Wiccans and Mystical Women: How New Age is Secretly Bad for Feminism

It’s not hard to argue how oppressive the Abrahamic religions are towards women. If you take a close look at most Eastern Asian religions as well, avoiding the cherry-picking found in the cliché “California-style” hodgepodge of Dharmic and Taoic practices, you’ll find an equally strong tradition of misogyny-inspiring credulity. I imagine most skeptics and humanists will find the word “secretly” a bit too strong of a word to describe how bad New Age beliefs are for women, but what makes it stand out from other forms of superstition and supernaturalism is that it most often promotes itself as a worldview which empowers women. New Age beliefs are deceptively bad for feminism.

A big part of my work as a mangaka—writing and illustrating manga graphic novels—isn’t only my passion for storytelling which promotes critical thinking, but secular humanism as well, and the idea of human equality. This often makes me aware of how female characters are portrayed in storytelling. Typically, for a girl or woman character to play a significant role in a story (beyond being simply the love interest) she usually has to be one of two things: a) completely masculine in character or b) have extraordinary/supernatural abilities. This isn’t the case for male characters, who can be completely average and ordinary (even flawed or incompetent) heroes.

I recently watched Skepchick Rebecca Watson’s CFI talk on the myth of Women’s Intuition and realized just how dangerous these stereotypes are when applied in the real world. The idea that women have a special inner power which grants them privileged knowledge about reality is damaging to the female image. It’s a giant step backward from the reality that men and women are equal in ability to the absurdity that women need supernatural power in order to bring themselves to the same level as ordinary men.

This is why I find New Age thought, like Wicca, so much more aggravating than your average brand of magical thinking. Wicca tends to target itself to women followers. There’s a sense of female empowerment in its imagery of motherhood of Earth goddesses, mystical priestesses and the romanticizing of witch-hunt horror stories, used to symbolize the feared and misunderstood magick power of woman kind. It’s a type of magical thinking which lends itself well to taking advantage of those who may indeed feel powerless, unheard, and unseen, providing them with a way to artificially inflate a sense of self-worth using cheap parlour tricks.

Our society and storytelling share part of the blame in allowing this kind of harmful superstition to exist; New Age gurus, witches, and the Mistress-Goddess-Moonbeams of the world have closed in on the need for a source of encouragement for women looking to find where their potential lies. As advocates of science-based thinking, we need to promote the fact that women are just as logical and capable thinkers and doers as men, not just because it’s true, but because it’s our only defence against the kind of mysticism which preys on the insecurities of women and reinforces stereotypes. What the myth of women’s intuition is really telling us is that women need to elevate themselves to the status of deities just to compete with the abilities of mortal men.

If that claim isn’t bad for equality then I don’t know what is…

95 Responses to “Wiccans and Mystical Women: How New Age is Secretly Bad for Feminism”

  1. CanadianChick says:

    Thanks for a great article – I’ve long said that switching out Mommy for Daddy was not much of an improvement in religion; highlighting the problem of praising and elevating irrationality (intuition over reason) is a fantastic example of how this version of “matriarchy” is still patriarchy, just with a pretty costume.

  2. I fell into this trap as a teenager. As you say, I was feeling pretty powerless as I moved out of the somewhat gender-neutral realm of childhood and started encountering sexism in a pretty major way.

    But after a little while, I realized that Wicca isn’t much better. It still promotes all the same gender stereotypes that I was trying to escape. The only difference between Wicca-style womanism and classic misogyny is that Wicca claims that “female traits” are good and desirable.

    So rationalism is in the male domain, and intuition is in the female domain. The object of worship is the Mother Goddess – emphasis on “mother,” as though a woman’s worth is defined by her reproductive potential. Adherents must be soft and caring, there’s no room for critical scrutiny (because this wouldn’t be “supportive” or “affirming”). A woman like me, who insists on knowing by what mechanism spells work, had no place in such a belief system. Worse yet, I was accused of supporting the Patriarchy because I wasn’t constantly supporting and affirming the nutty beliefs of my co-genderists.

    The fact is that there is more variation within genders than there is between them. Any belief system that denies this is bad for women, and bad for humanity in general.

  3. Dea says:

    Great article and excellent points. I have the same trouble with new age thought and especially the idea that the ability to be a mother gives some sort of magic power, while the role of father is downplayed.

  4. electrra says:

    I recently wrote a similar piece in response to a workshop I was invited to called ‘The Rise of the Female Century’. The workshop looked at growing trends like collaboration and associated them with “feminine” qualities like empathy. This immediately made me very uncomfortable and I became even more distressed when other women around me began to rally around the idea. Here is a snippet of that article (unpublished) summarizing my thoughts on this issue:

    “The association with the shift in humanity with so called feminine qualities is a boon for women because it is the winning ticket. And therein lies other edge of a very sharp sword.
    The association of certain traits, thinking and behaviours with sex is exactly what put us women on the losing side in the past. Men could justify the subjugation of women because both men and women believed that certain traits were inherent in the sexes.
    And these beliefs were constantly reinforced because to question them meant questioning the structure of society and rocking the boat meant possible rejection from the group. It has taken a long time – a hard fought battle by many women and many men to erode these sex based identity constructs.”

    This Mother-Goddess-Female-Century stuff is just hubris.

  5. There is a need to promote the value of what are typically considered feminine traits; empathy, emotion, cooperation, nurturing, compassion… and this can be done without the harmful baggage of mysticism. The problem is that these traits aren’t valued in either gender. A “strong” person/character has traits typically seen as masculine–aggressive, competitive, detached.

    But mystifying feminine traits only sends the message that their worth needs to be justified by claiming they’re magical instead for what they are–valuable human traits.

    • I would rather we simply value the traits rather than trying to align them with any particular gender. So let’s recognize them simply as positive and pro-social traits, rather than mystical or feminine.

    • Jason says:

      There are many who believe the “feminine values” are now the values of America, for lack of a better term and thus, have usurped a large realm of societies status quo of values. To quote Bill Maher, “Sensitivity is more important than truth. Feelings are more important than fact. Commitment is more important than individuality.” I believe it is during one of his recent stand up routines where he discusses this opinion upon his perceived cultural shift. Furthermore, I think people like Richard Dawkins align themselves with the broader notion when discussing Post Modernism and Relativism. Though he is referring more to truth and evidence giving way to feelings and emotions.

      A question I recall from that stand up routine is when, in passing, someone were to mention on television that women are smarter than men, there may be applause. If someone were to mention that men are smarter than women that person would be booed off the stage. The question Mr. Maher asks is what does this tell us about our culture? Think we all heard, in passing, someone mention that if women ran the world there would be no war.

      I agree, we should value these traits for their individual merit and usefulness without appeal to mysticism, gender or because they are unable to stand by their own merit. But I would find it hard to agree that these traits aren’t valued in either gender as I at times find myself agreeing with Dawkins and Maher.

  6. Great article Sara! You rock!

  7. Stephen Williamson says:

    While I agree with your arguments, I don’t think Wicca really deserves to have the finger pointed at it in this case. Mainstream Wicca (as far as such a thing exists) tends to teach a balance between male and female divinity. What you’re actually referring to when you use Wicca in your article is more aptly termed New Age goddess spirituality.

