Good Witches Hunting

Written By: - Date published: 1:16 pm, March 6th, 2018 - 114 comments
Categories: feminism, human rights, sexism - Tags: , , , , ,

With the emergence of the #metoonz movement the Press decided to run this cartoon from Al Nesbit,

Let’s unpack this. Witches were women in Europe in the 15th to 18th centuries who were persecuted by the church and state authorities because of perceptions of challenge to political and social power. That persecution included torture, sexual torture, and murder. It was overtly misogynistic and actively promoted women-hating, and coincided with the removal of the humans rights of women and legislation that rendered women second class citizens.

Estimation of numbers varies hugely from several hundred thousand to millions. Women were literally tortured and burned into political submission for being a challenge to the male hegemony of the time. It was a critical formative development in what European and eventually New Zealand culture would become.

In 2018 we have women standing up and challenging the male hegemony of our time. Women are saying that men no longer get to define the rules around access to women’s bodies. Lots of men support that, some men like Nesbit are struggling to catch up. Some men are going to actively resist.

There’s a bit of a whirlpool of chaos around this whole witch thing, and it’s not surprising when we consider how formative the witch burning times were and yet how little people know about them now (it’s not women who have been writing history for the last 500 years). But women are now reclaiming the word witch, and saying no, you cannot use it in such a perverse way, all things considered.

Some people are saying witches weren’t real and those people are thus ridiculing the men fearing witch hunts. But witches were the midwives, healers and herbalists, often the key point in communities for women’s power and knowledge i.e. the power we all know that women have that is different than institutional power.

They were the women resisting the patriarchy and who didn’t properly follow the ways of good Christian wives. They were women who liked sex or who were more likely to step out of the bounds of mainstream society. Sometimes they were simply women unlucky enough to have fucked off a man who had more power than her.

For those that think witches are caricatures of women who cast spells, but how ridiculous, magic isn’t real, consider that the pagan religions of Europe were suppressed in the same ways that Europe also went on to do to indigenous peoples they later were colonising. Women in those centuries were the key points that needed taking out, and the processes are remarkably similar to what happened in colonisation. By the time the Brits got to these islands and called them New Zealand, they were adept at how to target the religious and social structures that were central to Māori existence. If you think witches weren’t real, what do you think tohunga were?

Witches were real women, and a class of women that were intentionally targeted for political reasons. We need to bear that in mind.

New Zealand is full of women, bursting to the seams really, who would have been pointed at and called witch 500 years ago. We are the ones that would have been tortured and then murdered when we eventually confessed to being a witch. Me writing this post, the women quoted in these tweets. Jacinda Ardern pointing at Mark Richardson on national television, saying “and you…” and then telling him kindly but in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t get to control women by asking them about their baby plans. Metiria Turei standing up and saying poor people matter (yes, the irony is strong in that example). Whina Cooper, Marilyn Waring, Aunty Jackie, Alison Mau, all the unnamed women, grandmothers, aunties, sisters, that are doing the mahi every day of making things right in their communities despite the patriarchy and fuckwittery of still too many men.

Witches were the women who held certain kinds of power in society, and knew where and how to wield it. A different kind of power than the men of the Inquisition had, but we persisted and here we still are. Only now we have institutional power too. That somehow we are the ones who shouldn’t be trusted to be honest and have integrity is laughable but also deeply offensive.

Here’s what a #metoonz cartoon looks like from someone who understands what is going on,

There’s more that could be written about the connections between the Inquisition, colonisation, and where women are today in NZ. But for now, let’s just get clear on what witches are, and that they’re the ones now doing the hunting. I’m sure that scares some men (exhibit A: Al Nesbit), but I personally trust women to do the right things here. We have a vested interest in getting this right, and in doing right by the men in our lives. It won’t be perfect, but there is no good reason to assume that this is anything other than yet another round of redressing the vast power imbalances of our history. Men can help or hinder that, and that too will affect how this goes.

114 comments on “Good Witches Hunting ”

  1. Carolyn_Nth 1

    Nice title.

    Never heard of the Malleus Maleficarum before – first published in Germany in the 15th century. Added to my reading list:

    Gender-specific theory developed in the Malleus Maleficarum laid the foundations for widespread consensus in early modern Germany on the evil nature of women as witches.[127] Later works on witchcraft have not agreed entirely with the Malleus but none of them challenged the view that women were more inclined to be witches than men.[128] It was perceived as intuitive and all-accepted so that very few authors saw the need to explain why women are witches. Those who did, attributed female witchery to the weakness of body and mind (the old medieval explanation) and a few to female sexuality.[

    • weka 1.1

      it’s incredibly pertinent to what Western civ became. The power struggle between the Church and the State, how that affected the development of science and especially medicine, are all impacting on us still.

