Conforming to group identities

For a group identity to make any sense, there have to be edges that define it. There are many questions we should be asking of those edges in any groups we encounter.

Who gets to define the boundaries? Usually it will be the people with the most power and privilege. Sometimes it will be people outside of the group itself. When this happens, it is often to silence or dismiss people who are inconvenient to a majority, or to a dominant world view. The way in which non-Zionist Jews are excluded when non-Jewish people talk (ominously, I feel) about The Jews at the moment is a case in point, and a deeply unsettling one.

What happens to people who are pushed out? Do any options exist for them? To be unable to stay in a local community space because it’s full of sexist dinosaurs is horrible, but probably liveable with. To be unable to access medical support because your provider won’t deal with trans people, is a disaster.

What happens to people who cannot fit in the boundaries? Are they punished for this? Are they pushed out further if they don’t go along with the group narrative? How much diversity does the group tolerate? How much conformity is demanded? Who gets to decide who should be conforming to what, and how do they wield that power? Who gets to control the narrative of the group identity?

There is power in defining the narrative. It is also an opportunity that is available to the most powerful. People who have least power are most likely to be pushed to the edges by people who have the most power. What happens when someone from outside the group takes on an identity to try and distort the boundaries and norms of the group? This does seem to happen online, and happens for political reasons.

How do we hold our edges? What are we protecting and what are we willing to make room for? What do we do when we’re pushed to the margins, and what do we do if we see someone else being pushed out? When is that justified, and when does it need resisting? These are not questions with simple answers, but ones to keep asking any time we engage in group dynamics.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

3 responses to “Conforming to group identities

  • Joe

    Really interesting post. This is something I do think about quite a lot. As a personal example, I always feel very much an outlier within the pagan community because of my sex. Of what I’ve come across, 90% of pagan literature/ resources seems to be for women, by women, and the majority of pagans – at least those active online, are women. In and of itself that’s totally fine, but I find that as a man I find i don’t really know where I fit among all that.

    If you believe in a Goddess, as I do, you have a different relationship with Her dependent on your sex but I’ve seen very few representations of that relationship from a male perspective.

    I know there are men in paganism, but their voices (in my experiences) aren’t as easy to find.

    • Nimue Brown

      working on the publishing side i can totally confirm that bias – and that it’s there from the start – more women submit books than men do.A book written by a man about following the Goddess would be a very welcome thing, I think.

      • Joe

        Kind of nice to hear that it’s not just me. However, it’s also a huge shame as I think more views from a male perspective are needed.

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