Feminist Monday, October 29
Today, I'd like to say a little something about The Chilling Adventure of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.
It's October, and I'm a Pagan. Typically, this means both rejoicing that my favorite holiday is here and near constant cringing. Everywhere you look there's a misogynist display of dead or dying splatted witches, disembodied body parts of witches, ugly witches, green-faced witches, fat witches, overly sexed witches, stupid witches, evil hag witches...and on and on and on. All of it negative. I'm justifiably offended. Because as long as these are the first things that spring to mind every damned Halloween when someone says 'witch' then it's an indication that misogyny is still heavily engrained in American culture. Witches are one of the few popular cultural images of women with power in this country. Is it any wonder that we've never had a woman serve as President of the US as long as this shit is what's most prevalent?
And yet, I'm enjoying the hell out of this show. (I'm on episode five.) I even read the comic book. My husband has been justifiably confused. I admit, I've been a bit confused myself. So, now I think I'll unpack a few things.
Sabrina, the show, is Feminist. It's demonstrated right away. The main character is active in her (human) school. She establishes an academic club, W.I.C.C.A., to support girl (including transgendered girl) students. In addition, Sabrina isn't evil. She's shown as an average teenager who is thoughtful of those around her. It's just that she just has these magical powers that she hides.
Granted, she's raised as a Satanist. Satanists aren't what Hollywood and Christianity has too often portrayed. (I leave it to you to investigate if you like.) We have freedom of religion in this country, and I believe in to each their own. Satanists can be good people. My biggest problem with this choice for the show is that they are, by and large the one sect that is most frequently portrayed in media. They're not nearly as prevalent as the many, many other forms of Paganism, including Wicca. I'd be much, much happier if media demonstrated realistic variety. At least, in this show the writers have done some research.
In this case, they're equating the Patriarchy with Satanism. Which, before you go off on me about how that's bullshit because Paganism is 100% Feminist, you should probably read this article. Although modern Western-centric witchcraft has a Feminist reputation, the truth is, its roots are in religious canon written by men--and misogynist men at that. Frankly, it's about damned time Pagans started some self examination when it comes to internalized misogyny.
The turning point for me regarding the show was in the first or second episode. Sabrina is told that she'll have a choice regarding whether or not she becomes a full-fledged Satanist. "The Dark Lord is all about choice and freedom, after all." She's informed that if she opts out, she'll lose her powers--since Satan is the one who gave them to her in the first place. The High Priest, as it turns out, has lied. (In the show, Satan is the Prince of Lies--so this isn't exactly a spoiler.) That's where the matter ends as far as the show is concerned, at least so far. But it occurs to me that the whole bit about a witch's power being owed to Satan is a lie in general. Witches are born with power in this show. Sure. Their powers can be taken away. That's demonstrated. But...that's only shown with witches who have signed the oath. They agree to have their powers removed at the discretion of Satan. They've given their free will away, and, I suspect, their powers with it. That's tricksy. And I like it. A lot. And I hope it crops up as a plot point.
Sabrina's family's religion is subjugation to a male figure. Patriarchy. And Sabrina is a Feminist. That's the main conflict in this series, and I love it.
 Imagine that 95% of the time Methodists were discussed in these terms. Imagine the only images of Christianity were the Inquisition. Imagine people decorating their lawns with splatted preachers, or dressing up as evil Southern Baptists every year. Paganism is a legitimate spiritual movement--every bit as much as every other, and it deserves respect. And yes, magic is real. It's called prayer.
 Paganism allows for a woman-only centered worship and spirituality. That is, one can only worship a Goddess and restrict a coven's membership to women. Dianic Tradition is one such group.
 Aleister Crowley. Gerald Gardner. Alex Sanders. Gender binary is essential within each. In addition, women's roles (even the Goddess's role) are limited to stereotypical ideals. There's a strong connection between the nudist/naturist movement and all three of these figures. I have to admit I've always been suspicious of the emphasis on 'sky clad' worship. You can't tell me the ancients thought prancing around in the altogether in the middle of nature regardless of weather thought that was a good idea. Nature is dangerous. It has thorns. Never mind the reality of possible sexual abuse. Women go through enough of that crap with our clothes on, thanks.
 I suspect one of the main reasons why this struck home with me is because I was told the same thing about a Christian group (during an attempted conversion) that in reality turned out to be quite the opposite. You can't declare yourself to be all about questioning and thinking for yourself, if you demand rote answers to questions brought up in Sunday school. I'm looking at you Southern Baptists.
 My theory is that one of the reasons why the High Priest pushes so hard is because he doesn't want the others noticing and opting out too.
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is a Science Fiction and Fantasy author living in Texas.