      I’ve just remembered that Phillida Bunkle and Sandra Coney were accused of instigating a witch hunt with the Unfortunate Experiment in the 80s (and the Cartwright Inquiry). Same shit. Women trying to advance their wellbeing, the establishment with the support of too many men trying to prevent them.

      • jcuknz 1.1.1

        I wonder if it doesn’t stem from the early Christian suppression of the concept of a God-Mother in favour of God the Father ? Or perhaps that was the start of it all to “keep women in their place”.

        • weka

          I think you are on to it there. There’s a clear correlation between the shift to the patriarchal god and the suppression of women.

  2. Ross 2


    Men and children have historically been considered witches.

    I think that Nisbett’s point is that hysteria can be a dangerous thing and of course it was during the witch-hunting days of old. Witch-hunting was more an issue of class than of gender. Those accused were often peasants.

    • Carolyn_Nth 2.1

      Yes there are in fact male witches. But, the word is most commonly associated with women. Nisbett uses the common image of a witch as female.

      From etymology online – the history of the word “witch”

      Old English wicce “female magician, sorceress,” in later use especially “a woman supposed to have dealings with the devil or evil spirits and to be able by their cooperation to perform supernatural acts,” fem. of Old English wicca “sorcerer, wizard, man who practices witchcraft or magic,” from verb wiccian “to practice witchcraft” (compare Low German wikken, wicken “to use witchcraft,” wikker, wicker “soothsayer”).

      And you may not be aware of the history of the word “hysteria”:

      nervous disease, 1801, coined in medical Latin as an abstract noun from Greek hystera “womb,” from PIE *udtero-, variant of *udero- “abdomen, womb, stomach” (see uterus). Originally defined as a neurotic condition peculiar to women and thought to be caused by a dysfunction of the uterus. With abstract noun ending -ia. General sense of “unhealthy emotion or excitement” is by 1839.

      Basically something attributed more to women than men to be so emotionally out of control.

      Ross said: I think that Nisbett’s point is that hysteria can be a dangerous thing and of course it was during the witch-hunting days.

      But he’s saying this in relation to the #metoo campaign, in which women are standing up and saying no more of the behaviour that is humiliating and dis-empowering mainly women.

      And Nisbett has reversed the common notion of witch hunt – basically it is most usually used to describe witches being persecuted, not doing the persecution.

    • McFlock 2.2

      For “hysteria” (another unfortunate choice of words, there) to be portrayed, the witches need to be imaginary, not literally hunting people. That’s why the characters in The Crucible didn’t turn out to be actual witches.

      But then, Nisbett couldn’t even spell “hearsay”, so maybe his handle on allegory is equally inept.

      ps: Hmm. I pointed out someone’s spelling error, so Muphry will bite. Haven’t found it yet, though

    • weka 2.3

      “Men and children have historically been considered witches.”

      Yes, I know that. We don’t need to have a ‘what about the men?’ conversation 🙂

      I also understand Nisbet’s point, but that doesn’t lessen the misogyny in his framing. There are also gender politics in the word hysteria and how it gets used. It’s a minefield, and I think care is needed, particularly by men. Nisbet obviously doesn’t give a shit (that’s his MO with other cartoons) so I think it’s fair to interpret his cartoons as political action.

      btw, the witch hunts weren’t simply hysteria. While they employed paranoia and emotion, they were also culturally sanctioned, organised political actions against women by the most powerful people in society.

      “Witch-hunting was more an issue of class than of gender. Those accused were often peasants.”

      Witch hunting was also an issue of class. Please don’t posit gender and class as somehow in conflict as priorities, and please don’t minimise gender. Witch hunting was innately gendered as I talked about in the post. This doesn’t mean that men, children, working class people etc weren’t also getting treated very badly at that time. The patriarchy likes to spread its hate around, but it is also very good at targeting hierarchically.

    • joe90 2.4

      Men and children have historically been considered witches.

      Nah, when men wrote about witches they were pretty damned explicit, women are witches.

      Why Superstition is chiefly found in Women.


      Now the wickedness of women is spoken of in Ecclesiasticus xxv: There is no head above the head of a serpent: and there is no wrath above the wrath of a woman. I had rather dwell with a lion and a dragon than to keep house with a wicked woman. And among much which in that place precedes and follows about a wicked woman, he concludes: All wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman. Wherefore S. John Chrysostom says on the text, It is not good to marry (S. Matthew xix): What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colours! Therefore if it be a sin to divorce her when she ought to be kept, it is indeed a necessary torture; for either we commit adultery by divorcing her, or we must endure daily strife. Cicero in his second book of The Rhetorics says: The many lusts of men lead them into one sin, but the lust of women leads them into all sins; for the root of all woman’s vices is avarice. And Seneca says in his Tragedies: A woman either loves or hates; there is no third grade. And the tears of woman are a deception, for they may spring from true grief, or they may be a snare. When a woman thinks alone, she thinks evil.

