that he’s the wrong sex/gender if he wants to get any help? How do you help that boy, when pretty much any organization that’s geared towards helping men, for men, by men, is going to be attacked and destroyed as sexist?
I’m not going to get all “Well, no one helped me, why should I help?” It doesn’t matter that no one was there to help me, what matters is that there are those who need help. This really is a neglected area in society, and especially in Paganism, where there’s a lot made of the Goddess, but not much made of the God except where he is to help the Goddess (who is really the central power) or to put him down as all that is wrong in the world (such as with the Dianics and a few others). It works differently in Heathenism, thank the Gods, but even there more work could be done.
What am I doing? I don’t know. But I know that something has to be done. So, this is where I start. Over the next few weeks, in addition to the Vices and Virtues Project, and the Pagan Blog Project, I’m going to be trying to post on Weds about what it means to be a man, what we as Pagans and Heathens have to realize about that, and what we need to do about that. And maybe, somewhere in there, I can find a way to help at least some of those young men out there, lost and alone. We can provide a place for them, give them a home and family and other men who understand what it means to be a man and teach it to them. Because it isn’t just about Rites of Passage, it’s about realizing what you are, and the divine nature of that gift. Paganism has taught women their divine nature, it’s time we did the same to men, because they too have been left wanting.