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Fighting Stereotypes within our own community - Non-Fluffy Pagan Parents
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Subject:Fighting Stereotypes within our own community
Time:02:03 pm
Current Mood:curiouscurious
I have recently been reading communities about pagan parenting and alternative parenting and find one commonality to be very disturbing.

As pagans, I would like to think that most of us are intelligent and have open minds. Am I being naive?

I have found that there are many people who accept stereotype as 'normal' or who dont even think twice about it. Is this because people dont look or is it because people are not trained to look for it? Is it laziness and apathy? Reading stories to children about Witches riding around on broomsticks, wearing pointed black hats and casting spells on evil-doers is promoting a stereotype image of a Witch that, personally, I do not want to encourage. If this were an image of a Native American wearing nothing but a deerskin tunic and a feather headdress, there would be outrage at the lack of cultural sensitivity and promotion of ethnic stereotype.

Based in the same concept, seems to be the opinion that we should expose our children to all religions, faiths and cultures...all except Christianity. Are we afraid, as pagans and witches, that our children will be 'turned'? Are we so intolerant that we would disallow our children to learn about Christianity because thats the 'bad' religion? Or is our own faith so slight that we cannot hold our own?

Maybe it is because I was never really 'in the broom closet' so I cant really relate to people's fear of being found out. I just wonder about the compromises we make and what they teach our kids. To me, it seems we are teaching them that it is something to be kept hidden, or to be ashamed of. It is beyond me how a family can claim to be pagan and still celebrate Christmas because they dont want their children to know they're pagan. Is it just me or does this not make sense??
Maybe I am completely wrong and have misinterpreted it, but it seems that we are not really teaching our kids anything when we hide, promote or encourage stereotypes, and live contrary to our beliefs. Its that whole "do what I say, not what I do" Makes me wonder if some people really believe, or is it just the cool thing to be...

or...maybe Im confused just cuz Im Canadian ;)

Sirene
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mzwyndi
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Time:2006-04-20 01:16 pm (UTC)
find one commonality to be very disturbing

Okay, I read it three times. I still don't know what one commonality you find so disturbing. You go on with several paragraphs that I can't suss a theme from:

- Stereotyping. Yes, it happens. It is, in fact, a part of how healthy human brain processes work. Without it, we would be entirely unable to function in the sea of data we are exposed to every day.

- Images of witches. There's a lot of value in the icons of folk stories. Don't dismiss every pointy hat as insulting: Go find some Baba Yaga stories. Critically read the stereotyping: What ARE they saying, exactly. Many of the witches in the original stories are perfectly respectable characters. I don't do much truck with anything more modern than the victorian revival of folklore, that stuff is largely trash.

- The concept of "normal". It is a strange generality that's popped up in the last fifty or so years, largely as a byproduct of the heavy social engineering following WWII. It's a mythical state of being. One used to assume a fascinating range of temperments and diverse opinions were the hallmarks of humanity. Now, the quest to acheive this mythical state is oddly pervasive. Interestingly, without the defined mythical "normality", there's no potential to develop an "alternative". Counterculture is derivative and reactionary.

- Exposure of children to religious diversity. Okay, that's a whole other set of topics unto itself. I'm always floored when people act like my faith is my kid's business. I was raised in a household where religion was something you didn't have until you 'came of age' (usually 13). I carry that tradition with my child-rearing. Nobody under that age knows or much cares about the big questions that religions are there to help us answer for ourselves. Until then, I'm content with "live right, be happy" as a message. Someone else said, "Nature = Good." Yeah. Like that. Basically everything you ever learn in a Wicca 101 course is *already a part of the kindergarten curriculum*. I see no reason to mess with that.

- Anti-christianity. Just silly. Next?

- Broom closets. Okay, well, this post shows a basic ignorance about why people would chose to keep their faith private. It's not only normal, it's common practice to teach children about privacy. You don't look in your neighbors windows. You don't open the bathroom door without knocking. You don't discuss a range of topics with people that you don't know very, very, very well. Mine is not a religion that seeks to convert people.

- Christmas. Well, c'mon. Realistically, it gets old trying to explain that I have a tree, and mistletoe, and a wreath, and presents, and stockings, and carolling, and a jolly old elf, and sleigh rides, and yule logs, and feasting, and plum pudding, and eggnog... but I don't celebrate christmas. My four-year-old doesn't see the distinction. What I do is the very *core* of what his friends call christmas. Ultimately, I'm not interested in forcing the language on him. This year, he informed me that the be-ribboned tree outside the house was a Yule tree and the artificial thing in the living room was a Christmas tree. I didn't see the need to argue, because it made him feel good. If that doesn't make sense to you, tough. It made perfect sense to us.

Maybe I am completely wrong and have misinterpreted it, but it seems that we are not really teaching our kids anything when we hide, promote or encourage stereotypes, and live contrary to our beliefs.

You have completely misinterpreted it. See, the thing is, children don't need faith. Faith is the province of adults.
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uncledark
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Time:2006-04-20 05:54 pm (UTC)
Stereotyping. Yes, it happens. It is, in fact, a part of how healthy human brain processes work. Without it, we would be entirely unable to function in the sea of data we are exposed to every day.

True, to a point. Yes, creating general schema and patterns of expectation are how the brain handles the flood of sense-data. However, when used as above, the term "stereotype" usually denotes an instance where this technique is used in a dysfunctonal manner. That is, when new data is refused in favor of old, and false data is favored over true.

See, the thing is, children don't need faith. Faith is the province of adults.

Interesting. Care to expand upon that?
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mzwyndi
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Time:2006-04-20 07:34 pm (UTC)
Well, the OP is painting the concepts in her post with a pretty broad brush. There's no getting away from stereotypes. Once they become dysfunctional, reactionary stances against the dysfunctional type are counterproductive. They largely serve to reinforce the original belief, because they (latently) acknowledge the context of the belief.

In other words, the only way to beat a stereotype is to ignore it. To be what you are, to exist outside the framework the stereotype tries to assert. As long as you try to interact with a mistaken stereotype, even if you're opposed to it, you're still looking at an assimilation of information technique. What has to happen is accomodation -- and that only occurs if the data set falls enough outside the parameters that assimilation isn't possible.

On the other thing, faith being the province of adults. Um. Kids don't have "faith" naturally. Faith is a reaction to a complex set of abstractions. It is, by definition, all about the intangible. Children deal with tangiblles and concete thinking. That's a big job. That takes years to develop. I don't think it's wise or kind to offer a child trying to learn the pragmatics of how the world works an abstract, intangible explanation. The best they can do with it is turn it into concrete examples or rules -- which, imnsho, serves no one. It's not until the body and brain start to do the conversion to adulthood that their brains are ready to produce the bigger questions that drive people's faith.

I see no reason whatsoever that my answers should be provided before the kids think to ask the question. That seems entirely unproductive.
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