Wyrd Words: Pride

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.

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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, and 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 occasions arises, there’s that one person in the room who says something like “Why can’t we have straight/white/male pride?”

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” means more than an appreciation for your ancestors, your orientation, or your gender. These celebrations are a symbol of an oppressed group being welcomed and integrated into society. Black history month isn’t only about being black; rather, it’s about acknowledging individuals within that community who made great strides for social equality or scientific development, and who were suppressed (or even erased from history) because they were black.

Gay Pride parades aren’t just celebrations of one’s orientation; they are celebrations of the great strides toward equality that our society has made, and of the idea that people should no longer have to hide who they are. They are celebrations of being legally allowed to EXIST. These are groups who represent minority voices, which are often ignored by the majority culture. 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 without comment, IS male 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. As a Caucasian, every day where I’m not treated 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.

These idea of these celebrations is to state that the celebrants are just as good, just as valid, just as capable as everybody else. 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 there are times when our ability to function within general society is 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!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the question, “What about Heathen Pride? Why can’t we take pride in our ancestors?”

Answer: We can, and we DO! And it’s AWESOME!

We have any number of Heathen festivals and Pagan gatherings. We have the Highland Games, the Jorvik Viking Festival, and Pagan Pride Day. Heck, we’ve even got Saint Patrick’s Day! (Not so great for us pagans, but still “Irish” pride.) We celebrate our roots all the time, and nobody seems to mind when we do. We celebrate our ancestors ALL THE TIME. We show the world that our cultures and our religions still exist and have a right to exist. That’s PRIDE, and it’s great!

My appreciation for my predecessors, my attachment to my Orlog, has to do with their legacy, not the fact that they were white. Nobody has tried to erase them from history because they were WHITE. When the majority culture tries to deny their accomplishments or rewrite them as savages and barbarians, we can (and do) stand up and correct them. 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 celebrations? Because we already have recognition and equality, and don’t have to struggle every day just to be recognized as HUMAN BEINGS. Nobody has systematically erased all of the historical contributions of White Men. We don’t need a “Men’s History Month” or a “White History Month.” Nobody is ever likely to deny you service or employment for being a “sexual deviant” because you’re heterosexual. We don’t need a “Straight Pride Day.”

I eagerly await the day when we are all equal, and such displays are no longer necessary to force society to recognize someone’s existence. That day hasn’t come yet; we’re still fighting for it.

Wyrd Words is published on alternate Thursdays. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!

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About Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer is a student of Anthropology at ASU, focused on analyzing and building religious communities. He is a devoted Heathen, and married to a Rabbi in training. Interest in Pagan interfaith relations lead him to join the committee for the formation of the Pagan Chapter at the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, where he hopes to utilize his training in community building and cultural exchange. The majority of his work can be located at http://www.heathenhof.com/

  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00D7IEJSQA Cobalt-Blue

    I agree with you on almost all points. However, you miss one point. Whenever we say that we’re proud of our ancestors, we’re called racists. And there IS a movement among certain circles to erase the contributions of Euorpeans from history and to paint them as the worse monsters in history. I AM proud of my Heathen faith, my Northern European ancestory, my being a member of the lgBt community, and the contribution to history they’ve made, and I REFUSE to be called a racist for it. i refuse to be ashamed of it, no matter what those who are the real racists think.

    • Frodo Rui

      Agreed. Someone once said “the fascists of the future will be called “antifascist” ” and they were right. This has been attributed to Winston Churchill but it’s said that’s not the case. Whoever said it, it was kind of prophetic.

    • http://heathenhof.com Xander Folmer

      As I pointed out in the article, there is NOTHING wrong with having pride in ones ancestors. Nothing at all. However, nobody has ever systematically suppressed white people. We don’t need a pride parade because we’ve essentially already WON the game of history. You know how you can tell that? If we had a time machine, I could go just about anywhere in history and be relatively sure that nobody will give me grief for being White, or a Man.
      Nobody has every tried to erase all white men from history, nor is anybody likely to ever deny me some opportunity because I am a white man.
      I’m proud of my ancestors, and there’s no reason to feel ashamed of that at all, but we don’t need a “white history month” because that’s pretty much EVERY OTHER MONTH.

      • http://northernrunesradio.com Daniel

        A wise man once said “There is nothing wrong with being proud of your ancestors; It is the height of foolishness to hate others for being proud of theirs.” The celebration of diversity is what brings life to our world, in my opinion–as how boring would it be if we were all the same! What would there be to learn? I would agree that we don’t need some official parade etc. as we are already (and have been for a long time) have recognition. We need to simply have the confidence to realize that recognizing others does not threaten us–it can in a spirit of tolerance and cooperation be a mutual learning experience — one that is even exhorted in the Havamal in “gaining wisdom through wide travel, thus knowing what is in the hearts of men” (and women). Good article!

    • yewtree

      There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your ancestors. There is everything wrong with saying your ancestors are better than other people’s ancestors.

      Sadly there are so many white people who think that their ancestors are better than other people’s ancestors, that when you say you are celebrating your ancestors, it sounds like you are joining in with the my-ancestors-are-better-than-your-ancestors brigade. I am sure that you are not, but you can see how that perception might come about.

      • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00D7IEJSQA Cobalt-Blue

        Oh, I understand that, and that was not what I meant. I’m talking about the fact that are people who say that it’s okay to be proud to be black, okay to be proud to be Amerind, it’s okay to be proud to Latino, but if you say you’re proud to be white, then you are a racist. That HAS to stop.

