Everyone knows about the Salem witch trials, but that is such a small, Americanized view of the burning of women over centuries. Between 1400 to 1782, when Switzerland tried and executed Europe’s last supposed witch, between 40,000 and 60,000 people were put to death for witchcraft, according to historical consensus. This is just in Europe, by the way.
Men have been murdering women as scapegoats for a plethora of issues for centuries. A season of bad weather causes crop failures? Burn women. Unexplained illness overtakes a village? Burn women.
But it’s also deeper than that. Women’s lives have been used as pawns in the politics of men, in particular the politics of the church, since the beginning of history. And this is where the parallel between past and present intersects.
“Similar to how contemporary Republican and Democrat candidates focus campaign activity in political battlegrounds during elections to attract the loyalty of undecided voters, historical Catholic and Protestant officials focused witch-trial activity in confessional battlegrounds during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation to attract the loyalty of undecided Christians,” write the study’s authors, Peter T. Leeson, an economist at George Mason University, and Jacob W. Russ, an economist at Bloom Intelligence, a big-data analysis firm. When it comes to winning people to your side, after all, there’s no better method than stoking fears about an outside threat—and then assuring them that you, and you alone, offer the best protection.”
That is why this design is so much more than girl power. The current administration, the white patriarchal society that we live in, is still using women as pawns. Especially so, they are using the lives and bodies of black and brown women as pawns. We may no longer be burned at the stake, but we still have a lot of fighting to do.
So it’s time to take this phrase back. This shouldn’t be a cutesy slogan for white feminists in pussy hats. This should be a rememberance of what women have been through, what we are still going through, and an inspiration to break the institution that uses us as pawns.
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