    • Sadie says:

      i agree with you. i’m a feminist wiccan and i agree with soome o the points stated but i have to question whether the person has actually studied the religion cus it just sounds like they basing their judgment on few articles that outline the goddess and the one and only when within in wicca, there are also different types of it. dianic wicca would have fit better as topic for this article since it focuses on the trinity of the Goddess and no god- a ‘feminist’ version of wiccan only for women. ‘General’ wicca sees everything in balance and perfect harmony and appears to portray the goddess as the main one because she represents the earth- ‘Gaia/ mother earth/mother nature etc. so yhh, don’t makes this soley about wicca and the fact that a picture from the film ‘The Craft’ has been used is just offensive. -_-

  8. Alex says:

    You say:

    “Typically, for a girl or woman character to play a significant role in a story (beyond being simply the love interest) she usually has to be one of two things: a) completely masculine in character ”

    You then go on in the comments to list off what you see as “masculine traits”: “aggressive, competitive, detached”.

    Isn’t that in itself part of the problem? You’re defining traits as belonging to a particular sex, when, as ‘electrra’ points out, this kind of thinking is exactly what led to the persecution of women in the first place. Why are aggressiveness and competitiveness seen as “masculine”? During the time I served in the infantry I knew plenty of women who fit that description, yet I wouldn’t classify any of them as “masculine”; if anything, they were amongst the most attractive women I’ve ever known.

    Since you brought up manga, I think the show ‘Planetes’ was a good example of a story that doesn’t come close to fitting in your stereotype. The main female character could charitably be described as ‘weak’, but the same could be said of the lead male. One of the supporting female characters comes much closer to what you’d call “masculine”, as do some of the supporting male characters. The rest of the cast span the entire range, as do most human beings. I think it’s silly to refer to any of them as “manly” or “feminine”; they’re just people with different strengths and weaknesses.

  9. Wally says:

    “This often makes me aware of how female characters are portrayed in storytelling. Typically, for a girl or woman character to play a significant role in a story (beyond being simply the love interest) she usually has to be one of two things: a) completely masculine in character or b) have extraordinary/supernatural abilities.”

    I can think of quite a few counterexamples in anime (I don’t read much manga). The main characters in Spirited Away and Totoro. Most characters in slice of life shows, e.g. all characters in Azumanga Daiou and Hidamari Sketch. And there are feminine action heroes like Anna Liebert from Monster.

    • It’s true that anime tends to have a stronger representation of female characters than western movies or animation. This could be because their comicbook/animation market is bigger (it markets itself to a broader audience) and also because there seems to be more female creators (I imagine when male creators have more female peers it has an influence on their writing as well). The downside is that anime/manga also has some of the worst representations of girls and women as well.

  10. It is this sense of the inherent specialness associated with motherhood that leads to Jenny McCarthy’s concept of “Mommy Instinct’. The knowledge that a woman gains immediately upon becoming a mother overrides all else, especially facts.

    As a (male) parent, the first thing I learned was that I didn’t know anything at all. Watching other parents of either gender, I don;t think I was alone in that.

  11. Evi Nissiotis says:

    Woman and men are not equal…there is no comparison…there are no levels…they have different capabilities and natural functions of being. Women do not claim to have intuition in order to be equal to men…women do have these abilities naturally…as men have theirs…not everything fits into black and white catagories…some things are too magical and wonderous to try generalise or label…

    • CanadianChick says:

      “natural functions of being”? What does that even mean?

      “magical”? Again, what does that mean in this context.

      Are you saying men are not capable of intuition? Or that relying on intuition rather than reason is a good thing?

    • SamBarge says:

      You should try using proper punctuation as it would help make your post less ephemeral and more sensical.

      However, allow me to assure you, I am a woman and I possess no magical intuitive powers. In fact, I know many women and none of them can do magic.

      It’s curious that you say ‘not everything fits into black and white categories’ when you’re arguing that all humans fall into ‘women and men’ categories.

    • Azkyroth says:

      [Citation needed]

  12. If there were such a thing as a mothering instinct, there would be no such thing as child abuse. I have worked with far too many abused children to be able to say this is true. No one knows how to be a parent magically, nor is the ability to give birth a sign of your mystical prowess. I am a woman who does not have children and who doesn’t want children. Does that make me worthless? Unfulfilled? Less of a woman?

    • Jason says:

      I giggled a little when I read your query about being potentially … unfulfilled …. when mentioning not desiring to have children. In a sense, I would have to answer, yes …. not having child in a manner of speaking, will leave you unfulfilled.

      Welcome to the minority though and all the power to you!

      • Azkyroth says:

        But giving that having one expands you, wouldn’t you be even less “full-filled” once it’s out? O.o

  13. Freedom to Reason says:

    You are running on the premise that there is no such thing as womans intuition. What if there is? What if we find out that this intuition is just a residual survival talent where the brain processes minutae in the environment (and peoples body language) to ascertain the level of potential danger. Women with this talent would be more successful in surviving to pass on their genes.

    As for new age stuff being bad for feminism; poppycock! This womens religion is a natural transition of our society as we try to find a balance. We need women to feel empowered and strong. Critical thinking works best in a society that allows variety. Although I am an athiest and believe religion is dangerous; I also realize its potential power to change our society. Goddess religions can be the counterfoil to some of the more popular mysogonistic sects.
    Women and men have equal potential for talent and critical thinking. Labeling intuition as mystical woo woo without scientific enquiry does not benifit anyone. As for those women that have not yet made it to the doorstep of critical thinking; think of goddes religion as a ‘gateway drug’ to reason. Empowered women are more likely to eventually see reason than those tied to other dangerous religions.

    • Rebecca’s talk (which I linked to) references the studies showing that women’s intuition is a stereotype and nothing more.

      I don’t see how it’s a good idea to try and empower women by telling them they have magical powers. They don’t.

    • Man, the Bastard says:

      If you’d actually clicked on the link Sarah gives in this post, you’d see Rebecca pointing out about how intuition does have a basis – it’s the ability of experts to make snap decisions based on their training and experience. It’s the fact that it’s something that is unique to women and not experts who have to make quick decisions that affect lives like Doctors or Military Commanders that is the myth.

      Certainly, these neo-pagan goddess religions are better for women than Abrahamic religions, they still lead to a lack of critical thinking, and belief in unsupported, unscientific concepts. Furthermore, despite helping some women, they also alienate women who feel they are less of a woman because they lack things like “Mothering Instinct” and “Women’s Intuition”. (Something that is also brought up in the talk that Sarah linked to.)

  14. Freedom to Reason says:

    Telling women they have ‘magical powers’ of course is garbage. Linking the concept of intuition to some scale of worth between men and women is nonsense too. I don’t totaly agree with the explaination of intuition described on Rebecca’s link; but its much closer than thinking it magical woo.
    I guess the essence of my disagreement is labeling intuition as ‘magic’ that women are supposed to be using to get a ‘one-up’on men. I disagree with some of the fundamentals proposed as fact that the arguement is based on.
    On the other,hand I find the argument itself intriging and I wholly agree that religion of any kind is an impediment to critical thinking.

  15. Freedom to Reason says:

    Excuse the typo’s in my replies. I injured both my hands and am having an awful time with the keyboard.

  16. alan says:

    I believe the author of this article makes a flawed generalization. Wicca is not just about a mother goddess. As an adherent of Wicca and active member of the Pagan community for over 25 years, I have never encountered a branch or style of the faith that promoted a “The idea that women have a special inner power which grants them privileged knowledge about reality…” Wicca promotes a balance of God and Goddess-each inherent in ourselfs(regardless of gender!)

    Wicca does promote deities as archetypes, but those archetypes while divided into god and goddess do not exclude any chacteristics from the other.

    Goddess can be ruthless warrior(kali, moriggan, sekemet) as well as a nuturing mother.

    God can be a nurturing father(osiers, Frey, The green man) as well as a ruthless warrior(thorn, horus, Lugh)

    If anything the Deities show that both stereotypically “male” traits and stereotypically “female” traits are not only possible to be possessed by both genders-but that they are in fact not gender based at all!

