Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Finally Getting Around To Doing Right

Dear one or two friends, wonderful mysterious commenter, and person looking for porn who stumbles on this blog: Got something to tell you.

tl;dr: One of my pen names, Maria Padhila, the one I used to use for this blog, can give the impression that I am Latina, and I am not. It was ignorant and careless, but I didn't intend to mislead or appropriate.

But ultimately, intentions don't matter. I'm appalled at my ignorance and slowness to act.

I'm terribly sorry.

If you want to know more, here goes.

But WTF that name what why?
Like some other Dumb Shit White People Do, it started with the best of intentions.

People who know me know that I'm a lifelong witch and eclectic Pagan. I got the name as my witch name from a Brazilian witch. It's actually a European Spanish name, but really, who the hell cares? The misleading effect is still there, and that's all that counts.

When I started doing Pagan activism (tapping media and policymakers to educate and reduce discrimination), Pagan leaders encouraged activists to use witch names that sounded like "normal" names, to gain legitimacy and to use in spokesperson capacities. Only Starhawk can get away with being Starhawk. Later, when I started writing more, I used it as one of my pen names.

(Oh sweet christian jesus is she going to pull out the Wise Latina defense and say that using this name this is actually a great honor? Hard as it may be to believe, I'm not that ignorant. But this is how I live. Before I started writing this, I set a glass of bourbon on my Maria Padhila altar, and lit a candle. That's normal for me. I have little altars all over the house. I don't teach, I don't preach, I don't even take money for astrological or tarot readings. I've never set myself up as the Lady Shaman WooWoo who's going to initiate you into the true Amazonian mysteries. Some people can't deal with eclectics and mixed pantheons. I'm not asking you to like it. It's my spirituality and has been for decades. I'm not denying that there's a huge problem with appropriation in Pagan and witch circles, but that's another conversation, and Pagans have been having it for a long time.)

For years, I felt like if there was a problem with the name, the gods would let me know. For all my altars, I didn't listen well enough. The real world, real people, and real harm from appropriation is the voice of the gods; I should have known that. The world has changed in 25 years. I will leave this name with the spirit, where it belongs.

Why can't you just use your "real" name?
Never could stand it. Assaulted twice and didn't want him to find me. Stalkers. Want to keep a job. Want to guard the privacy of my family and friends. Feminism (don't want a man's name). Crazy MRAs. Came out of the punk culture, where you invent yourself and your name. I'm a bi poly witch, for fuck's sake, and I write about it. It's scary. I'll always use pen names. I'll just choose them better, starting now.

Why now?
I should have done it sooner. That's another ugly moral lapse by me. I've considered dropping it for years. I started talking to friends about my plan to drop it months ago. I'm surprised by how many told me not to bother, that there was no harm in it. I kept feeling like there was indeed harm in it, and I made plans to make a change on the new moon/solar eclipse, to get a new start. I was working on an elegant, witty essay to explain it all. I bet you would have liked it.

Then the news about that BAP 2015 Michael Derrick Hudson bastard came out, and I lost it.

Looking at that contributor note was like looking into a distorted mirror. It was wrong on every level, including factual; better and more plugged-in writers, people more qualified to speak are pointing that out. It had that smug, chuckling tone I recognize from MRA types who have tried to make me see the light over the years. So pleased with himself for "pulling one over." Makes me want to take a shower.

But was what I did out of ignorance and indifference that much better?
I'm still crying over my own stupidity and blindness. How could I have thought for so long that this was in any way OK? I'm grateful also to the people who helped walk me through this tonight. I'm surprised also at how many people said I should just change over and not make a big deal over it. It is embarrassing. It is uncomfortable (that favorite avoidance word of white fragility. We simply cannot stand to be unCOMFORTable!). I'm sorry if laying all this out goes some people I care about a hard time. I don't want to make a big deal, but I don't want to look like a weasel, either. Might be too late for that. I wish I knew a better way to handle it. I can't even think of how to make this right. I don't think there is a way. I'll just have to live with it.

Luckily, I'm not well known, and not many people give a fuck.

Couple more clarifications:
I don't seek publication very often, and I usually choose blind judging.
The other pen names I use are Anglo and French/Anglo.
I've gotten one fellowship in my life, and it was under my legal, given name, before I had the need to use a pen name.
I've rarely been published, but the few editors who have accepted my work know who I "really" am and why I use a pen name, and they approved and have my back. The kind of gratitude I feel for that is hard to express.

All I ask:
I'm thinking this isn't likely, but please don't drag anyone associated with me through the subtweet bully madness. It's all on me.
Don't assume everyone using a pen name is a catfish or a con artist. Many of us still need to use them, and it can be done honestly.

Lord love a Xanax,
Your correspondent, aka Sally Wilde


Pam said...

Beautifully put. I still don't see that it was a necessary measure--but it's not for me to see; it's for you to see. I trust you.

Sally Wilde said...

That means so much to me...thanks ❤️

Anonymous said...

I just wrote you an essay about this that took more than an hour and the page ate it. I'm not doing it again.


Sally Wilde said...

Oh, man. Hatin?

Slothrop said...

Sally, I understand & respect the regrets you so eloquently expressed above, but I honestly don't think you did anything wrong. Names really do not mean much. People constantly assume my wife is Latina because her last name is Rosa. She is Dutch / Irish / Hungarian / Jewish, & the "Rosa" is a real Dutch name. She told me to tell you not to feel bad, because there's no way you can control what people think of you.

For my part I constantly fear that my "name" will give people the misconception that my hookups coincide w/ missile strikes. (Actually, there was a house fire once...hmmmmm.) I chose it long ago when I had begun superstitiously viewing myself as a bad penny. (NOT for the reasons in the Big Black song!) But, Slothrop, Maria, Rosa, it all amounts to the same. Granted I'm white & I knew beforehand that you were too, but I can't imagine feeling misled by something like that.

I am far more pained & disturbed to hear about the stalking & assaults. I am so incredibly sorry I can't find words for it. Angry, too. This may seem ludicrous coming from a tall male, but I was stalked exactly once in my life, & it scared the living daylights out of me. Got under my skin in a way that made me want to curl up into a permanent ball. It would be easy to say "I can't imagine how much scarier it must've been to be stalked by a man," but that really patronizes women's ability to menace. When your back is exposed it's all one. And nothing locates your inner coward better than seeing the smug gender assumptions you've spent 30 years resting on get violently flipped.

So, I don't think you have anything to feel bad about. I'm just crushed to hear your reasons.