        • yewtree

          You’re probably right, and I know that was not what you meant, but I think there is probably just too much historical baggage in the way.

          I would be OK saying I am proud to be English (despite some awful stuff perpetrated by the English, we have produced some good ideas), or even proud to be European (ditto), but I would probably never say I was proud to be white. And at least English and European can include people of colour.

          • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00D7IEJSQA Cobalt-Blue

            I’m sorry, but the purpose of language is to communicate. That kind of splitting of hairs does violence to the purpose of language.

            Even your second paragraph suggests that you are too afraid of offending someone and are not proud of your heritage. You’ve bought into the lies that being European/English/White is evil and that people of color are good. I won’t do it. I won’t apologize for being white, descended from Northern Europeans, or for being American. All of those things are good things.

            • yewtree

              No, I am just telling you how I feel about it.

              I am not telling you how you should feel about it.

              • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00D7IEJSQA Cobalt-Blue

                Very well.

                • yewtree


  • Frodo Rui

    This is an excellent article, as a queer Heathen I fully approve of this message! Thank you, we need more people thinking clearly and intelligently like this!

  • http://prophetmadman.blogspot.com/ brainwise

    Well done. As a fellow interfaith minister (and gothi), I applaud your words here.

    • Alyxander M Folmer

      Thank you :)

  • Dirk Folmer

    well said, s’truth.

  • Jake Adams

    Good job Xander. I’m going to keep this book marked so when I have to deal with the “omg we need white history month” er’s I can have them sit down and read this and maybe get a clue.

  • Bubba

    For what it’s worth, “equality”, regardless of how you dress it up, exists nowhere in nature. There is always another that is bigger, stronger, smarter, faster, better looking…. need I go on? No amount of social manipulation will change these facts.

    While there are exceptions to every rule, there are things men are better at than women as a matter of physiology. Want equality? Okay, one test for everyone. If a man has to carry a 140lb person / dummy / what have you, then so should the women.

    No special dispensation for anyone. Not for color, race, sex, anything. Whatever the requirements are for the test, apply it equally to ALL interested parties!

    What I see isn’t people who want equality. What I see is people that want special dispensation. If a woman wants to be a firefighter, she should have to meet the same requirements a man does.

    Anything less is special dispensation, not equality. Same goes for every other group that wants equality. If there is ever going to be anything even remotely close to equality, then the test, whatever it is, must have identical requirements & parameters.

    Or, be honest and admit that it’s not equality you seek, it’s special dispensation for your particular group. To stack the deck in your favor, and call that equality!

    • Lesley Arrowsmith

      Here in the UK, women do meet the same requirements to be firefighters as men. Years ago, they were refused jobs as firefighters even though they could pass the same tests, just because they were women.

      • Bubba

        That is not the case in the U.S. . Here there are different passing scores for women and minorities. Also, we have Affirmative Action that mandates quotas be met for women, and minorities.

        That is not equality. That is Special Dispensation. But then, equality, in any meaningful sense of the word, exists nowhere in nature.

        • http://infamous.net/ Tom Swiss

          “Here there are different passing scores for women and minorities.” Citation needed.

          “Also, we have Affirmative Action that mandates quotas be met for women, and minorities.” The SCOTUS ruled quota to be unconstituional in Regents of Univ. of California v. Bakke in *1978*, so you’re a little behind the times here..

          • Alyxander M Folmer

            Thank you! People seem to forget that far to often.

    • http://heathenhof.com Xander Folmer

      Demanding the right to be able to marry who you want isn’t “special dispensation”, it’s equality.
      Demanding the right to equal wages regardless of gender or skin color is not “special dispensation”, it’s equality.
      Demanding to be taken on the merit of your own actions rather than the actions of the rest of your race, is not “Special Dispensation”.

      • Bubba

        Xander, having different passing scores for tests for women, minorities, or any other group solely so that more of that group can get into a particular school, job, or profession is special dispensation. Having “racial quotas” to create an equal presence of women, minorities, etc. is special dispensation.

        Anytime a standard (especially one based on safety, like with firefighters) is amended solely for the purpose of having more of a particular allegedly unequal representation of a certain group, while the initial standard stands for white males, that is special dispensation.

        I personally don’t care if gays or lesbians marry. As I heard a comedian say once “why shouldn’t they be allowed to lose half their shit in divorce like everyone else?”.

        True equality, assuming there ever could be such a thing (since equality doesn’t exist in nature) would have to start by eliminating special dispensation. One standard, regardless of your race, sex, color, orientation, etc, ad nauseam. Everyone is allowed to try, but only those that pass get in.

        If a boy in gym class must do 15 chin-ups, so do the girls. Yes, they’re physiologically different. But, so are men and women. Since American society seems bent on convincing everyone men and women are equal in every way, let’s have one standard only.

        That, is the closest to equality we’ll ever see. Only we won’t, because women and other groups like to fall back on their natural limitations whenever anyone suggests subjecting all other groups to the same standards applied to white males.

        Double standards, special dispensation, Affirmative Action (which, by the way is government sanctioned racism and sexism) all in the name of equality.

        Sorry, equality is a utopian pipe dream. Equal opportunity? Sure. Will it result in everyone being equal? No. Not hiring more white male firefighters or cops solely because the department hasn’t hit it’s quota for min minorities and women yet is asinine!

  • Soli