More on Witches

My new friend Trina and I have been having a spirited debate about feminism and feelings and rape and what it means to be on a witch hunt. I am so grateful that she has taken the time to explain herself and respond to me. This is a big, important topic, and one that I feel deserves some serious consideration.

The term “witch hunt,” came into the conversation with Trina when I responded to her initial letter by writing,

Indeed, I agree with what you have said that women’s equality needs to be our goal. The thing I am ashamed of is not being a feminist, or such goals, but hiding a rage-fueled need to be right (and seen and admired) beneath feminist rhetoric and engaging in what was essentially an unconstitutional witch hunt for these and all accused date-rapers.

And then she responded:

the  only thing you wrote to me that i still feel a little cringe when i read is, the part where you said; “essentially i was engaged in an unconstitutional witch hunt…” but i must beg to differ!!! when we demand that action be taken to stop violence against us we are demanding equality, we are demanding that we want to be treated with understanding and dignity, and we are demanding that we will not tolerate being ignored because it may inconvenience some innocent men as well as some actual rapists. making those demands is not a witch hunt, it is treating ourselves as full citizens and equal to men.

I find this whole back and forth about the witch hunt really interesting, especially since the term refers to the European and American witch hunts that went after women in the 1600’s, accusing them of witchcraft, and killing them. The Salem Witch Trials, seeded by a small group of girls who were acting crazy, were an incredible show of patriarchal and racist fear and loathing, manipulating female children, and grown women, including the Caribbean indentured servant Tituba, who was the alleged ring-leader, into confessing their allegiance to the devil. And then killing them. Massachusetts officially apologized for this shit-show in 1957, though many of those involved publicly acknowledged their error, and even said they were sorry. There are several theories about what caused the trials, pointing to culprits like LSD-like mold that could explain the girls’ original, weird behavior, to economic competition between the town and village of Salem, but the mass hysteria that developed from whatever cause is just one of those human mysteries. That’s the part I find most intriguing And that’s the part I feel like I have a little insight into from my Antioch days—the irrational part.

I really love that Trina has so much faith in me and my “younger self for standing up against rape and against whatever previous injustices triggered your rage when the rapes happened at antioch.” But she is not getting my point when I have told her, a few times now, that I know that I was engaged in self-serving witch-hunting because I was there. I appreciate that she keeps wanting to harken back to the point that, “at times, i have felt that my demands for being heard, being safe, and being respected are “asking for too much.” but being made to feel unimportant or unworthy is just another part of oppression.making our voices heard and our presence accepted is very hard to do–” which is true. However, this is not the case with me at Antioch. Yes, I was asking for something, but what I really wanted was for someone to take away my own pain.

I wish I had been mature enough to be genuinely asking to be heard because I had something important to say about women, and while certainly the feminist agenda resonated for me , it was also, and more-so a big fat metaphor for ME to be heard. And yes, I agree with Trina that that, too, can be a reasonable, feminist goal. But in this case my goal was very limited. I wanted relief from my personal suffering. And chasing after an Other felt good.

Trust me, Trina. You would not have wanted that girl on your team.