    This personally leads me to the conclusion that Wicca as a religious practice encourages the desegregation of attributes by gender, and encourages the concept that we are _all_ capable of possessing and exhibiting attributes society normally reserves for one gender or the other.

    If that claim isn’t _good_ for equality then I don’t know what is…

  17. Myrkabah says:

    I posted this article to a local mailing list that I take part in, largely to get the input of a well-respected friend of mine who I thought would have some cogent criticism. With her permission, I’m posting her reply here – I think it’s an interesting perspective from a very intelligent person that’s worth considering.

    “Upon reading this article what struck me most is how uninformed the author is about what Wicca is and is not, and how Wicca and the New Age movement are not only not synonymous, but each concept take wildly varying forms from user to user.

    Wicca does not postulate anything about women having supernatural powers or special intuition. Some people who follow this path may believe in an intuitive voice that people have and can hone (Hell, my scientifically-based Masters degree program suggested that. It is literally written into the process for ethical decision making that “listening to your gut” is one of the steps you take.), however one of the things I like about Wicca, in the way I understand it, is that men and women are considered to have equal worth and value to family, society, and culture. We may exhibit different qualities (and note that I said “may” and not “always do” or “have to”), some based on physiology, some on acculturation, but no set of qualities is more important than the other.

    However, this world view, in contrast to the Abrahamic traditions and most of the cultural belief systems that make up the patriarchal world view, is remarkably refreshing to women who question their status in society, and to those of us who choose to use the word feminism to refer to this concept that women and men are of equal worth.”

    • Myrkabah says:

      One of the reasons I sought a different perspective is because I wasn’t sure if this was actually grappling with an issue that’s worth dealing with or is even justifiably an issue at all. While I certainly think there is a pattern of inappropriate appeals to intuition in the sphere of public debate (and possibly even that women are more prone to it for whatever reason), I’m don’t think spirituality is the root cause of it, but rather, it’s caused by a need to avoid cognitive dissonance about one’s beliefs once rational justification is exhausted. That doesn’t seem really related to any particular religious belief, I’ve certainly seen many men do it, and I’ve even seen noted skeptics/atheists (Penn of Penn & Teller most famously) resort to the appeal themselves. My initial reaction was that it seemed more of a convenient angle of attack towards an activist goal than a serious criticism in and of itself, which didn’t sit well with me.

      It’s an activist goal that I *agree* with, mind you, but I’m not sure if this is an effective or justified strategy.

    • Wicca does not postulate anything about women having supernatural powers or special intuition.

      It claims that people can have supernatural powers and special intuition. I don’t think it’s a bold statement to say that, in general, it markets itself more to women. I consider anything that tells people they can be empowered by magic, mysticism, or other divine powers to be a belief that falls under the umbrella of New Age. The mundane details of a Wicca are one thing, the fact remains that it manifests itself in the mainstream as awful things like it’s predominantly female followers selling spells on eBay.

      • Myrkabah says:

        “It claims that people can have supernatural powers and special intuition.”

        It’s entirely possible that my friend may show up and respond, but I had my own thoughts about this.

        Yes, Wicca claims that people can have supernatural powers and special intuition. But that is a separate and distinct claim from saying that women, in particular, have supernatural powers and special intuition that are unavailable to men, and I really don’t think Wicca makes that claim.

        The notion that women have to have supernatural abilites to compete with ordinary men doesn’t hold water within the confines of Wiccan belief, because they believe that men have equally potent supernatural options available with which to understand and influence their environment.

        It’s still the substance that comes out of the southbound end of a northbound bull, of course, because no one has supernatural powers, men or women. But it’s difficult to resolve the notion that Wicca gives women the impression that they need to be supernatural to compete with mortal men when it considers men to have equal ability in terms of magickal potential, and generally assumes that it’s being used in some form or another to further their own agendas and desires. Spellcraft books specifically for men do exist, and from a broader view, Crowley-adherents and Kabbalists are also ritualistic magicians that are predominantly male. So I think the question of male/female demographics with regard to magickal practitioners is unclear at best, from the broader perspective of general New Age thought.

        I completely agree with you that the notion of women’s intuition is damaging to feminism. I really do. That’s a no-brainer for me, because just having women relying on something that doesn’t exist is damaging in and of itself. But the break in logic for me is that notion of supernatural women versus non-supernatural (ie, mortal) men is not a tenet of Wicca in any way, shape, or form, and it doesn’t strike me as tenable to say that they implicitly encourage it despite the explicit stance it does hold based solely on its appeal to women.

        That said, I greatly appreciate both your article and your response, because I found it very thought-provoking, and I’m greatly supportive of what you do in general. It’s just that I found myself in a position of disagreement on this particular point, and I feel supported in skeptic culture spending some time explaining why.

      • Elle Deyoung says:

        “I consider anything that tells people they can be empowered by magic, mysticism, or other divine powers to be a belief that falls under the umbrella of New Age.”

        Then according to your beliefs all religion is New Age.
        New Age and Wicca are not synonymous. It is true that people try to take advantage of new-comers that don’t know much about Wicca and sell spells on ebay but any Wiccan who has done their research and anyone with common sense knows that is just silly.
        I do not understand how you could possibly use the word “privilege” in an article about Wicca. They are a minority, mocked and ridiculed by ones like you who make ignorant assumptions. Seems you know little about feminism also or you would know there are definitely feminist Wiccans feminists believes in basic rights such as spirituality and personal beliefs. Some of the very people that helped shape the Wiccan movement such as the author Scott Cunningham. Wicca is open to both men and women. They do not “market” themselves to mostly women because it is not a company. Wicca at its very core is about finding balance, and harmony in nature. You writing this without even attempting to learn anything on the subject and be so tainted by your biased and I’m right your wrong attitude its almost sickening to read. Very unfeminist.

  18. Joshua Skye says:

    The writer of this article clearly knows very little about Wicca, perhaps only that which she came across in a movie. If, indeed, she actually knew about which she comments on she would know that the masculine contributes significantly to the symbolism of Wicca as well and yet is often reduced to far more odious ciphers than “creator.” The phallus comes to mind. The woman as the mother and the man as merely the dick… it seems to me that it wasn’t women that got the short end of the symbolism stick in the Wiccan belief system… but, of course, I’d believe that only if I didn’t know the principle more deeply than I do. There’s more to it than merely the imagery. It is far more profound than that, Sarah Mayhew does a great disservice to the ideology with her disingenuous, narrow-minded and, to be perfectly frank, caustic rhetoric.

    I am reminded of Tin Hat guru Henry Makow who wrote an offensive diatribe condemning Pocahontas as some sort of feminist heretic that betrayed her people when, in reality, she was a reluctant, ultimately subjugated heroine. He apparently thought that the Disney cartoon was a documentary. Someone should tell Sara Mayhew that “The Craft” was a fictional Hollywood movie. Guess what, Sara… beyond the symbolism I previously mentioned there’s a High Priest just as there is a High Priestess! In Wicca both are important, not just for their emblematic characteristics but also for their Earthy attributes. I am also reminded of conservatives who seem to think that acknowledgement of diversity is somehow akin to their condemnation of it… not just because Sara’s logic is faulty and stems from ignorance but because there is clearly a thinly veiled prejudice shortsightedly presented as pseudo-political correctness.