    • Matthew Whitehead 2.5

      You are technically correct but in a way that’s actually irrelevant to the point of the post, Ross.

  3. Ross 3

    Heres a list of the witches arrested regards the witch trials in Salem. Mostly women but quite a few men.

    Carolyn, I am not sure I understand your point about the common notion of witch-hunting. As I said it can be the result of hysteria. McCarthyism was generally considered to be a witch-hunt. Many men were the victims there too and the main accuser was a man. I am not sure the male versus women debate takes us far.

  4. Robert Guyton 4

    “magic is not real”

  5. Bill 5

    Witches were women in Europe in the 15th to 18th centuries who were persecuted by the church and state authorities because of perceptions of challenge to political and social power.

    The prosecution of men, women and children (but mostly women) for the “crime” of witchcraft is a bit more complex than suggested in the post, and seems to have had more to do with imagined challenges to power rather than actual ones.

    So for example, the witches of Berwick were those who confessed to having whipped up a storm in the North Sea intended to sink the ship of James the First and his Danish Queen.

    The Earl of Bothwell, who had previously been put on trial for treason was arrested a second time over the head of that and charged with attempting to take the Kings life through sorcery.

    Then there’s the Witchfinder General who seems to have bestowed the title on himself gouging the towns of South East England of their finances for the service of clearing said towns of witches – who might just happen to be those who dared speak out against his scam. His victims included priests (John Lowes).

    John Gaule (a vicar) was strenuous in his condemnation of Hopkins (the Witchfinder General), going so far as to suggest that the “methods” of investigation (finding marks of the Devil) meant that the finders themselves were witches. (How else would they recognise a mark of the Devil?)

    Anyway. I think it’s a tad romantic to suggest that women railing against the patriarchy or who possessed medical knowledge were the main targets of witch hunts. It was much more haphazard than that. And certainly in the case of the Witchfinder General, seems to have been driven by access to easy money. (Any victim would do – so the old, anyone a local population considered to be a pain in the arse – the cantankerous, the curmudgeons)

    Then there’s the effect of the Protestant Church possibly exaggerating numbers as part of its anti-Catholic bigotry, and that men may have been the principle victims in some areas like Iceland and North East Europe/Russia.

    • Carolyn_Nth 5.1

      The European and English history of the word “witch” does show it’s aligned more with women.

      It’s also aligned more with women in contemporary popular culture – and that shows in the stock images Nesbit uses in his cartoon.

      • Bill 5.1.1

        I agree it (the term and in terms of victims) aligns far more with women. And I also agree that Nesbit is offering up a deeply misogynistic cartoon.

        • tracey

          With the full endorsement of his editor

          • Bill

            I kinda want write this in very quiet and small letters, but if I have the correct link, the editor he would be answerable to is either Joanna Norris or Nicole Mathewson Kamala Hayman.

            • tracey


              There are women complicit in the silencing of women.

              • Bill

                I know that. And (it seems) women who are editors, willing to give the promotion of rank misogyny a free and easy platform.

    • weka 5.2

      “Anyway. I think it’s a tad romantic to suggest that women railing against the patriarchy or who possessed medical knowledge were the main targets of witch hunts. It was much more haphazard than that. And certainly in the case of the Witchfinder General, seems to have been driven by access to easy money. (Any victim would do – so the old, anyone a local population considered to be a pain in the arse – the cantankerous, the curmudgeons)”

      I suggest you stop reading what men in positions of power have written about that time, and stop viewing it through a modern, masculinist and I’m guessing agnostic lens, and instead go read the large body of work by feminists who address these very issues.

      Not that happy at being mansplained in this way tbh. You can certainly put up your own ideas about how you see it, but to say definitively that the post is wrongheaded and romantic (those silly women trope), and that witches weren’t real instead of asking or educating yourself is just the same old shit. I wrote the post because of Nesbit, but also because I could see this line was coming up. Saying that witches weren’t real erases a whole swathe of history and perpetuates the oppression. I pointed out in the post that most people don’t know much of this history and that’s because of gendered political reasons.

      I didn’t want to write a novella, so I basically dropped in the key points if anyone wanted to go look it up. The medical politics, the parallels with colonisation, the issue of religion and spirituality and how that played out politically. I’m also happy enough to explain more if people have some interest.

      Women were directly oppressed as healers and midwives. I didn’t make that shit up and it’s not romantic, it’s part of some of the grimmest stuff in European history, and it leads directly to the door of why modern medicine is misogynistic and has been largely controlled by men. Please don’t engage in arguments that erase those histories and realities further.

