Wednesday, July 31, 2013



Pride. That's a really loaded word these days, isn't it? Pride can be dangerous, leading to overconfidence and vanity. Pride can be glorious: taking pride in your work, your skills, your accomplishments; full confidence in one’s personal abilities can be a sign of strength and discipline. As if the word wasn't contentious enough, modern social movements have given the word a political bent.

The Politicization of Pride

Since the desegregation of America, your average citizen has become familiar with the idea of “Black Pride,” and more recently, with the major legal battle over marriage equality, the phrase “Gay Pride” has become common vernacular. As a culture we've become familiar with celebrations of these ideas. We have rainbow pride parades, black history month, women’s history month, in addition to all the designated times or events where people within these groups can gather and feel accepted and appreciated by the community. It also seems to be some inevitable law of nature, that whenever these ideas arise, there's that one person in the room who says something like “Why can't we have straight/white/male pride?”. 

Much like the majority of Americans, I'm fairly active on Facebook, and spend an inordinate amount of time keeping up to date with the goings on of my family, friends, and acquaintances on the site. It was there, just this morning, that I re-encountered this line of thought. An acquaintance of mine, who I know to be a tolerant person, posted this:

You may ask, what does this have to do with Heathenism? I've noticed a disturbing thought pattern, one to which I once unfortunately subscribed. While I no longer hold this view, the prevalence in our community still sets me on edge. While sexual orientation is rarely seen as a sticking point, even the non-folkish members of our community occasionally ask questions like, “Why can't we have White Pride?”. This question is usually posed a bit more delicately than that (as most can agree that the phrase “White Pride” has some seriously negative social connotations), but the sentiment remains the same.

In a tradition where one venerates their ancestors, and tries to acknowledge their Orlog, it can be difficult to explain the issues with this line of thinking. Celebrations of various forms of “Pride” mean more than an appreciation for your ancestors, or your orientation, or your gender. These celebrations are a symbol of an oppressed group being allowed to integrate into society. Black history month isn't only about being black; rather, it's about acknowledging those individuals within that community who made great strides for social equality or scientific development. Gay Pride parades aren't just celebrations of ones orientation; they are celebrations of the great strides that our society has made, and of the idea that people should no longer have to hide who they are. These are groups who represent minority voices, which are often ignored by the majority culture. The picture above asks for those who are “Straight and Unashamed” to share the picture. My response is: You don't need to celebrate being “unashamed” of your heterosexuality, because nobody in our society is trying to tell you that you SHOULD be ashamed. As members of the majority, we don't need to proclaim "We are here, and we are people too!". Our inherent worth as human beings was never in question.

As a man, every day where I can get a job or a promotion; where I can have my stated capabilities accepted as true without assuming limitations based on my gender; where I can have access to male-specific health care functions without comment, essentially IS male pride day. As a Caucasian, every day where I never have to worry about somehow being held as a representative of my whole race through my actions, or have to worry about my employment opportunities due to the color of my skin, IS white pride day. As a heterosexual, every day where I can get married, adopt a child, get healthcare, and visit my spouse in the hospital IS heterosexual pride day. The point of celebrating pride in one’s grouping is to state to the greater society that we- as a unified group- exist, and that we deserve equality. Pride celebrations state that we are just as good, just as valid, just as capable as you are. As a white, heterosexual, male, I will never have to argue those particular points, because I already have “equality”; my rights were never in question. So instead of white (or straight) people complaining about not having their own pride day, they should try to be thankful that they don't need one.

A common problem I've met with while trying to explain this to fellow Heathens (and other Pagans) is that there IS an issue of social inequity. We are members of minority religions, and as such we all find times when that makes our integration and ability to function within the general society more difficult. Every member of a minority faith has, at some point in their lives, had to stand up and remind people that, "We are here, and we are people too!". It's imperative however, that we remember what battle we’re fighting.
In a recent debate on this topic, I was asked:
“What about Heathen Pride? Why can't we take pride in our ancestors?”
Yes, yes we can, and we DO! We have any number of Heathen festivals and Pagan gatherings. While not explicitly Pagan, the Highland Games are a celebration of our cultural heritage! My appreciation for my predecessors, my attachment to my Orlog, has to do with their legacy, not the fact that they were white. I am proud of my community, and the great strides it's made. I am proud of my Kith and Kin, who stand as the pillars of my life, and the role-models by which I judge my own actions. I am proud of many of my ancestors, who accomplished great feats of discovery and innovation.

So why don't we have white/male/straight pride? Because we don't need recognition and equality; we already have it. I eagerly await the day when we are all equal, and such displays are no longer necessary to force society to recognize your existence. That day hasn't come yet; we're still fighting for it. So before you complain about somebody else’s “Pride Day,” consider the last time you were denied a voice because of who you are. Would you want to deny somebody else their voice?

Edited by: Jessie

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