    What makes Sara’s rant all the more offensive is that her condemnation of Wicca stems from her myopic (dare I say ignorant) belief that it simply reduces women, and only women, to stereotypes while reinforcing socially implanted insecurities and yet just a quick glimpse of her profile picture shows she has a bouncy, trendy feminine haircut, wears cute little halter tops and make-up. She, herself, is a willful stereotype of the western world’s expectations of what women should look like. She can’t see the forest through the trees and worse is clearly trying to discuss something she knows nothing about. Like many conservatives who try to justify their bigotry, it may seem like wisdom if it wasn’t so bathed in an obvious lack of knowledge.

  19. Mike says:

    Sounds to me like the author of this post has a bit of a chip on her shoulder. It’s one thing to suggest that new age religions falsely promote women as having mystical powers. It’s another thing to suggest that they do this because they think women would need magical powers to be considered equal to men. Seems to me like that stretch is based on the author’s own bias.

    Insisting that men and women are perfectly equal is lame. Anyone who’s observed the dynamics between groups of men compared to groups of women can clearly see there are many differences. Unfortunately, too many people try to pretend these differences don’t exist, instead of celebrating these differences.

    • Steve Thoms says:

      @ Mike:
      “Insisting that men and women are perfectly equal is lame. Anyone who’s observed the dynamics between groups of men compared to groups of women can clearly see there are many differences.”

      Do not conflate equality with sameness.

      “Unfortunately, too many people try to pretend these differences don’t exist, instead of celebrating these differences.”

      When did Sara do this?

      • Mike says:

        @Steve:

        The first paragraph of my post was about the author. The second paragraph was more of a general comment. But, since you asked, this is a quote from the article “the reality that men and women are equal in ability”.

      • Steve Thoms says:

        Mike:

        “Men and women are absolutely not equal in ability.”

        “There are plenty of ugly women with trendy haircuts and makeup”

        “What’s relevant is the fact that you will not find equal ability between the two sexes.”

        “Have you ever heard of a real life female mafia boss?”

        All your words, Mike.

        You claimed (and did not link to any evidence) that women were more skilled at empathy. Did you know that during the late-enlightenment and early Victorian times, the opposite stereotype persisted? Male scholars lamented that women were so cold and calculated, and it was grieved that they could not feel the deep, pure emotions and passions that a man could (even the great T.S. Huxley fell prey to this attitude). In a society that valued artistic and philosophic expression, it’s small wonder that the patriarchy assumed that men just “felt” better then women did.

        These days, it’s the opposite: we live in a highly technological society, one that depends on a deep understanding of logic, reason, and calculation. It’s small wonder why the men of our era (such as yourself) assume that men are better at the thing we need most. You (and others) may claim that it’s about “celebrating differences” of genders. But the consequences of such “celebration” is that it assumes men lack in empathetic responses and that women lack in logic. It is, at it’s very core: sexist.

        Oh, and as for multitasking: Turns out we all stink at it.

    • Steve Thoms says:

      I know that’s what you did, Mike. That’s what an ad hominem attack is: you attack the author, not the argument. And you attacked Sara on her physical appearance, too!

      And since you are conflating equality with sameness, I want you to say what you’re implying: Say that women cannot do what men can do.

      • Mike says:

        @Steve : You’re talking total nonsense. I’m not sure who you’re responding to when using my name, but re-read my 2 comments and explain to me how I’m attacking Sara based on her physical appearance.

        Secondly, if you think I’m implying that women cannot do what men can do, you’re out to lunch. I am implying that men and women do not naturally possess the same skillsets. The notion that a statement like that is meant to suggest that one gender is superior is your own personal spin and reflects a similar bias to Sara’s.

    • Steve Thoms says:

      Mike, you said….

      “The first paragraph of my post was about the author.”

      That’s what an ad hominem attack is: attack the author, not the argument. How do you know what her biases are? What knowledge do you possess that would inform this? Are you basing this on one article, or do you have some prior knowledge of Sara’s intellectual publications and stances that you’re not sharing with us? Without more information, you’re making a naked ad hominem attack. I hope you can do better.

      You also said…
      “Insisting that men and women are perfectly equal is lame.”

      And….

      “I am implying that men and women do not naturally possess the same skillsets.”

      Your words. You’re welcome to elaborate how women are not naturally skilled in one way or another, that a man would be (and no, physical size and strength are not skill sets). Otherwise, I suggest you re-examine your own words.

      • Mike says:

        Steve: I’ll ask you again to explain to me how I attacked Sarah based on her personal appearance. If you are not willing to explain where you got that from, then you have lost all credibility, and it’s not worth responding to you.

    • Steve Thoms says:

      Ah, yes. Forgive that. That was directed at commenter Joshua Skye who did attack Sara’s personal appearance. I thought I had deleted that bit, but I guess I was mistaken.

      But…

      You’re still going after Sara, rather than her arguments (by your own admission). Ad hominem.

      • Mike says:

        I’m not sure if your comments are because you think I’m attacking the author or because you think I’m trying to imply men are superior or if you just can’t keep track of who you’re upset with and are just looking for someone to accuse of something. Cause they seem to be all over the place.

        I stand by everything I’ve written, which isn’t much. I read an article which I thought was meant to represent the author’s own personal views, and I took issue with some of those views, so I commented on it. I’m not trying to belittle the author or insult her. But it’s HER point of view that I wanted to comment on. So if that’s what an ad hominem is, then so be it.

        Men and women are absolutely not equal in ability. I suppose that if you were to test the abilities of men and women to multitask, or empathize, the results would be a 50/50 tie in each category? As a matter of fact, should such evidence already exist if you’re going to be taking it as fact?

        Where men and women are equal is in worth. We should be entitled to the same rights and should receive equal treatment. But we’re not equal in ability. And the notion that women need to be equal in ability with men in order to feel like equals is what’s bad for equality.

    • Steve Thoms says:

      Mike: You’re going after the author. This is what an ad hominem attack. I don’t know how much more plainly I can say that.

      Some examples:

      “Sounds to me like the author of this post has a bit of a chip on her shoulder.”
      And:
      “The first paragraph of my post was about the author.”
      And:
      “…is superior is your own personal spin and reflects a similar bias to Sara’s.”

      You have no evidence of Sara’s biases beyond this article.

      This sentence confuses me:
      “Men and women are absolutely not equal in ability. I suppose that if you were to test the abilities of men and women to multitask, or empathize, the results would be a 50/50 tie in each category?” This sentence itself seems to concede to opposing points: how can two genders be unequal in abilities (remember that’s what we’re talking about here, not systemic or culturalized sexism) and at the same time be shown to have equal abilities?

      • Mike says:

        Steve: I’m not sure what you’re after here other than just trying to pick fights and waste people’s time and effort. Clearly you’re not interested in furthering the actual discussion. Not everyone who disagrees with someone is ‘attacking’ them. If your feathers ruffle so easily, maybe you should look for other ways to spend your time.

        I disagree with certain opinions expressed by the author. Based on this one article (and no I haven’t read everything ever written by her. That would be a bit creepy if I did) I think she does approach the subject with a certain bias. I am willing to explain my comments to people who don’t fully understand what I’m saying or who wish to offer a different perspective, but that doesn’t seem to be what you’re interested in.

        You seem more interested in getting hung up on the fact that any of my comments are directed at the person who wrote the article. Well if Sarah is simply expressing someone else’s opinions as her own, then please direct my comments at the person who planted those ideas in her head and forced her to write the article.

      • Mike, Steve is pointing out that you used an ad hominem attack against me, instead of giving arguments against what I said. Calling me biased or claiming I have a “chip on my shoulder” is attacking me, instead of attacking my ideas.

