The blog for Wicked Messenger Tarot. Cartomancer, Adept, Revelator.
Since 1995, and still not bored with it.

More Tarot Worms: Gender Essentialism/Constructionism, Race, and Probably Something about Donuts.

Because I gots these delicious chocolate cake donuts, and milk, and that was the first thought on my mind before continuing my thoughts on Tarot and gender.

And you know what they say.  First thought, best thought!

I’m building on what I wrote previously— you should regard these as notes I’m making for something more cogent— I define gender essentialism as the idea that there are inherent differences between genders.  I think western culture generally and white people specifically have gone WAY on from that point, to define genders as only being two, and then claiming both of those genders are radically different from each other because of a myraid of reasons, most of which aren’t so much reasons as circular logic.  Gender essentialism completely ignores the role of culture and patriarchy, which makes it problematic and therefore easy to reject.

But gender in nonWestern cultures is considered inherent, and as such has revolved firmly around ideas about reproduction, and to ignore those ideas is probably racist.  The thing is, many of those same cultures, in spite of the emphasis on reproduction, the earth as Mother, the Mother as Female, etc., that does not preclude the existence of more than two genders, and it does not preclude the notion of gender in flux, and it does not ignore sexuality either.  (In most nonWestern cultures, as in Western culture, sexuality and gender are often intertwined.)  While western culture talks a good game about reproduction and Sacred Life and Holy Mothers and such, the fact is it’s never about that— Patriarchy is about CONTROL over those things, specifically Male Control over those things.  And therefore control over sexuality.  And at that point you notice gender just solidifies into rigid dual prisons, because that is how the western world generally operates.  It isn’t about babies or life.  It’s about “female” bodies and the access to them, and about men deciding which bodies are valuable and which ones are not.  It opens an even bigger can of worms than I’m prepared to deal with here, since I was supposed to be writing about Tarot, and I’m getting to it, I promise.

Essentialism as a rigid white person’s philosophy, in my opinion, isn’t really about what is essentially different between, say, women and men— mostly it is just cover for plain old misogyny.  But that brings me to Constructionism, which is also usually a rigid philosophy— that nothing is inherent about gender and everything is socially constructed, unless of course a transwoman wants to join a “woman’s only” space, and then suddenly there’s something about her that remains “male”, inherently apparently, in the minds of those who most ardently flog the Gender Is Construct argument.  They pretend that it’s because of upbringing and how someone socialized as male will always be unable to… actually I’ve heard these arguments like a billion times, and I still can’t grasp the cognitive dissonance necessary to hold these polar opposite opinions simultaneously, that a woman can overcome her socialization unless she is trans.  That “male” socialization is somehow permanent and sticks to ya for the rest of your life.  And then PRIVILEGE comes into it, and at that point I usually need another donut.

I’m muddling here, but what I mean is, essentialism is the Nature argument and constructionism is the Nurture argument.  And, personally, I think both of those arguments contain tiny elements of truth, and otherwise largely miss the point.

Gender is important, only it isn’t really.  It’s important because humans have invested it with such a tremendous amount of importance, and it forms, therefore, a fundamental structure for the culture of western (and, usually, any) society.  But Gender also isn’t important, because humans are all very very similar to each other no matter what their gender is.  But Gender is also important again, to the individual certainly, but socially as well.  In a very real sense, Gender is Culture, because Gender is different in every culture, is perceived differently, is performed differently, is honored differently.

If you want to say gender doesn’t exist and is only a construct?  It doesn’t escape my attention that there is no culture on earth now, or in history as we know it, that has NOT acknowledged, performed, and utilized gender.

So the question is, when it comes to Tarot:  can you, or I, read Tarot cards in a gender-free, non-essentialist way, even when Tarot, as a system, is built around gender and gender essentialism (mainly the bad kind?)  The answer is YES YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN.  But should you?

(In my next entry I give ideas for how to read Tarot in a gender-free way, and tackle the burning question— SHOULD YOU?  coming soon!)

Gender Essentialism, Constructionism, Whiteness, and Tarot, or: I Open Up A Giant Can of Theoretical Worms

I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the reasons why I didn’t take any classes in specificially “Women’s Studies” when I was in college is because I  can’t get my mind around how it is white people think when it comes to gender.

It took me a long time to understand that my issue was actually one of culture and race, not gender.  Or rather, it was the intersection of those things.  It also took me a long time to separate out issues of Patriarchy with issues of White Supremacy, because those two things are so deeply entertwined in the United States.

I can’t have conversations about, say, Gender Essentialism vs. Gender Constructionism with white people/adherents to mainstream white people thinking without feeling like I’m gonna tear my hair out.  And then there’s the added layer of religion on that, and other belief systems that dovetail with patriarchal world views, and yeah.

So generally speaking what I’m trying to say is, I’m comfortable with what some people would consider the Gender Essentialism of Tarot, and that comes directly from my cultural background, which is not white.  At the same time I consider Gender to largely be a social construct, or rather the performance of Gender to be a social construct, and that is also from my cultural background, and it’s also because I’m a feminist, and I was sensitive to that shit from birth.  But Tarot relies heavily on ideas involving a duality of nature, “feminine” and “masculine”, which I’ve touched on in this blog before.  And if you reject gender essentialism, or even hate it and are deeply threatened by it, yeah, I can see that being a problem, and it’s a problem I want to eradicate, because Tarot is awesome and it’s for everyone.