      “Then there’s the effect of the Protestant Church possibly exaggerating numbers as part of its anti-Catholic bigotry, and that men may have been the principle victims in some areas like Iceland and North East Europe/Russia.”

      Yep, and those would be interesting things to explore where they’re not presented as what about the menz, or in framing that tries to remove the gendered nature of the issue.

      • Bill 5.2.1

        What makes you assert I’m only reading what men in positions of power have written?

        Historians who have studied the record of what happened during the 15th to 18thC are women as well as men.

        And I made no comment as to the reality or otherwise of witches.

        Neither did I say that wid-wives and medical practitioners weren’t victims.

        • tracey

          Who have you read?

        • weka

          “What makes you assert I’m only reading what men in positions of power have written?”

          The nature of your argument.

          “Historians who have studied the record of what happened during the 15th to 18thC are women as well as men.”

          yes, and lots of women have been trained into the male systems of thought and discourse around history. This is why I suggested reading feminists, because they’ve been long challenging the historian hegemony. This is a well known dynamic of history. Victors get to write history, and the people who get to maintain the official versions have to work largely within that paradigm.

          “And I made no comment as to the reality or otherwise of witches.”

          Maybe you didn’t mean to, but is certainly how you came across.

          “Neither did I say that wid-wives and medical practitioners weren’t victims.”

          You’ve missed my points.

          • Bill

            The problem with that approach is that any argument not aligning with your preference merely becomes evidence of “trained into the male systems of thought and discourse around history.”

            There are feminist theories that align with what your post suggests. Barbara Ehrenreich for one, has written along the lines that witches were mid-wives and healers of the time deliberately targeted by authorities, and that they were mostly pagan – but in fact most victims were Christian and most victims were neither mid-wives nor healers.

            And there are court records and such like from the time that offer insight into what was going on and where people (prosecutors and victims) stood.

            There was a horrendous abuse of power. It was complex and messy and yes, women of the time bore the brunt of that abuse.

            • weka

              “The problem with that approach is that any argument not aligning with your preference merely becomes evidence of “trained into the male systems of thought and discourse around history.””

              Only if you think I’m exceptionally biased and/or an idiot.

              History is inherently written from a cultural, class and gendered frame. The only way around that is to have an analysis of what we are reading i.e. make the biases explicit.

              I’m aware of Ehrenreich and the problems with her earlier work. Not sure what your point is. Is it that you now have a single feminist author whose work you disagree with?

              To give you an idea of the problem I’m having with your argument, Christianity and paganism at that time weren’t two separate things. But because you’re putting up the argument that the witches weren’t these things, we have to have this to me rather stupid argument about validity.

              “And there are court records and such like from the time that offer insight into what was going on and where people (prosecutors and victims) stood.”

              Yes, and what gets written about those and how they get interpreted depends upon the world view of the person doing the reading and interpreting. See my point about history and acknowledged biases. The Romans wrote a heap of stuff down about their invasions of Britain. Do you think there is no bias in that? Did the court reporters have any pressures on them about what they wrote and how they wrote about it? Or what got left out?

              “There was a horrendous abuse of power. It was complex and messy and yes, women of the time bore the brunt of that abuse.

              yes, and my analysis includes one that says women were intentionally targeted because of what who they were and what they were doing and the need to control them. Your response to the post said that was a romantic notion, and that really what was going on was the inquisition dudes were superstitious/greedy and that it was a haphazard attack that I guess happened to women. Kind of like colonisation was really about expansion to get more resources and wasn’t about white supremacy and didn’t use intentionally targeted means to take out the people that stood in the way.

              • Bill

                My “point” with Ehrenreich is that her take appears to align to with the one you outlined in the post with regards the nature and position of those persecuted as witches. Nothing beyond that. Nothing even remotely suggesting that I disagree with feminist arguments – simply that her argument on this topic is wrong.

                And I still haven’t said a single thing about witches per se. So I simply don’t get this “witches weren’t these things” that you’re throwing at me.

                But if you want to put no store by the only written documentation of the time, and further, compare obviously “enhanced” retrospective accounts of historical events (Roman writers on Britain) to court documents, then…well, I’m not quite sure how it is we’re ever meant to get any idea of anything from the past.

                Elizabeth Clark who was the Witchfinders first “trophy” – apparently a poor one legged 80 year old widow who no-one really liked, was actually deliberately targeted by authorities because she represented a real and present threat to power. And we’re to think that, in spite of preserved records (including written eye witness accounts that built the case for her interrogation) that give no indication of that actually being the case.

                The witch hunts played out as an absolute abuse of power. But the evidence I’m aware of doesn’t point to it being targeted in the way you claim in the post, as against “[w]itches [who] were the women who held certain kinds of power in society, and knew where and how to wield it.”