        “Seems to me like that stretch is based on the author’s own bias”

        This is saying “you’re wrong because you’re biased” instead of saying “you’re wrong because of *insert fact which contradicts what you said*”. Saying that what I said is wrong by calling me biased is the same as saying I’m wrong because I’m ugly.

        …or that I’m wrong because I’m pretty–which has already been claimed by Joshua.

      • Mike says:

        Hi Sarah,

        Thank you for getting to the point in a nice concise manner.

        Let me clarify a few things: I’m not saying you’re wrong because you’re biased. I’m saying you’re wrong because you’re wrong, and based on this 1 article, I believe the reason you’ve come to the conclusions you have is that you approach the subject with a biased perspective. And even if I was saying you’re wrong because you’re biased, that would be very different than saying you’re wrong because you’re ugly. Physical appearance is somewhat out of your control and has no bearing on your ability to reason.

        As for the reasons I think you’re wrong : well, can you tell me that you have evidence showing that men and women are equal in all abilities? Are you trying to tell me there is no ability that men or women excel in over the other? From an evolutionary perspective, it would not make sense for men and women to have evolved with exactly the same abilities in all areas. Our abilities complement each other as necessary for the continued survival of the human race. I take issue with the notion some people have that we need to pretend that men and women are exactly equal in ability because if we don’t then it automatically implies that men are somehow superior.

        As for Joshua – re-read his comments. At no point did he say you were pretty. In the comments above, you’ve been called narrow-minded and disingenuous. It’s been implied that your logic is faulty and that it stems from ignorance. It’s also been implied by many commenters that you have a weak knowledge of the subject you are discussing. You’ve imagined that Joshua said you were pretty, and somehow you seem more hung up on that than you do about being called narrow-minded or ignorant. Why is that?

      • “a quick glimpse of her profile picture shows she has a bouncy, trendy feminine haircut, wears cute little halter tops and make-up.”

        I gathered this could be a description of “pretty”. At least, he says this is what western society tells women they should conform to…in other words, it seems he is saying I look like what western society considers to be pretty. But, you’re right, he could be saying I’m just attempting to look “pretty”.

        As for men/women’s abilities; Steve already asked you to provide an example of an ability which one sex lacks other the other. That would be nice, since I already backed up my claim that this isn’t true by linking to Rebecca Watson’s talk which references the relevant studies demonstrating that such perceived differences don’t exist.

        Also, what is the bias you’re claiming I have?

      • Mike says:

        Hi Sara,

        There are plenty of ugly women with trendy haircuts and makeup. But again, it’s not clear to me why that particular comment from Josh that you quoted seems to bother you more than being called narrow-minded or ignorant.

        I already provided to Steve an example of an ability where both sexes are not equal: ability to multitask and ability to empathize. Whichever sex happens to be better at either of those skills is irrelevant. What’s relevant is the fact that you will not find equal ability between the two sexes. And who knows, maybe those 2 in particular would be a tie. But if you tell me that there is not a single ability that men generally excel in compared to women or that women generally excel in compared to men, I call BS.

        As for Steve, let me highlight a few of his comments to me:
        “And you attacked Sara on her physical appearance, too!”
        “I want you to say what you’re implying: Say that women cannot do what men can do.”
        “You’re welcome to elaborate how women are not naturally skilled in one way or another, that a man would be”

        Clearly, he’s not listening to anything I said and only interested in being confrontational and trying to pick fights.

        As for you suggesting that you’ve backed up your claim that men and women are equal in ability by linking to Rebecca’s talk: I did not listen to Rebecca’s talk, but did she link to relevant studies showing that men and women are equal in all abilities, or did she link to relevant studies showing science can find no proof that women’s intuition exists?

        As for your bias: It relates partially to the 2nd last sentence in your post. I’m assuming you would agree that men and women should receive equal treatment and equal opportunity. But your post makes it sound like you base that opinion on the notion that men and women are equal in ability. I think that if you felt like women had the same worth as men simply based on the fact that we can’t live without each other, you wouldn’t feel threatened by people promoting women’s intuition. You might be offended as a scientist, but that’s a different story. Similarly, when you look at a movie like the Godfather, it’s just a fact of life that men make better gangsters, and people enjoy mafia movies. It doesn’t make women any less special.

      • Joshua argued that because “she has a bouncy, trendy feminine haircut, wears cute little halter tops and make-up” I don’t know what I’m talking about. He’s judging me on my appearance.

        Where is the evidence to back up the claim that women and men aren’t equal in ability? Why should there be a difference between men and women’s abilities to empathize or multi-task? You make these claims and offer no evidence, yet accuse me of being biased despite the fact that I linked to a talk with information supporting my claims. You, instead, present your personal opinions as facts and dismiss my arguments as biased while freely admitting that you didn’t bother to click the reference I gave.

        “it’s just a fact of life that men make better gangsters” That’s not a fact; it’s a stereotype.

        I think that men and women have the same worth because we are all human beings. Women’s intuition doesn’t exist, so why lie to women? Intuition, like any other ability, is based on practice and experience. And yes, her talk covers the fact that stereotypes have an impact on performance when testing abilities. Women are just as good at math as men, but their scores plummet if they are told that men are better at math. Their scores go up if they are exposed to a positive female role model beforehand.

        So yes, men and women are equal in abilities but stereotypes give the false impression that this isn’t true.

      • Mike says:

        Joshua commented on your appearance. He was judging you based on your words. And the question remains of why the comment on your appearance seems to bother you so much more than the insult to your intelligence.

        Assuming women’s intuition is a myth, a religion promoting women’s intuition is lying to everyone, not just women.

        Do men’s math scores plummet when they’re told that women are better at math?

        Have you ever heard of a real life female mafia boss?

      • “yet just a quick glimpse of her profile picture shows she has a bouncy, trendy feminine haircut, wears cute little halter tops and make-up. She, herself, is a willful stereotype of the western world’s expectations of what women should look like. She can’t see the forest through the trees and worse is clearly trying to discuss something she knows nothing about.”

        He was using my appearance as a reason why I’m wrong.

        You’re right, another harmful side-effect of the myth of women’s intuition and other mother-goddess stereotypes is they perpetuate stereotypes about men too–that they are less capable of intuition, compassion, empathy, or nurturing behaviour.

        Hey, you know what I do when I’ve “never heard” of something–there’s a thing called Google.
        Concetta Scalisi, a “madrina” or Godmother: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/woman-mafia-boss-arrested-1086965.html
        Three die in ‘female’ Mafia shoot-out: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2011548.stm
        Erminia Giuliano, nicknamed the Queen of the Clan: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1085673.stm

        You also have matriarch gangsters in other parts of the world.

      • Mike says:

        If anything, Josh was implying you’re a hypocrite when he made that comment. And regardless of what josh may or may not have been trying to say, the question that still remains is why you why the comment on your appearance seems to bother you so much more than the insult to your intelligence.

        As for female mafia bosses, yes, I stand corrected. What I gather from those 3 articles, is that it’s quite rare for a female to be running a crime family. So the ‘stereotype’ of the male mafia boss is based on the reality that mafia bosses are almost always a male. As for the female mafia boss, it would make a very compelling story or movie. But again, you would find such a story to be unfair to women because the lead character is ‘completely masculine’.

      • Dianne Sousa says:

        Mike,

        I’m not entirely sure how far you would go with the whole “you never see female gangsters because they’re too empathic and therefore not likely to engage in high-level violence” thing but you are way off. Women often engage in organized crime of different types and often engage in violence. More than people realize, I think.

        I’d provide you with a link – but really, would you read it?

    • Steve Thoms says:

      Mike, you keep going on:

      “the question that still remains is why you why the comment on your appearance seems to bother you so much more than the insult to your intelligence.”

