Witchcraft Trials and Misogyny

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“All women as the “daughters of Eve” were allegedly more prone to sin. This sinfulness, in view of their closeness to nature, could well show itself in the perversion of nature” (Becoming Visible, pg.192). This was generally the view civilians shared in regards to the female gender, especially during the 16th-17th century, when witchcraft craze was at its all time high. Another example being, Kramer and Sprenger wrote that, in connection with other problems, women had “an insatiable carnal desire and an immoderate lust for power, which led them to enter into compacts with the Devil” (Becoming Visible, pg.193). With such a strong stance it was impossible for the witch hunts and trials to not have been misogynistic. Those arguing against the witch hunts being misogynist often use the excuses of it being more focused on socioeconomic status, political and religious reasoning and age influenced. And even then, when factoring everything in, evidence leading back to misogyny is overwhelming. Whether the women were accused of being witches for their socioeconomic status, age, behavior or religion, one thing’s for sure, it was almost always women. During the witch hunts it is true that men, too, were accused of witchcraft along with women. What sets them apart was the treatment accused women received in comparison to men. For now, one of the most acceptable numbers of accused witches is around 60,000, with 80% being women and 85% of the executed also being women; many believing it to be a lot higher. According to “Were the Witch-Hunts in Premodern Europe Misogynist”, many records omit the deaths of women who were starved to death in prisons, with many others murdered while imprisoned with their deaths being blamed on demonic interventions. Once accused, the women faced degrading sexual treatments, often being stripped naked while their entire body was violently searched for “the mark of the devil”, with the mark being anything from an oversized birthmark to the formation of their genitalia. And overwhelming amount of accused women were executed without a fair trial. In some cases, usually further south in Europe, women weren’t even allowed to know who was responsible for bringing forth the charge against them. The accused women were always stripped of their belongings and possessions. And very few were granted freedom; the few that were, were judged and mistrusted by society; their lives ruined. It is also important to mention, often times imprisoned women were tortured for a confession. Under such circumstances, it’s in human nature to say whatever is needed to end the pain. Comparing women’s treatment to that of imprisoned men—many men would receive lighter sentences even when accused of the same crime as the women. At the time, laws also favored men over female when dealing with the death penalty of prepubescent witches. For men, the legal age was twenty-one, as opposed to eighteen for females. Some men could buy their way out, as the famous French case involving a priest and his mistress proved. The priest was able, through the power of money and influence from powerful friends, go free without any consequences, meanwhile the women was burned to death. Other times, men convicted of being witches were only convicted because of their connections—be it their mother, grandmother, sister, etc.—to the woman already accused of it. And finally, many accused men were already criminals—accused of adultery, robberies, and so on—to begin with, with the witch accusations only later being added on. “For them, witchcraft was not the original charge, but was added on to make the initial accusation more heinous.” (Where the Witch-Hunts…Misogynistic, pg.202) Generally, men were accused of witchcraft solely because it was believed they could be witches; women were. Many like to argue that the hunts weren’t misogynistic, but rather class related. But when observing who was mostly accused and executed, under class related...
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