  6. Cinny 6

    Brilliant post Weka, am well read on the subject 🙂

    The church especially was threatened with pagans knowledge of healing, so decided to wipe them out, can’t have any competition when giving over ones gold for healing prayers to line the pockets of priests. Conflicting business models to say the least. Those who practise the craft are natural healers and nurturers, they weren’t/aren’t interested in making money, unlike the greed of the church/the throne.

    Had an argument with your neighbour? Label them as a witch, problem solved etc etc.

    Disney has also been adding fuel to the fire for years.

    al nisberts cartoon reeks of a defensive old man

  7. tracey 7

    And so here we are, talking about what witchhunt means. Are only women witches. Mission accomplished for those who cannot stand to have the status quo which excuses so much bad behaviour challenged.

    Back in our homes “girls”, the men are deciding what we can challenges, how, when and how long.

    • Carolyn_Nth 7.1

      yep. Nesbit’s cartoon is clear – women who challenge the gender status quo hierarchy will be attacked with popular imagery denigrating powerful women.

      • tracey 7.1.1

        Same as #metoo. Many were fine with weinstien going down but surely 1 is enough… they sure are hankering for things to get ” back to normal”.

  8. Sabine 8

    a famous witch from my hometown, literally killed for being young and pretty and in a marriage to a noble boy that was not sanctioned by Daddy. – she died by drowning, which sadly meant she was not a witch.

    We still have the witches pyre in my hometown – a rock pole to which the poor beings were tied to before being burned. It is an odd space, between the two defensive walls of the town, devoid of sun and birds. Odd and cold.

    Now for the post, of course its a witchhunt :), it must be. After all if it were not, the ladies would already have shut up and gone back to their knitting. Alas, they are still talking about sexual harassment and sexual violence and so it must be a ‘Witch Hunt’.

    this might be of interest

    • tracey 8.1

      Great response Sabine.

      I always think they scene from Monty Pythons Holy Grail shows the stupidity of the religious views that gave us witchhunts.

      • In Vino 8.1.1

        Agree – I like that scene too, There is also the priest’s need for a scapegoat: Priests usually imposed their power with formal blessings on everything undertaken – eg – planting of crops. Then there is a flood or a drought, and the priest is left looking silly about his ineffective blessing. This made it very convenient to accuse a magical witch/warlock of foul sabotage and evil devilry. Even though some victims were male, I think it true that witches are generally thought of as female nowadays (the ones in the Wizard of Oz were!) and agree that there is an element of misogyny involved in a rather rabble-rousing cartoon like Nisbett’s.

    • BM 8.2

      Must say when it came to witch killing you Germans really shone with your typical German efficiency, that big stone crushing wheel really did the job.

      If I remember correctly something like 60,000 witches were “cleansed” during a fairly short period of time, rather put the Salem witch hunts in the shade.

      • Sabine 8.2.1

        “The German” is a creation not even 200 years old.

        i myself identify as ‘bavarian’.

        who were the witches? a list of people who died

        cleansed: cleanse
        past tense: cleansed; past participle: cleansed
        make (something, especially the skin) thoroughly clean.
        “this preparation will cleanse and tighten the skin”
        synonyms: clean, make clean, clean up, wash, bathe, rinse, disinfect, sanitize, decontaminate, purify; raredeterge
        “the wound was then cleansed and redressed aseptically”
        rid of something unpleasant or defiling.
        “the mission to cleanse America of subversives”
        synonyms: rid, clear, free, purify, purge, empty, strip, void, relieve
        “a plan to cleanse the environment of traces of lead”
        free (someone) from sin or guilt.
        “only God Himself can cleanse us”
        synonyms: purify, purge, absolve, free; More

        I think you might want to rethink this comment. Not because of me, I am whom i am, with my cultural baggage that i inherited in blood, and i am pretty good with that. Others however might think you are a bit of a dick.

        • BM

          My apologies, nothing personal intended.

          I always admired the efficient and mechanical prowess of the Germanic races though, would love to get over there one day and check out the place.

          • Tricledrown

            BM if you spent less time on your flame throwing BS and earned some more money you may even have the time to travel.
            Efficiency doesn’t mean happiness you will find the Southern Europeans ,Irish and Blackforest Germans know how to live.
            The Germans and English are selfish to know any Different.
            Logic will never supersede Love.

    • Incognito 8.3

      The etymology of “hexe” is very interesting; the Old English variant is “hægtesse” (witch, hag, Fury).

      This might interest you; it’s an old Anglo-Saxon charm that has been placed at the late tenth century.ð_færstice

      This particular section I found fascinating:ð_færstice#Parallels_and_analogues

  9. James Brown 9

    Any man who intentionally makes a woman feel uncomfortable / demeaned / threatened (and especially men who are fathers of daughters) is a disgrace.