      It’s been explained to you again and again that this comment was inappropriate because it was an ad hominem and a personal insult at the same time.

      It said, in effect “pretty-dressed girls shouldn’t talk about feminism”

      I have to ask: are you defending this view, or do you not understand why people might see things differently? Do you truly think that it was a comment about Sara’s appearance?

      You also said:
      “So the ‘stereotype’ of the male mafia boss is based on the reality that mafia bosses are almost always a male. As for the female mafia boss, it would make a very compelling story or movie. But again, you would find such a story to be unfair to women because the lead character is ‘completely masculine’.”

      I’m not going to hold your hand and walk you down the path to tell you why that’s sexist and stereotypical if you can’t spot it yourself.

      • Mike says:

        At least when Sara responds, she’s doing something to further the discussion. That is in stark contrast to any of the comments you have directed at me. I would suggest you re-read Sara’s article, then re-read the comments, and at that point if you have any words of wisdom for me, let me know.

    • Steve Thoms says:

      Mike, this is as plain as I can say it. I cannot not “dumb” this down any further (though pardon the parlance).

      When talk about ugly women wearing makeup, or that women are naturally more empathetic, you are being sexist. You need to stop being sexist.

      • Mike says:

        While you’re in the process of re-reading Sara’s article and my comments, maybe you should re-read your own comments.

    • Steve Thoms says:

      Mike: setting aside your sexist comments about ugly women and men being better at leading mafia families (mafia leaders? Really?), perhaps you can explain this apparent contradiction:

      “Men and women are absolutely not equal in ability. I suppose that if you were to test the abilities of men and women to multitask, or empathize, the results would be a 50/50 tie in each category?”

      If tests can show equal abilities (which you concede to), why then are men and women not equal in abilities?

      • Mike says:

        If you think the statement “Plenty of ugly women wear makeup” is somehow discriminatory against women or somehow implies that men are superior, that’s too bad. Again, all you seem interested in is picking fights.

        As for my apparent contradiction, if you remove the words “I suppose that” and remove the question mark from the end of the sentence, then yes, that would be a contradiction.

        Your comments indicate that your comprehension skills and writing skills need some work.

    • Steve Thoms says:

      Maybe it’s my comprehension skills, but if I follow your instructions, your statement reads like this:

      “Men and women are absolutely not equal in ability. If you were to test the abilities of men and women to multitask, or empathize, the results would be a 50/50 tie in each category”

      We agree: this is contradictory. Can you explain this to me, or would you rather hurl invective?

      • Mike says:

        Steve: This is the last time I will respond to one of your comments on this thread. If Sara wishes to continue the discussion, I would welcome that. As I’ve said multiple times, your only interest seems to be in taking this discussion off track and picking fights. I’m sure skeptics have a word for someone who does that.

        I was asking a rhetorical question. I was implying that you wouldn’t see exactly equal scores between men and women in all cases if you started trying to test for ability. And even if there may have been a better way to make that statement, you should have been able to realize that I wouldn’t have so blatantly contradicted myself. So feel free to have the last word and say what you may, as I will no longer respond to your comments on this thread. I was more than generous to humour you for as long as I did, when clearly your only interest is to waste time.

        Sara: What I would have said to you earlier if Steve hadn’t gotten involved is that what you are perceiving as being unfair to women (i.e. your comment on storytelling) is in fact just a reflection of the fact that men and women are different creatures and we’re not exactly alike. It has nothing to do with society somehow trying to hold women back.

        When it comes to women and religion, Judiasm tells women that God won’t listen unless 10 men are present. Catholicism tells women they’ll go to hell if they use birth control. Clearly, that’s unfair to women. But if your view on women’s equality is that men and women are somehow in competition to show that we’re equal in ability, then you’re going to find many many many things that are ‘secretly bad for feminism’ when in fact they’re just a reflection of the reality that men and women are wired differently.

        It’s one thing to put on your skeptic hat and call someone out for promoting women’s intuition. But if you’re looking to condemn a particular religion as being bad for women, wicca should be at the bottom of your list.

      • Again, I don’t see where your evidence is to back up your claim that men and women are different when it comes to things like personality traits, emotional intelligence, mental tasks, or other talents. Human beings aren’t exactly alike, regardless of gender. Many men are empathetic, nurturing, and cooperative and many women are aggressive, competitive, and not in-touch with their emotions. Everyone is their own combination of traits and abilities which aren’t based on gender. The problem with a lot of storytelling is that it doesn’t convey this reality.

        People are complex–I’m both a talented figure skater and martial artist. I’m technically savvy, play video games, and like super-hero and action movies. I run my own freelance business where I can be aggressive and ambitious. But I’m also an artist who enjoys shoujo/josei manga like “NANA” because I relate to their presentation of relationships and expressions of emotion. I’m often patient and easygoing and I can be sensitive and caring almost to a fault, but if you get me angry, I’m fully capable of handing your ass to you. I can play guitar, I can install hardware, I’m damn good at multitasking. But I like wearing cute outfits, doing my hair, buying pretty shoes and drinking Cosmopolitans. Then again, sometimes I leave the house in a hoodie, sans-makeup, looking like a teenage boy. I own non-ironic vest and tie combos.

        Everyone is there own combination of human traits. Google Andrej Pejic–maybe you’ll get a small glimpse of what humans can be when they aren’t constrained by the stereotypes you’re perpetuating.

      • Mike says:

        Hi Sara,

        I appreciate the 2nd paragraph of your post, but I’m already happily married. Also, I was under the impression that it’s somehow off-side to be discussing the author herself as opposed to the author’s ideas.

        Here’s a stereotype: Women are more nurturing than men. What you’re saying is that there are plenty of women who are bad at nurturing and plenty of men that are good at it. And I completely agree with you. But the stereotype is based on the fact that the average woman is more nurturing than the average man. Do you disagree? Do you have any evidence to suggest that the notion of women being inherently more nurturing than men is a myth?

        Considering that women are the ones who are responsible for bearing children and for creating the bond between mother-child that naturally occurs through the process of breastfeeding, it makes perfect sense from an evolutionary perspective for women to be naturally more nurturing. And considering that a new mother would be in no position to go out and hunt for food, it makes perfect sense from an evolutionary perspective for a man to naturally be more skilled at catching prey. Different skills, equal importance.

        If I was perpetuating stereotypes as you imply, I’d be saying that women need to be more nurturing than men, or that a woman who isn’t very nurturing should feel bad about herself. But that’s not at all what I’m saying. And for anyone who watches the movie Die Hard and says to themself at the end, “it’s so unfair that they cast a man for the leading role” I would say to them that they have a chip on their shoulder.

  20. Corinne says:

    Men believe stupid things. Women believe stupid things. I am unable to believe in stupid things, which may be stupid in itself, as believing in stupid things could well increase my wellbeing and strengthen my community links, and yet I do not.

    What I do not see is the worth in demolishing one stupid thing after another in the name of feminism, skepticism or any other ism. None of the stupid things I do or don’t believe reduces my or anyone else’s basic worth as a human being.

    Wicca doesn’t actively harm feminism. Homeopathy (to which I don’t subscribe) doesn’t actively harm feminism. Atheism (to which I do subscribe) doesn’t actively harm feminism. A superior attitude, on the other hand, may well actively harm feminism by alienating people who might otherwise give it their whole support, or at the very least be intrigued by it.

    • Dianne Sousa says:

      Sara isn’t displaying a “superior attitude”, she’s engaging rationally with a topic. Sure, people feel alienated by facts and reality, but I would rather have people be able to explain their rational reasons for supporting a position than go on feel alone.

