This post is modified from my final essay in a Stigmatization of the Witch class at OSC:
In her book, Witchcraze, Anne Barstow concludes with the following sobering statement: “This book has been an effort to remember the names of those who died across Europe. So far, few have said, ‘Yes, these things really happened.’ And no one has yet said, ‘They will never dare to happen again.’” (p. 167).
My first response upon reading this statement was, I’ll say it! They will never dare happen again! But, then I more somberly thought about the things I currently see in society that to me still carry living threads of the witchcraze legacy and I realized that I truly think that globally as well as in the U.S. we teeter on the edge of having history repeat itself. When I read about the histrionics of the extremely conservative and fundamentalist movements in the U.S. and their increasing and frightening political influence, it is not so farfetched to me to think that women in the U.S. could potentially end up living in the American version of Iraq in this current political decade! Some of the things conservative religious movements promote and advocate are very scary. And, they are increasingly gaining political influence in subtle but powerful ways. While I don’t think we would literally experience a resurgence of the “burning times,” I think the type of misogyny that produced them remains alive and well.
As a breastfeeding counselor and breastfeeding mother, I’d marked the following quote in the preceding chapter to share: “Be not-a-woman yourself; be as invisible about your sexuality and your motherhood as you possibly can. In a century in which men wore codpieces to emphasize and flaunt their genitals, women were being told, It is dangerous to show your breasts; don’t even nurse your babies in public” (p. 150). Facebook routinely deletes images of breastfeeding mothers and suspends people’s accounts for posting them. Last year, my friend shared a picture of a placenta and her account was put on a 24-hour hold for having shared an “obscene” image. Yet, pro-rape photos are acceptable.
Throughout this course, I was amazed at the sociocultural and political legacy of the witch hunts. I see many remnants in modern culture as well as active efforts to continue to dominate and religiously/culturally sanction that domination.
So, what I will say is, they will not happen again while there are those who are willing to speak, write, read, consider and theorize about these ideas and concepts. Where there are those who are willing to name the atrocities of the past and to squarely examine their modern legacy. And, while there are those still standing for women, social justice, liberty, and humanism.