Storify: Daughters of Witches

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

Alright, we're going to have a thread about historical witch-hunts and TERFs co-opting the term.

First: I'm am a witch.

Second: Witch-hunts were my area of expertise in college when I was a history major.

Third: I'm trans.

Let's start by laying down some basics: witch-hunts were many and varied. We can talk about general trends only, which is what I'm doing.

As a general trend, witch-hunts led by authorities targeted subversive elements of society which threatened the ruling patriarchy. Here you have your religious suppression (Catholics against Protestants, and vice versa; Christians against anything not Christian; etc.), and your government sponsored ethnic cleanings (here largely European against anyone Jewish, Romani, and/or brown).

Therefore your government-led witch-hunts were largely about entrenching what we'd recognize now as white supremacy. Since TERF ideology is inherently one of preserving white supremacy by denying intersections of marginalization, theyd be onboard with this.

Community-led witch-hunts are what we tend to find more interesting; they were smaller and easier to get our heads around. (There was almost always overlap between community-led and government-led hunts, but I'm broadly laying out some buckets. Government-led here referring to larger scale stuff like Inquisitions; community-led being smaller and more Salemesque.)

Community-led witch-hunts tended to be about weeding "undesirables" from the local populace. They targeted poor people (particularly ones who weren't gracious about being poor), elderly women disconnected from community, widows who had money and refused to remarry (thereby "keeping" money from local men), women with too many noisy children, etc. The point of these "hunts" were to weed out members of local society who were unliked, odd, poor, or otherwise made people uncomfortable.

The Hollywood image of the Beautiful Witch--pretty, virginal, young, sexy, clean, and all her teeth attached--is a nice fiction. A woman like that led to the stake must've made someone in power VERY uncomfortable, like a rape accusation. Happened! Not the rule, though. You'd more likely see an elderly confused woman with eyes narrowed from bad eyesight and toothless. A "drain" on the community.

In short: community witch-hunts were about targeting the powerless. The more powerless the better

Trans women and trans people absolutely would be burned in this analogy. TERFs would absolutely be on the side lighting torches. TERFs want to play this persecution fantasy where they're the Lone Sensible Voice In The Wilderness while they write Guardian articles. But it's pure cosplay. They're NOT lone marginalized voices. They're paid very well to harm trans people for a living. Trans women are killed for being trans women in huge numbers. TERFs aren't killed for being TERFs, even as they whip up violent sentiment.

As a trans witch, I take issue with the thoughtless use of witch history by exclusionary feminists. To wit: If you're rocking "we are the daughters of witches you failed to burn" shirt, your feminism had better be inclusive.

(The "failed to burn" bit nags me as a historian, because most witches had children & grandchildren and weren't the Hollywood Virgin, but.)

Witches were the poor, the brown, the downtrodden, the disabled, the trans. If you exclude them from your feminism? You're not a witch. If your "feminism" isn't intersectional, you're not a spiritual descendent of witches; you're a witch-hunter. History will not remember you kindly, nor should it.
Final historical note: This was a thread about historical trends, not an attempt to define every witch-hunt victim ever.

Final religious note: Modern religious witchery (including Wicca and neo-paganism) has NOT had a stellar track-record re: trans inclusion. When I first came to Wicca, it was openly known to have huge pockets of community hostility towards trans people. There was a lot of bioessentialist grossness about uteruses & period blood & moon magic & the goddess being an asshat about trans folk. A lot of folks, myself included, worked really hard to root that shit out and shut it down. I think our community is much better now. But we need to be vigilant to make sure that bigotry doesn't creep back in. There are *reasons* why my portrayals of Artemis are always explicitly trans-inclusive. My Artemis recognizes trans women as women and nonbinary folk as valid.

Witch-hunts can be a powerful metaphor when used properly and when we remember that they're about the powerful hurting the powerless. But it is important to remember that "powerless" includes trans people, disabled people, fat people, brown people, poor people, etc. TERF ideology rejects intersectional study by making "has uterus, y/n" the *only* determinating factor of marginalization. Which is particularly hilarious/frustrating in the context of MANY witches being elderly women past menopause. You cannot argue the ability to bear children is the ONLY source of marginalization when communities weeded out infertile women as useless.

TERFs argue that infertile and menopausal women are part of the patriarchy because otherwise a working womb isn't the only marginalization. But once you allow for differing sources of marginalization (and conversely of privilege), they'd have to confront their white privilege. If women can be complicit in the oppression of others, if women can beneficiaries of privilege, then they have to face criticism head-on. And that's why most TERFs tend to be white upper-class British / New England women: the ideology absolves them of complicity in oppression.

Note, too, that for all that TERFs want to ignore trans men, trans men break all this TERF shit with their existence. Because if trans men experience violence directed at "women", then now privilege is even MORE conditional and not divinely granted by god. So TERFs exclude trans women and deny the existence of trans men all to shield themselves from any accusation of privilege, then adopt the language of the marginalized ("witches") to hide the fact that they're privileged and scrambling to KEEP their privileges.


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