    Like all people I am not perfect but we (men) need to keep in the forefront of our minds that our role should be to protect (and respect) women (and children), and what is happening with the Me Too movement should in fact be welcomed by men as an affirmation of this.

    • tracey 9.1

      James B

      This is why I do not get the silence and complicity of many good men to the behaviour of peers

    • Sabine 9.2

      No the role of men is not to ‘protect’ women – as that implies that violence against women is normal occurrence and we need men to protect us from other men to go about our business.

      Men simply need to learn that sexual harassment and violence is a daily occurrence in the life of many women and young girls, and also men and boys. More often then not the violence and harassment is meted out by men. Men need to learn how to see it, they need to learn how to stand up to it, and how to call out the offending peers and tell them to stop it.

      While ‘not all man’ is correct, us women, children and men who have been sexually assaulted and abused, who have been harassed out of jobs and careers could tell you that it ‘can be any man’, and thus until proven otherwise we will look upon ‘all man’ as a potential risk that we need to navigate and negate.

      • tracey 9.2.1

        Bravo and eloquently put

      • James Brown 9.2.2

        Sabine – I see what you mean and yes maybe protect wasn’t the the best word to use, maybe support and is a better fit?

        • weka

          Support is good (where it’s support women need).

        • James Brown

          On second thoughts I am going to persist with the word ‘protect’ (although support should also apply) . . I understand and empathise with your comments Sabine but as I feel there will always be men who will hurt women (just as there will always be evil in the world) there will also always be the need for ‘good men’ to protect women (should be need arise).

  10. Stuart Munro 10

    The use of the term patriarchy in a non-patriarchal society is a curious deliberate inaccuracy that doesn’t improve with scrutiny. It seems to resemble other nebulous conspiratorial forces like the international communist conspiracy or the elders of zion. I think it’s well-established that Nisbet is lacking in discernment and good taste but his patriarchal credentials are far from evident.

    • weka 10.1

      “The use of the term patriarchy in a non-patriarchal society is a curious deliberate inaccuracy that doesn’t improve with scrutiny”

      You’re going to have to explain that one. Do you mean the post using the term patriarchy when NZ isn’t patriarchal society?

      • Stuart Munro 10.1.1

        Let me turn that back on you a little if I may. Patriarchal societies a social system in which males hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property. What do you mean by it, since you are referring to it?

        • weka

          That’s close enough. What did you mean in your first comment?

          • Stuart Munro

            Pretty much what I said.

            We’re not in a patriarchal society. Nisbet’s failure isn’t being patriarchal – a patriarch would address an issue he did not approve of in a very different fashion – the use of that authority, declarative statements, this sort of thing:

            “Since the beginning of time, woman has been the nest of all evil! The Tool of Chaos, party to conspiracy against the world and the human race! Woman is ruled solely by corporal lust! (The Witcher)

            What Nisbet seems to be is an apologist for sexual harassment – rather a different thing.

            • weka

              I didn’t say that Nesbit was being a patriarch. The patriarchy is still a big part of NZ society and this is easily understood within a feminist framework (which the post was clearly written in). Can’t be bothered explaining that, you can educate yourself if you need to to get up to speed.

              “What Nisbet seems to be is an apologist for sexual harassment – rather a different thing.”

              They’re part of the same thing (rape apology and the patriarchy).

            • red-blooded

              Stuart, Rob Muldoon used to argue in the 70’s that there was no racism in NZ. Presumably, he never felt labelled by race or as if his options were limited by his racial identity, so as far as he was concerned, there was no racism. Your comments about patriarchy come from a Muldoonist viewpoint. Put another way, how about listening to women when we say that NZ is still (unfortunately) a patriarchal society?

              • Delia

                He was quick to call feminist hairy legged lesbian witches as well and Al is living in a time warp. I have never heard a male referred to as a witch to demean, but at the age of six years old I heard a local woman referred to as a witch and would have heard women referred to as witches hundreds of times since than. Stuart open your eyes.

              • Stuart Munro

                One of the tropes we develop from a bit of study is suspicion of persons or groups that attempt to manipulate us through guilt, especially guilt for things we have not done. The classical example is probably ‘original sin’, which was exploited in some instances to oppress or control, especially but not exclusively to oppress or control women.

                The exercise of authoritarian control on the part of a male centric hierarchy can to some degree fall under a label of patriarchy. Conflating that with the culture of rape and sexual harassment – two distinct if tenuously related things creates an all-inclusive term to disparage men, including men who neither exhibit authoritarian vices or sexual ones.

                From this we get a subculture that not infrequently alienates men initially disposed to be sympathetic to feminist aims. I’m inclined to lay some blame on the post-Marxist lines of reasoning that have greatly reduced the quality of most of the humanities disciplines they have influenced.