  21. Silverwing says:

    This lady knows nothing about Wicca, or witchcraft. We revere male and female alike. Harm none, do as you will.

  22. Jason says:

    Sara, if I may for one moment ….

  23. Jason says:

    Call you out upon this one sentence. And I do not wish to not acknowledge I understand what I think you were trying to say …. but the sentence is flawed.

    I read,

    Where is the evidence to back up the claim that women and men aren’t equal in ability?

    Okay … a small list … child birth, disease contraction, hormonal attributes, physical attributes (beard growth, etc.).

    Basically, all I mean to say … I have an ability to grow a beard … the majority of women do not. Women have the ability to foster a child, I do not.

    As to the haters, lol, upon this thread … high thread count, me likey … kudos to Sara, obviously a great couple of hour post …. credit to you … wtf?

    Long and short of it all …. Women and men are different, though similar. Just like dogs and cats. Humans, chimps, horses, donkeys, etc.

    Oh … one other ability women seem to relish more them men … multitasking …. men, they are great at that.

    • It’s already been said that we’re speaking about things like personality traits, emotional intelligence, mental skills, and talents.

      But, if you’re going to bring up physiology–sorry, that’s a spectrum. There are women who have enough testosterone to grow facial hair some men who don’t. The percentage of men and women born who don’t fit into a specific sex/gender isn’t insignificant.

  24. CanadianChick says:

    Mike, where other than in stereotypes, are women shown to be more nurturing or less capable of being mafia bosses?

    I like to start by understanding the argument being made – I don’t really know what people mean by “nurturing” if they’re implying it’s a feminine trait, so I looked it up. I got this:

    – verb (used with object)
    1.
    to feed and protect: to nurture one’s offspring.
    2.
    to support and encourage, as during the period of training or development; foster: to nurture promising musicians.
    3.
    to bring up; train; educate.

    Other than a woman’s ability to feed a child via her own body (if she is lactating), what in that list is a feminine trait? It’s unmasculine somehow to protect, educate or train? If you think that, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you did, that’s a societal dictate, not a biological imperative.

    And is it ability or society that stops more women from being mafia bosses? There are many examples of women with the requisite ruthlessness required to fulfill that role (not that it’s anything but a ridiculous example for you to have brought up).

    Men and women are not identical – but if you are going to claim that independent of societal pressures and roles there are significant differences in mental abilities between men and women I think it’s you that needs to cite proof, not stereotypes.

    And neurological studies of both men and women say that we ALL suck at multi-tasking. Women are probably just told they’re better at it so they practice more….

    • Mike says:

      I realize I’m not addressing all your comments, as I’m a little pressed for time right now, but here you go:

      Is it unmasculine to protect, educate or train? No, I don’t think so. I also don’t think it’s unfeminine for a woman to engage in cage-fighting. But I do believe that men’s general willingness to engage in physical violence against each other and women’s general reluctance to do so is partially a result of societal expectations, but also partially a result of the fact that we’re wired differently.

      It’s not about how a man could never do something in particular as well as a woman, or vice versa. Nor is it about mental ability. It’s about what we naturally gravitate towards because we’re not exactly the same. Similarly, in the animal kingdom, do the males/females of each species generally take on specific roles because society tells them to do so? Could you take some baby lions away from the rest of lion society and somehow train them to take on the opposite roles? And even if you did that, would they then teach their children to do the same?

      As for multi-tasking, when you say that women practice more than men, well if the scores between men and women are equal, and women practice more than men, then doesn’t that imply that one gender is naturally more suited to multi-task? Even if men and women both suck at multi-tasking, do we equally suck?

      • Steve Thoms says:

        Mike, you said:

        “But I do believe that men’s general willingness to engage in physical violence against each other and women’s general reluctance to do so is partially a result of societal expectations, but also partially a result of the fact that we’re wired differently.”

        Behavioral trends are not the same as ability, and I think you’re conflating the two, particularly when you say things like, ““What’s relevant is the fact that you will not find equal ability between the two sexes.”

        You go on to say that,

        “But the stereotype is based on the fact that the average woman is more nurturing than the average man.”

        You speak of the “fact” often, but you have yet to demonstrate that these are facts at all.

  25. Mike Bendzela says:

    Sara, you can thank Bob Carroll at Skeptic’s Dictionary for getting your article out there.

    Nice job. Religion–male-centered, female-centered, neutered–is bunk.

    I know a “therapist” with a license plate which reads: THE GODDESS IS ALIVE AND MAGIC IS AFOOT!

    My revised version is: THE GODDESS IS A LIE AND MAGIC MY FOOT!

  26. such ignorance says:

    The author herself is sexist!! when Joshua “attacked her appearance” in the comments, she quickly ASSUMED that he was calling her “pretty” and made a huge emphasis on a small footnote of a huge underlying point. She is extremely uninformed of pagan spirituality. It’s annoying that she refers to it as “new age” also, it’s something that has been practiced before Christianity.

    Steve Thoms is clearly just some troll who got into feminism for the same reason any hot blooded male would; to get laid. Sorry to lay it out there, man, but there it is. So very equal.

    You two are hypocrites. Thanks for wasting mine, and everyone else’s time.

  27. Sarah M. says:

    I was raised Wiccan, so I didn’t fall into step with it, or come into it by “choice” as many others. As such, I was privy to it’s pitfalls early on, saw the hypocrisies and stared dubiously and the number of people who flocked to the spiritual path searching for empowerment… both male and female.

    I don’t disagree that Wicca can be, as you say, a setback for feminisms search for true equality – creating an inverse paradigm as if to balance out years of patriarchy. However, you are misconstruing the true empowerment that can be found within the faith, which is the same sort of empowerment that ANY spiritual path can provide an individual.

    Your article presumes that All Wiccan, New Age, or Neo Pagans share the same views and teach/preach the same gospel with regard to what defines gender, what magic is, and what the roles/powers that males and females have are. Painting with a very broad brush, and omitting exploration into the “other side” it’s easy to come out with the conclusion that you have. Easy as it may have been, your research is wholly lacking and your conclusion is fallacious at best, misleading at it’s worst.

  28. Laurence Burris says:

    I wonder what the original wiccan Mary Daly would think of your article.

  29. C says:

    Thank you for this interesting article. I appreciate the perspective and respect your right to convey your opinion. But just so we are clear, this is ONLY your opinion. And as we have seen in many times of our history, opinion is important, balancing and dangerous especially when suggested to be factual.

    I am not sure why there are so many hang-ups on assigning gender to everything. In my opinion and just that; politics, religion and science get consumed with assigning polar qualities which leads to division. And division is truly the problem (plus our obsession with labelling) when we create division there are only 2 sides to stand on. When we create unity and encourage and celebrate differences then there is no need to decide which side to defend.

    I say this as a precursor to my challenge to this article…does they author actually know information about new-age religions especially earth based religions? Or is this conventional opinions loosely researched (in regards to Wiccans and Mystical Women) then translated here?

    Earthy based religions usually focus on earthly archetypes both female and male, which ultimately work towards achieving balance. And it is balance that is the core structure of its worship not assigning gender to those who are in charge.

    You see, it’s not subverting the male dominated traditional roles to lend rule over to intuitional women (which by the way doesn’t mean that logical-science based reasoning is washed away) it is restoring balance. That is the difference between conventional systems (religions, politics and science) and “new-age” aspects to these systems.

    I truly find it fascinating that people so readily swallow the opinions of others whole without looking into it more and finding both sides or different perspectives on controversial topics. That to me is the most important part of this article. It is sincerely illuminating of our conscious behaviour to see how many people have decided they stand on one side or another.

