As regularly happens, I need to remind my fellow cis het white people with niche interests or specific lifestyles that we are not, in fact, oppressed.
“Familiar” is a ridiculous substitute for “patronus.” No argument. (Side-snark: if you like an animal, just…say that. If you identify with a particular tiny turtle trying to bite a strawberry, say that too. God knows I do. If you feel a Deep Spiritual Connection to wolves and the need to broadcast it regularly on social media, Jesus, just go on Amazon and buy that damn T-shirt already, Sylvyrhawk.) I am not nonbinary and trust that there are people with valid reasons for using “fae/faer” as pronouns, so I’m not gonna judge just on that, but good *lord* all the explanatory stuff that comes up on Google is some twee bullshit. (You are not a dryad. You are a claims adjuster. Sit down.) But neither of these things are cultural appropriation.
Likewise, not having kids is not privilege. (Access to sex ed, birth control, abortion, and non-coercive reproduction in general is, but that’s another story.) “Couple privilege” is maybe kind of a thing in polyam circles, but it absolutely is not a thing the way that the more Bridget Jonesy and annoying of my fellow single people use it. (Being single is awesome! Get a grip, or at least stop making the rest of us look whiny and pathetic.)
Because words mean things. Words like “privilege,” “oppression,” and “culture.”
Let’s start with “privilege.” There are a couple necessary components to this in a social justice sense:
1. It’s a systemic thing. Not Having A Dipshit Brother Harold Who’s Really Into Dubious Investment Schemes isn’t privilege, it’s just luck. Harold’s siblings can tell him to fuck off, choose to ignore him when he rambles about opening his own massage franchise, refuse to lend him fifty bucks, and/or avoid family gatherings he attends, all without their careers, legal standing, health care, etc. being in danger.
2. It’s out of your control and/or not to your credit. (People whining about how being single is out of their control should read Item 1, and shut up.) Being a really good cook will make you popular, enable you to get certain jobs, and otherwise make your life better, but my brother-in-law does not have Cook Privilege. (Some skills are easier to learn or take advantage of *for* people who have systemic privilege, but that’s different.) Religion makes this a little weird, because some of it (how much you believe a thing) is under your control, but some (what culture you’re raised in) isn’t: the standard for reasonable humans is to assume the second and act accordingly until people start saying they’re the reincarnation of Joan of Arc. 3. It has to be in a certain quantity relative to people without X trait. If my friend Ashley is six feet tall, they have a harder time on long bus rides, but an easier one reaching stuff on high shelves than I do. They don’t have Tall Privilege; I don’t have Short Privilege; different heights just have different advantages and disadvantages. Generally speaking, privilege benefits Group X at the expense of Group Y.
Oppression is basically the reverse of privilege: it has to be systemic, and it has to be about stuff you don’t choose.
Now, and this is important: a particular person or feature of society can be shitty and in need of drastic change *without being related to privilege and oppression.*
Does the plague-ridden capitalist trashfire that is the US fail, in many important ways, to support parents? Yes. Yes, it fucking does. Do non-parents benefit from these failures? As a non-parent: not really. In fact, many of us end up covering for co-workers, giving a hand to relatives or friends, or fundraising because our government lacks the heart or brain to provide childcare, medical coverage, or an appropriate amount of parental leave. (I don’t mind doing these things, and I don’t think many other people do, but damn would it be better to have a system for it.)
As for societal attitudes…people are assholes. The same person who gives you grief for being occasionally fed up with your kids is the person who asks their co-workers or relatives (I can’t believe these people have friends) why they don’t have kids. Badly-done media portrays parents (especially women, because cis dudes *do* have privilege) as nagging, frumpy harridans and single people as sad loners, or it creates unrealistic images of perfection on both ends. Everyone’s fucked.
Similarly, “couple privilege” is not a thing vis-a-vis single folks, because while Cousin Brant may spend every Thanksgiving asking if you’ve “met anyone special yet” (nah, dude, just a dozen or two ordinary ones), he and his wife, who hates him, don’t benefit. You can make an argument for health insurance, but on the other hand, taxes, so even that comes under the heading of advantages and disadvantages on both sides.
That’s all true of paganism. Cousin Brant might accuse me of worshipping the devil, but (in most places in the US, in 2020) nobody’s going to fire me, deny me health care, or kick me out of my apartment for wearing a pentacle necklace. I might have gotten bullied in school*–and don’t get me wrong, bullying is awful and adults should squash it post-haste–but so did the kids in band, and nobody’s claiming piccolo players are oppressed. “Bullying is horrible,” *sometimes* intersects with “X group is systemically disadvantaged,” but not always.
This is important because “cultural appropriation,” or the kind you shouldn’t do, means lifting practices or terms from oppressed cultures. (Nobody is engaging in cultural appropriation by coloring eggs for Easter or putting up Christmas trees, for example. Maybe in a parallel universe where Constantine the Great never happened, but not in this one.) Pagans do not have a history of oppression to begin with. We sure don’t have the sort of historical trauma associated with, say, slavery or genocide.
I’m gonna pause so that everyone who was about to mention the non-existent “Burning Times,” or pretend Salem was about Real Actual Paganism/Witchcraft rather than misogyny, racism, classism, and the human tendency toward mob rule, can go jump in a lake.
We don’t, per se, have a lot of history before the 1950s. Paganism/witchcraft, as they’re practiced today, are largely a mixture of a few genuine folktales, British middle-class desire for an excuse to get naked in mixed company and engage in some light BDSM, and Golden Dawn/Theosophy metaphysics.
(Not that this makes it any less valid. A lot of civilization and like 75% of art began as someone trying to get laid, and any deity with sense would know enough to make use of that tendency.)
Golden Dawn in turn was largely Jewish mysticism plus the Victorian fascination with both Egyptian mythology and fraternal lodges. Theosophy grabbed a bunch of Hindu principles and made them more comprehensible to bored middle-class white people in New York and London.
We really, really do not have any room to talk.
*As it happens, I hated everyone in middle school way too much to even bring up religion, so it was never an issue, but I could see it being a possibility.