                • red-blooded

                  Stuart, get over it. Nobody’s accusing you personally of actively oppressing women. Having said that, if you’re in a state of denial about the power of the patriarchy in NZ, then you’re very unlikely to challenge it or work with women to change it. If you’re feeling alienated, then try examining which of your attitudes is creating push-back from feminist women and men who recognise the necessity for and support the aims of feminism.

                  And rape and sexual harassment are not “tenuously related” to each other or to patriarchal culture – they’re embedded within it. And yes, I know that men can also be sexually assaulted and raped (usually by other men), but this is also at least in part a function of a culture that defines dominance and sexual aggression as natural to men and “masculine”. Challenging those assumptions and changing that culture is freeing for men as well as women.

                  If you’re feeling alienated by a discourse whose aims you claim to be sympathetic to because you don’t fully agree with the theoretical framework in which that discourse is taking place, then forget about the discourse – let others do the theorising – and focus on helping to realise the aims. Do practical things to make space for women in leadership and in public life, step up and share the load of unpaid work, make an effort to challenge sexist tropes and assumptions when you encounter them. How can any of these steps have negative impact?

                  And BTW, Marxism is by no means the only lens through which to examine power imbalances and oppression in human societies and it’s perfectly possible to be a Marxist feminist. Human thought didn’t stop with the Bible and it didn’t stop with Marx.

        • Lara

          “Patriarchal societies a social system in which males hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property.”

          In NZ men do hold primary power.

          Men dominate politics. With only now three exceptions all our PMs have been men. The majority of MPs are and have been men.

          Men dominate religion and its leadership. If you want to use that as “moral authority”. They dominate our news. When an “expert” is interviewed it’s more often a man.

          Men dominate wealth and property in NZ.

          And you want to argue NZ is not a patriarchy? Look again at your definition.


  11. Siobhan 12

    The fact that they would publish any cartoon by Al Nesbit is the issue.

    • weka 12.1

      lol, that too.

      Maybe they’re feelings like they can’t be to progressive now that we have a centre left govt 😉

  12. Sparky 13

    Take a look at some of the misandry out there including the MSM and personally I do not think this is unfair comment.

    • weka 13.1

      The world is going to hell because of the same shit that was going on 500 years ago. We make changes on this ground, we’re more likely to make changes in other parts of the world.

  13. weka 14

    Bit of thread confusion there PR?

  14. weka 15

    Toby Morris has written an article on the demographic problem with NZ cartoonists.

  15. One Two 16

    Very good article, weka…

    When human beings have learnt to love and respect ‘all of us’, we will be on the way…

  16. AsleepWhileWalking 17

    Nesbit seems to be attempting to do his best to smother credibility of anyone who complains.

    Who is this guy and why is he so bitter?

  17. Lara 18

    IMO the #metoo movement is the most exciting thing to happen to women in a generation. Since NZ made it illegal to rape your wife (in the 1980’s).

    It’s long overdue. It’s oh so necessary. Because our justice system is fucked and does not offer justice to survivors of assault and abuse.

    And yet in discussions of this #metoo movement even here on TS where it should be better, either shit from men or silence. With the very few exceptions.

    So disappointing. But utterly unsurprising.

    This is not a discussion on philosophical differences. This is a serious discussion and opening up for the too many NZ women who have been harassed, abused and assaulted. And those men and children too.

  18. ropata 19

    Great post, in full support for my dear sisters, nieces, Mum, Aunties and lovely female friends.

    I just hope that efforts to dismantle the patriarchy don’t tear apart the left, and I don’t support the notion that the church is to blame for everything. The ancient pagans were not particularly enlightened either IMHO

    Just a nitpick. Peace.

  19. Pat 20

    79 comments on would suggest Al Nisbet is very good at his/her job …a very effective political cartoon and use of idiom

    • ropata 20.1

      You have a twisted notion of “good”

    • Ross 20.2

      Yes Pat, I agree. A good cartoonist should generate debate.

      The fact that some are horribly confused about witch-hunts adds to the debate.

      Here is another example: Peter Ellis. His case is often referred to as a witch hunt. But in his case there were 4 female colleagues who were charged with sexually abusing kids. The bottom line is anyone can be a witch and anyone can be a witch hunter.

      I wonder if Tom Scott did a cartoon about witch hunts whether there would be the same debate. Possibly not. If thats the case then this is more about playing the man than the ball.

      • Pat 20.2.1

        now that was a ‘witch hunt’…although I thought the charges against the women were dropped (as they should have been)?

        • Ross

          Yes the charges were dropped after much legal debate. But the judge responsible did so somewhat reluctantly.

