For a class this week, I’m translating a story about Yellow Yellow, a Black Bear who was famous in the Adirondacks for breaking into bear cannisters. For some reason, she was tagged twice and got her name from the two tags. While most bears drop the cannisters over a cliff, hoping to break the cannister, Yellow Yellow actually figured out how to open the lid. She foiled a few generations of cannisters, driving hungry backpackers crazy, before she was killed in season by a hunter.
One of the worst things about cancel culture is that it provides shelter for people like Woody Allen. When I talk about cancel culture, I’m talking about the job loss, censorship, and no-platforming of individuals for expressing heterodox opinions or calling attention to inconvenient facts. Cancel culture is policed on social media and enforced by self-serving clueless boobs, especially in the corporate media. Just as the McCarthy witch hunt was unable to bring down people like Lucille Ball, while ruining the careers of lessor figures such as John Garfield, today’s cancel culture has only managed to annoy JK Rowling, while forcing people like Julia Robertson out on their own. Cancellation is about disallowing legitimate speech, not about behavior. Ironically, purveyors of witch hunts and cancellation, while often denying these crusades are taking place, reserve for themselves illegitimate libelous speech, such as wantonly calling someone a “communist” or a “transphobe” without evidence.
Which brings me to Woody Allen. He has long been under fire for behavior, not for opinions or for speaking about unpopular facts. Even granting that the credible allegations by Dylan Farrow have never been proven, for reasons having nothing to do with their merit, the dude hooked up with the young daughter of his former romantic partner. It may be true that he waited to become sexually involved with her until she became barely legal, in which case what he did wasn’t against the law, but most people consider his actions exploitative and despicable, and some people hold him accountable accordingly. If people object to this pervert being feted in awards ceremonies, it doesn’t bother me a bit.
What bothered me about his quashed autobiography was not that it was being published. I wouldn’t have read it, being way too familiar, throughout my social work career, with the whining victim tone predatory men use to describe their life. But I personally wasn’t upset about the book deal. What did upset me was Ronan Farrow’s allegations that Allen’s account of the crimes he remains accused of was not fact-checked. This, after Ronan Farrow’s journalism on sexual predators in the film industry was minutely scrutinized for evidence.
For Allen to claim that Dylan Farrow’s allegations are unfounded is to say that she is lying or delusional. Women who bring false claims of sexual abuse are treated harshly, by public opinion and the law. It’s one thing for Allen to claim he’s innocent in an interview. In a nonfiction book, it calls the publisher’s vetting process under scrutiny. I am not privy to serious discussions about the course of action after Ronan Farrow raised a stink, but I don’t see how the book could have been published while giving Allen permission to address allegations against him without proof. He’s had adequate opportunity to respond, without making the credibility of those associated with his projects problematic.
On to the second fish to be fried, flayed, and charbroiled. The Dr. Seuss biz has about played out, but I’m bringing it up here as another example of something being reflexively assigned to “cancel culture.” The situation here is more of a gray area.
The trust for Dr. Seuss voluntarily withdrew a half dozen of his many books from publication. The drawings in the books, most people would agree, are unequivocally racist. There is no evidence that the trust was forced to do take the action they did, although there have been calls from some quarters to withdraw all Dr. Seuss books from school libraries and publication, whether overtly racist or simply penned by the author. So there were calls to “cancel Dr. Seuss,” yet there is a difference between responding to legitimate criticism and having your arm twisted to (not) say “uncle.” There were other ways to address the racism in those particular books, but the trust chose their own course of action.
I supported the decision to withdraw the books in question from publication, and would not call this “cancel culture.” In retrospect, however, I think the way the decision played out is a cautionary tale. If the Dr. Seuss trust was not under any exigent threat, why was the decision accompanied by a formal announcement? That in itself triggered an outraged response. Perhaps the hope was that the public statement would mean racism in other children’s books would be addressed, through being withdrawn, redrawn, or edited. (This process has actually been happening since the sixties, though not fast enough or complete enough for some.) Perhaps the trust thought the calls to cancel Dr. Seuss altogether would cease if they responded to legitimate criticism. If that was the hope, it was misplaced.
Soon there were calls for all libraries everywhere to destroy the books in question. Then the calls to cancel Dr. Seuss altogether were amplified, along with similar outcries against other twentieth century children’s authors. EBay and other resellers banned the sale of the now out-of-print Seuss books. Considering the amount of racist memorabilia sold on eBay, not to mention the appropriated archeological treasures, this action could only be called a cynical ploy to pander to what was becoming a mob frenzy. The move to halt publication of the books may not have been provoked by cancel culture, but cancel culture took over.
Calls to cancel “racism” in books, longstanding or newly published, are often, in the current climate, not made in good faith. This is a power and control game, one that shuts down discussion of racism instead of furthering it. When the trust made an announcement about withdrawing those six books, rather than doing it quietly, some people smelled blood in the water while others had fears stoked that were not about racism. Suddenly we were talking about censorship and cancel culture, and while that needs to be talked about, racism itself, as opposed to ass-covering virtue-signaling designed to avoid being called a racist, was no longer part of the conversation. Was quiet action a better choice? Either way, a discussion that could have been had, was not had.
Which is what cancel culture is all about.
Return to Mago has my latest article about Circe the Island Witch.
I thought I’d pass this along to women who are interested. It looks like it will be an interesting anthology.
