Sexism And Joseph Campbell
Thanks to all the people who came to this morning’s first assembly of the mythological discussion group. I enjoyed hearing people explore many deep mythological concepts reacting to each other’s insights to build new understanding.
One of the most meaningful discussions for me came after the group had formally adjourned, however. One of the people in attendance approached me afterwards, and pointed to Joseph Campbell’s structure of the Hero’s Journey, saying, “I think some of that up there is sexist.”
You know, I agree with her. It’s clear to me that Joseph Campbell was earnest in attempting to understand the human experience from a universal perspective, but it’s equally clear to me that Campbell sometimes failed in that attempt. I’ve found several instances of sexist ideas from Campbell – his opposition to the integration of gender-segregated elitist social clubs, for example.
I chose Joseph Campbell’s Power of Myth as the structure around which to create a mythological discussion group at the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca because Campbell had skill in bringing together many powerful concepts about mythology in a way that was accessible to people from many different backgrounds, academic and non-academic. Campbell had skill, but that doesn’t mean he always came to reasonable conclusions.
This mythological discussion group is using Joseph Campbell as a starting point, not as a destination in himself. I’m excited by many of the ideas that Campbell represents, but I have no interest in revering him.
If you’re participating in the discussion group and hear something from Campbell that doesn’t seem right to you, please speak up about it. Probably, other people share that feeling, and we can use it to go forward with a mythological vision of our own that fits with our values.