Open Letter to PantheaCon in solidarity with Max Dashu
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Open Letter to Pantheacon
We are a group of folks with diverse gender identities and perspectives, ages, and ethnicities who have been meeting since September 2018 to establish dialogue across our differences and resolve patterns of conflict and hostility that are harming our movements. We disagree on many things, but we share a belief that open dialogue, respect, and solidarity are the basis we need to forge a movement that can act in a unified manner to effectively counter patriarchy, white supremacy, and the interlocking tangle of oppressions that are woven within them.
We are writing this letter out of dismay over PantheaCon’s recent banning of Max Dashu. Max has been part of our group, and we value her contributions. We find her to be compassionate, thoughtful, open to listening, and someone who puts the good of the larger community ahead of her own interests. Max has spoken many times at PantheaCon and received much appreciation (with no complaints) for her presentations. Her decades of historical research in the Suppressed Histories Archives are of immense value to everyone who has an interest in sex, gender, cultural heritages, and systems of domination. Max was banned, not because of anything she said or did at PantheaCon, but because of online attacks and baseless allegations about other events. We know that the internet is infected with false sources and bad actors, and accusations on social media cannot be trusted as a source of truth.
Characterizing Max and her work as, in any way, a “danger” to trans folks—or anyone except the patriarchy—is false and defamatory. It is also destructive to the rights and safety of everyone who strives for justice. It deprives us all of the opportunity to learn from her important work. It also amplifies an attack that has been personally, financially, and professionally damaging to someone who is, herself, gender non-conforming and a target of patriarchal oppression. If Max can be banned and defamed, despite decades of contributions and her actual record at PantheaCon, then what presenter can ever be truly safe from unfounded allegations and attacks?
We support PantheaCon’s stated desire for inclusion and safety for historically targeted groups. Yet, sometimes, a narrow definition of “safety” can ironically create unsafety. Banning Max is an example of the “call-out culture” we need to move beyond if we are to nurture strong, inclusive movements that can counter the brutal, oppressive systems that target us all. We suggest a framework of solidarity would better serve our community. We can stand together to defend one another’s basic rights to self-determination, autonomy, and spiritual authority—even where we disagree—and to create a climate where mutual dialogue and learning is encouraged.
Pagans know well the dangers of persecuting and casting out heretics. We urge PantheaCon to establish a clear policy around accusations and allegations that is open, fair, transparent, and applies to all presenters. It must be based on people’s actual speech and behavior, not on rumors or smears. Unleashing vilification is the surest way to destroy a community. We need to learn better how to handle conflict, and how to de-escalate hostilities.
It is urgent for us to dialogue with each other in good faith. We cannot afford not to, under the current direness the world is facing—the attacks on human rights, on the Earth, and all living beings. We need a coalition more than ever before. This cannot be accomplished by demonizing, name-calling, or by sowing fear and intimidation. We seek justice for everyone, across all the axes of oppression. To do so, we need to re-learn what the ancients knew: how to hold council on a foundation of mutual respect.
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