I decided to rework my online series about women’s intentional communities into an essay for the forthcoming She Summons, also by Mago Books, the first volume of which will be out late this year or early next. That’s what I’ve been working on this week.
What It’s Like to Live on Wimmin’s Land
This essay discusses the pros and cons, joys and pitfalls, of women’s intentional communities, also known as “wimmin’s land.” There has been more talk in recent years about re-establishing all-woman living collectives in rural areas, a phenomenon that began in the 1970s and faded somewhat by the turn of the century (though some women’s communities are still around). For women dreaming about this alternative, I wanted to share some of my experience and perspective.
Over the past few years, a community in the Adirondacks has been coming together to record local history through stories. Under the brilliant organization of Jeri Huntley, with the support of the Keene Valley Library, My Adirondack Story is a website where the meaningful stories of ordinary people who live in the Adirondacks are told in their own voices. The stories are about five minutes long, and together they give a mosaic of life here. For people who come to the Adirondacks for a few days of recreation during the summer, it can provide a fuller picture of place.
Now there is a resource guide for others to create a project like My Adirondack Story in their communities. Our Story Bridge is a great way to connect and preserve history. There is also a teacher’s guide for helping schools create a similar project. The guide is designed for middle and high schools, but many colleges in New York State are already using these materials.
Yours truly shares an Adirondack story for the project here.
Mark your calendar! Moon Books will be sponsoring a conference featuring its Pagan authors June 5-6. The conference, live on Facebook, will feature talks, panels, and Q&A sessions. It will be free!
Yours truly will be speaking at the online conference on Sunday, June 6th at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Below is a description of the talk, which is open to everyone.
Staring Back at the Deer
The deer is an emissary from the world of fey, a shapeshifter who watches from a distant place and brings messages which touch our spirit. This session will examine the deer from a material and cultural point of view, with the aim of interpreting deer signs and courting the deer to enhance our magic.
Hearth Moon Rising pursues an animistic practice of Witchcraft in the Adirondack Mountains. She is the author of Invoking Animal Magic: A guide for the pagan priestess and Divining with Animal Guides: Answers from the world at hand. She is ordained in the Dianic Tradition and the Fellowship of Isis.
A question arises frequently on social media regarding who is eligible to become a Dianic priestess. I wrote a longish essay on Dianic Witchcraft in Witchcraft Today: 60 years on. Here is a short answer to that question.
In the feminist Dianic Tradition founded by Z Budapest, who belongs in a particular coven/ritual is the prerogative of the Dianic coven and its High Priestess. That used to be the way of all Witchcraft traditions, until 1970s feminism threatened male domination. The Dianic Tradition as a whole is for all women (defined by biology, not feelings or sex stereotypes). Some covens are lesbian only. If that’s what the coven wants, we’re fine with that; we respect women’s boundaries. Sometimes an odd Dianic ritual will include men or transwomen, though I doubt any coven from Z’s line would initiate someone who wasn’t born-female. (Strange term that, but trans activists have muddied the language so that these convoluted terms have become necessary.) Dianics from Z’s line who have found themselves more inclusive of trans women have broken off from the tradition and given themselves new names (with our blessing).
There are some who have formed their own “Dianic” traditions which are completely in line with transgender ideology regarding who prescribes (those born with a penis) and who obeys (now known, in the parlance of gender ideology, as uterites, menstruators, vagina havers, people with a cervix). The practitioners of these new traditions deliberately try to confuse outsiders, to the point of naming their covens after older Dianic covens. The problem here is the deliberate attempt to sow confusion, not the deities or practices of the new groups per se. Being a priestess in the Dianic Tradition is not necessarily the same as being a worshipper of the goddess Diana. Veneration of Diana, and her Greek counterpart Artemis, goes back a long long way, and she has always had males among her acolytes. None of us own our gods. Legend in the Greco-Roman canon cautions, however, that a man who crashes a women-only ritual may incur the wrath of the goddess.
I don’t know much about the McFarland Dianics. Their founder, Morgan McFarland, did not court attention beyond her close-knit community. The McFarland Dianics, as they came to be called, received widespread publicity as a foil to Z Budapest’s overtly feminist Dianic tradition. Patriarchy always needs “good” women to oppose the uppity women they frame as “bad,” and McFarland, being neither lesbian nor emphatically feminist, fit the bill. McFarland is now in the Summerland, and her tradition has undergone many changes, as we all have, but their unsought role of “good Dianics,” as opposed to the bad ones, remains their popular distinction. No doubt, if Z’s lineage were to fade away (extremely unlikely), the Pagan “community” would go after the McFarlands, creating invidious comparisons among those women.
[Comments for this post are closed. If you have further questions, please read the essay in Witchcraft Today.]
It’s been four years since I put up this present website, which is a very good one, if I do say so myself. This was my fifth site–my first was around 2002.
Since I started so early, I don’t use the web building programs much. This present website required a fair bit of experience with WordPress, plus knowledge of HTML, CSS, and PHP. I also used a bit of Java, but I took that code (legally) from somewhere else.
I spent my Sunday working on a program to show the date in Munsee Delaware. Doing so drove home for me how language becomes attenuated when it isn’t used. I had to get books out of the library to refresh my understanding, especially with PHP. It took some effort to figure this out, since I wanted to use this website to publish the calendar but I didn’t dare mess with my style sheet for fear of messing things up.