In Defense of Negativity

Negativity gets a lot of bad press in the modern neoPagan movement.  “You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.”  That’s not a terrible idea, you’re just being negative. “Negativity.  It can only affect you if you’re on the same level.  Vibrate higher.” Depression isn’t real, you’re just being negative.  Sexism and racism aren’t real, you’re just letting other people’s negativity get to you.  “Negative Nancy gained an electron or lost a proton.  Either way she’s unstable.”

Fuck y’all.  Eat urinal cakes and die.  The fuck even is negativity?

I’ll tell you what negativity is: it’s dogwhistle code.  It’s code for experiencing an emotion that makes other people uncomfortable.  It’s code for not laughing at oppressive jokes.  It’s code for holding people accountable for their actions.  It’s code for not accepting apologies.

Damn right, I’m negative.  I’m too emotional to be butch.  Too large and hairy to be femme.  Too young to be an authority.  Too old to be relevant.

My first impulse, of course, is to just blame the New Agers and be done with it, but that would be oversimplifying things.  The poison actually comes from the well of mainstream culture.  And there’s this whole awkward parallel with the fundamentalist Christian mad on against “bitterness” (here code for “not submitting gracefully”).  But that’s another conversation.  When it comes right down to it, I don’t give two wet shits where the admonition against negativity comes from.

I’m here to speak in defense of negativity.

Firstly, I wish to speak in defense of emotional negativity.  You have the right to be sad.  You have the right to be angry.  You have the right to be depressed.  Each and every damn one of us have the right to our mental illnesses and to the full range of emotional states.  Can we have  conversation about how our resulting behavior effects others?  Sure.  Some other day.  Because “don’t be so negative” isn’t saying “please don’t treat me badly”, it’s saying “your emotional state is inconvenient for me so straighten up”.  I’m sorry my lack of constant joy is inconvenient for you; you being an asshole about my depression actually does me structural harm.

Emotional policing and concern trolling is abusive behavior.  Fucking quit that shit, you damn assholes.

Secondly, I wish to speak in defense of negativity in a more general sense.  Pointing out the bad behavior of well-loved people within a community is often dismissed as negativity.  So is pointing out that a practice or policy is either unhelpful or actively harmful.  Often, advocating for any change whatsoever is dismissed as “negativity.”

Can someone please explain to me what’s wrong with getting shit done?  Or how you’re supposed to fix problems without first identifying that they exist?  And if I have to tell you six times that a window is broken, I may be less polite the third, forth, and fifth time.  and I may just yell at you the sixth.  That doesn’t magically mean the window is just fine and that there was nothing ever wrong with it and maybe there wasn’t even a window there in the first place.

Sex, Gender, and Magic 1/n+1


I was already drafting this in my head as a response to a reddit thread—particularly this comment—when one of the bloggers I follow decided to wade into the subject.  It’s something I’ve talked about before from time to time, but usually only in reference to Wicca.  There is a great deal of gender essentialism and heterosexism in the occult community, and the privileged apologia that tends to accumulate when someone calls bullshit makes me fucking furious.

Now, let’s look at the two OPs, first: a woman asking for people to share their experiences of gender difference in different forms of occultism, and gay man exploring the possibility of a huge oversight in the (human understanding of) Hermetic Law.  The first got a few genuinely thoughtful answers, but the response to both (overwhelming in the one case, so far singular in the other) amounts to “how dare you ask that fucking question?”

That response infuriates me.  It drives home the fact that, just as the neo-Pagan community is rife with mainline American anti-intellectualism (a rant for another time, but just look at popular responses to Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon), the occult community as a whole is permeated by outdated and debunked ideologies of sex, gender, and sexuality.

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