    • Dianne Sousa says:

      What I see in this thread from those who object to Sara’s article is an unwillingness to consider that new age beliefs have the potential to do harm and may actually be harmful. It’s worth considering seriously instead of writing it off as a poorly considered opinion.

      • C says:

        Thanks. I appreciate your opinion.

        I actually don’t subscribe to one belief or another, and precisely because not all aspects of religions suite what I consider as my connection to the physical world.

        Yes and I do agree that it may be harmful. And just as harmful as all religions can be when they are fueled by the need to divide right and wrong, judge and defend.

        I also noticed to that you have a lot of comments on this particular article. All of which are associated with only one vein of thought and if I might add, a need to defend your side.

        I respect that and honour passion for a cause. I also respect the ability to see and research both sides and their validity.

        Many common traits are woven into most of humanities belief structures not just for example the Wiccan faith. Have you done any research into the many diverse religions and spiritual beliefs of our planet?

      • Dianne Sousa says:

        C,

        The reason why you see consistency in my comments here is because I’ve taken the time to consider the issue and all the evidence available to me. I’ve taken a position and it’s not a bad thing to defend it, or to challenge others to defend theirs. While I recognize that people feel uncomfortable with having to make judgements about the validity of different points of view, there is nothing to be gained by assuming that every idea that can be conceived has something to contribute.

        Wicca makes claims about the world that are untrue. It offers nothing to further our understanding of the world as it really is. There is nothing to celebrate when someone is wrong and there is nothing to be gained by simply knowing that other perspectives exist without evaluating their validity.

      • C says:

        Hmmm…

        You are making strong statements here.

        Stating outright that Wiccan is wrong is intriguing to me just because you eloquently deflected the direct question I asked you and redirected it to something that actually was unrelated to our conversation.

        As I said before, you will not offend me regarding your personal opinions and research conducted on religion, because I do not subscribe to anyone in particular. What is interesting though is the fact that you are clearly decided on Wiccan being as you say “wrong”. So that engages me to ask what to do you perceive to be right?

        Just so we are clear, you are conversing with me right? Conversing is what I consider a mature exchange on ideas, opinions and current affairs. I am a little confused because your response seems more directed on maintaining a defense on your stance not what I actually commented on. Or perhaps this forum is something you use to express your opinion without interruption and that to me is fine as well. As, freedom of expression is something that I hold dearly.

  30. Chenoa says:

    What upsets me is that I myself am a Christian Wiccan and I certainly didn’t get an impression that Wiccan faith has been to empower woman. I’m sorry but this article is horrible. I think it was poorly written with out common sense. Instead of looking into the wiccan community about how most of us REALLY feel, This article was based on pure small mindedness opinion not to mention lack of respect for other people and their religions. Not all wiccans believe in “supernatural powers” as you POORLY worded it. I come from generations of ancestors of wicca and our religion was in twined beautifully with spirituality and nature. My grandfather (may he rest in peace) and his father were wiccan and I’m so proud that they stuck to their beliefs despite what other ppl decided was right or wrong. I am so happy to see there our others that also share my feelings on this matter. Because of horrible opinions like this article, alot of wiccans have gone mute and afraid to stand up for what we believe. Us and our faith our REAL and should have just as much rights to our beliefs as others. To those who judge and condone others in a very non Christian way, karma has a bad uncontrollable wrath. All I can do is pray for your soul.

  31. This premise is so flawed, it’s almost not worth responding to. But in the interests of your readers, I’ll point out the biggest errors:

    1. Feminism does NOT say nor imply that women are or should be like men in order to be valid and valued. It is, in fact, an anti-feminist idea that women need to be like men. Women do not need to be just as logical as men. Most women’s minds function in a different manner… just as able, but not the linear track of logic. Whoever said that logic was the goal? Right-thinking, perhaps, right-action… but logic is merely one road to that.

    2. You’ve entirely missed the point on Wicca—you obviously know nothing about it. It seems you’re getting your “information” from the media you so disparage.

    3. Wicca doesn’t market itself to women. Nowhere is there a secret cabal of people making huge fortunes off gullible women by selling them Wicca. Women are drawn to and are creating Wicca to fill the need for a more balanced and woman- and Earth-honouring spiritual path.

    4. Wicca has nothing to do with New Age, despite some superficial resemblances.

    5. There is nothing “supernatural” about intuition. Only a mind submerged in a male model of the superstition of materialism could believe that.

    6. Society is to blame for “allowing” superstition to exist? As opposed to what, thought-police and “re-education”? For my part, I appreciate that society allows the superstition of skepticism to exist, as it provides a useful perspective (when not believed in as fanatically as a religion in its own right).

    7. Wicca doesn’t teach “cheap parlour tricks.” Honestly, where do you get your information? The media?

    In short, you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Please do yourself and your readers a favour before you begin spouting off with half-baked hypotheses.

    It might be more insightful to explore why so many women can demonstrate time after time that they’ve experienced things that skeptics call supernatural. Or why Wicca is changing people’s lives on a deep level. Or what the advantages are, to women’s place in the world, of honouring a feminine face of divinity.

    This is just the most simpleminded knee-jerk kind of claptrap that gives skeptics such a bad reputation.

    Well done.

    • Dianne Sousa says:

      Erin,

      In a few minutes of persuing your site, I’ve learned that you charge $100 an hour for what you call “spiritual counselling”. So I feel comfortable concluding that at least one person profits from selling gullible people wiccan nonsense.

  32. Emily says:

    If there’s one industry that perpetuates reductionistic images of women — perennially thin, magically endowed, doey eyed drones of infatuation — it’s the manga industry.

    I agree that Wiccan/New Age tropes of ‘women’s intuition’ get tiresome. I might say the same thing about many First Nations traditions that posit the same thing — including harmful superstitions that menstruation is ‘unclean’. But I also recognise that Wicca, in positing the distinctiveness of female experience, made a strong departure from male-based spiritualities that understood female bodies only as incubators in waiting.

    I recognise this won’t satisfy the skeptical hermeneutic, which is looking only for negative elements in religious — easily found, I agree. But I think it’s short-sighted of you to focus on portrayals of women in ‘Wicca’ — you use this term quite sloppily — on this one principle. The premise is that men and women have equally valid, yet also distinctive, modes of experiencing the world. True, this can become heavy-handed and essentialistic. But I reckon it’s useful to consider the ways in which these descriptions have been used more openly.

    And, again, that someone who announces herself as an English language manga artist in the first sentence — with a Japanese loan word even — would make this criticism is pretty hilarious to me. I’m far more worried about the stripped naked rapes that ‘Kuroba-’ serves up every month than a Wiccan woman who claims that estrogen is linked to variations in moods that create a ‘magickal’ feeling.

  33. Chenoa says:

    THANK YOU ERIN! It’s nice to see someone with an educated comment. You’ve explained it so well.

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  • Sara E. Mayhew

    International award-winning mangaka and 2009 TED Fellowship member, Sara E. Mayhew is a Canadian writer and illustrator striving to produce manga that promotes skepticism and critical thinking. Canada's prestigious graphic arts magazine, Applied Arts, featured her in their Young Blood article on "new talent commanding our attention". She has spoken on the TED Fellows stage at the TED 2009 conference in Long Beach, CA, and more recently at TEDActive 2010 in Palm Springs, CA. Currently, Sara is working on producing a new series, Legend of the Ztarr, that aims to introduce manga readers to skeptical and humanist values through storytelling. Her blog, There Are Four Lights, combines art and skepticism, with occasional pepperings of general geekdom and random cuteness.