I should also mention that when I say I’m comfortable with Gender Essentialism, I also don’t mean that in a white culture way.  For example, there’s nothing in my sense that men and women are inherently different that means men are violent and like sports and don’t know how to pick up a house, and women are emotional and love babies and, I don’t know, whatever the stereotype of the He Man Woman Hater’s Club currently is about the ideal woman.  That idea is nothing to do with inherent gender— that’s all just culture, and is stupid and disrespectful besides.

I’m not comfortable with Gender Essentialism that tells people things are biological when they clearly are not.  I’m not interested in Gender Essentialism that promotes the superiority of any group of people.  And I’m not advocating for Gender Essentialism that pretends there are only two genders and that there are absolutes when it comes to identifying those genders.  That’s not scientifically true, and it’s not true for large swathes of human cultures going back for thousands of years.

I’m also not comfortable with Gender Constructionism, which tells people the strong physical and mental desires they have to identify themselves as whatever they wish to identify themselves with is somehow all in their heads, that there is no such thing as Gender, that there is no difference whatsoever between men and women, and that trans people are just upholding oppressive stereotypes (cuz all trans people are the same, I guess?) and that intersex people don’t exist.  There’s an element of this idealogy that runs through feminism, and it’s very unsettling and sometimes outright hateful, and it’s also pretty damn white, though I have met radfem women of color who hang onto some of these ideas too.  Also I’m not really down for the idea that the transwoman who likes to be glamorous and uber femme is doing that just because she’s trying to uphold an oppressive stereotype.  By that logic I’m trying to uphold oppressive stereotypes when I dress to the nines and put on lipstick.  And I grant you, there are some feminists who genuinely feel that way, and hey, don’t wear a dress and heels or lipstick if you don’t want to, shit, but don’t tell me what to do either.

But I digress.  My point was to introduce some of my thinking about this subject into the context of Tarot reading.  Which I’ll do in my next blog entry.

Working on a new essay about Tarot and gender, and how it intersects with Intersex people— very exciting.  Some years ago I met a wonderful person who has asked to remain anonymous in my blogging but I got his permission to blog about him and our Tarot reading sessions in light of the fact he is Intersex (he uses he/him as his preferred pronouns).

Also I’m revamping this blog (already changed the format to a lovely purple color which has greatly improved the thing) and editing past posts.  I’ve finally figured out how to channel my political obsessions elsewhere, so that should be good.  Also I noticed a number of interesting things about my writing as I read my past posts, to wit:

I have apologized in the past (briefly) about the limitations of writing about gender when you are writing about a system of divination that historically has depended on a binary.  I didn’t realize, until I reread some of my blogposts, how deeply embedded my use of such language is.  And it’s weird because I’ve always been genderqueer myself, so I’m not sure how I internalized such deeply limited language, but there it is.  I’m not going to edit that stuff out, because I believe in progress, so I’m going to make an effort to start adding in what I’ve come to learn about reading cards for genderqueer/as a genderqueer person.  In all honesty I’ve never been really public about this subject for myself— I’m in my forties, I’m not a young kid on tumblr making brand new discoveries.  I can’t say I was ever particularly closetted, but maybe I was.  I didn’t feel it, but maybe that’s why I didn’t deal with things that were actually important to me, and of interest to me.  Thanks to several friends who have recently pointed this out, and made me think about it.

I have never bothered to spell out my own ethnic background because generally I don’t consider it anyone’s business on the internet.  I started using the internet when it first became available— my dad and I were early adopters, and he was an engineer partly responsible for some of the original tech— and in those days anonymity was the default.  I tend to operate like that even to this day, and I don’t plan to change that much, but still, in rereading my past posts I realize damn, I’m holding a lot back.  That’s weird, man.  And race is a part of it, so I’m gonna fix some of that as well as I go along.

Anyway, I’ve been absurdly busy the last year, and also coping with personal shit, so this blog has been on the back burner.  I realized, I’m rapidly heading for twenty years as a Tarot reader, and I still enjoy it, and I still have new thoughts about the subject, so it’s time to try to get this blog back together again.  So that’s it for now.  I’m really happy about the new format I found, it seems pretty easy on the eyes, but if you have difficulty with it let me know— my ask is open if you have a tumblr account.  (Anon is currently off, due to haters.)


we love the thing where the english people bang on about how it is a marriage and we are happily married, and then some scottish person mumbles if by marriage you mean rape and shotgun nuptials and then the british person wails OH YOU CANT BRING UP ANCIENT HISTORY WAH! and then proceeds with how wonderful the union is and ignore all that pesky screaming in the basement.

so that’s where white america gets it from!  we were wondering!


people run “aesthetic blogs” where they just reblog pics of like neon lights and pools of water and weird textures and stuff and i don’t really get it but i like to look at those blogs, it’s nice to know that you guys are out there, always silent, never getting into fights, just reblogging pics of wrinkled plastic bags… keep doing ur thing

(via christfucker-deluxe)