          • Pat

            “The bottom line is anyone can be a witch and anyone can be a witch hunter.”

            youre right about that…its a mistake we keep making….something to be aware of.

            • Carolyn_Nth

              Yet the cartoonist used a negative stereotype of witches as a pack of women on broomsticks hunting men.

              It doesn’t matter that the reality is some men are witches.

              In language and common images and language, witches are most associated with “ugly” old women on broomsticks.

              The #metoo movement is about breaking a silence through which largely men humiliate, mostly women and children – people with less power – in order to maintain their masculine power.

              Nisbet’s carton was a vicious attack on that movement – using a very negative stereotypical image of assertive women – an image that has been in our culture as long as the sexual harassment and rape of women, children and some men.

              • Pat

                difficult to visually present a ‘witch hunt’ without a stereotypical witch however.

                An attack?…I dont view it that way, more a warning that whatever the rights or wrongs of the me too movement we need to be careful it does not become a witch hunt….after all we have plenty of precedent (irrespective of gender)

                • ropata

                  Did you even RTFA bro? “witch hunts” were conducted by frenzied mobs with pitchforks and the so called “witches” were the victims

                  Nisbet’s cartoon was so ignorant that he a) inverted history and b) portrayed the victims of violence and rape as crazed witches c) can’t spell ‘hearsay’

                  • greywarshark

                    Of course we pretend that we don’t get it – ‘heresay’ instead of hearsay. He’s playing on the ‘her’-say’ ‘here-say’ double effect from the mangled spelling.

              • Ross


                I am struggling to see your point. The metoo movement was borne out of various women making allegations about various men. It would’ve looked odd, in that context, for Nisbet to show men on broomsticks…but again I think he is drawing attention to the dangers of hysteria. Hysteria is gender neutral. I gave the example of McCarthyism…a male dominated witch hunt.

    • Carolyn_Nth 20.3

      That’s not a clever use of idiom. It’s a lazy re-use of a vicious old stereotype that has long been used against powerful women, to dis-empower them – in a culture where the balance of power is mostly with men.

      A couple of guys patting each other on the back, cheer-leading the re-use of such an abusive pernicious old negative stereotype does not make it clever.

      It just shows how much more work is needed to create a more equal society where women and others are kept dis-empowered through physical, emotional and psychological abuse.

      • Pat 20.3.1

        art is subjective

        • weka

          this isn’t art, it’s politics. Nisbet’s cartoons about poverty are likewise loaded with racist, classist and body shaming imagery. My take is that he isn’t doing satire, but that he actually sees the world in that way. Taking pot shots at vulnerable people is lazy and weak, but I’m guessing bigotry is more the problem here.

          • Pat

            political cartooning isnt art?….that may surprise a lot of artists.

            • weka

              Political cartooning may be art, but the issues here aren’t artistic ones, they’re political ones.

  20. Jay 21

    I saw those witches flying into the air; shouting “ME TOO”, and trailing words: “Your jokes are not funny”, “Your innuendoes are stale”, “I will not have sex with you on the board-room table”.
    From a dark, dark place, with words swirling around me: “Touch it!”, “You’ll like it!”, “This is our special secret”, “Don’t ever tell!”; my SIX year old self whispers “me too”.

  21. Doogs 22

    Witches, zombies, mummies, vampires, etc are, throughout history, the products of fertile imaginations driven by fear and loathing. Ignorance and misunderstanding also have a lot to answer for, and when combined with mob mentality whipped up all kinds of terrible retribution visited upon people who were different, unusual or slightly weird.

    The name witches, as we know, comes from the Old English ‘wicce’ which meant spiritualist, demon invoker or possessor of special powers (perhaps imagined).

    The male version is often recognised as warlock which probably came from the Old English ‘waerloge’ which in turn came out of the Old Norse ‘varo lokkur’.

    History lesson over, the fact that men were also persecuted as witches or warlocks is entirely irrelevant to this argument.

    The fact is that far and away the vast majority of these iconoclasts were women, and the persecutors were men by an an equally large majority. The current wave of men treating women so appallingly is just the modern day version of what went on in the 15th to 18 centuries. There is, among a large number of men today, a huge ignorance of femininity and what is the marvellous enigma that is women. They fail to understand the complexities of womanhood and, as in previous centuries, fear and loathing prevail and their consequent behaviour is damaging to half the population.

    Harvey W, Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby, Rolf Harris, Russell Mcveigh, Otago Law School, the list goes on and something MUST be done about it.

    Any ideas?

    • Carolyn_Nth 22.1

      Yep. This misogynist culture has been around a long time. Such a re-enforcement of those values, in a major news media platform, does show how much more work needs to be done before this damaging power imbalance is changed.

  22. Matthew Whitehead 23

    Also worth noting: There were some “witches” who were basically persecuted BECAUSE people suspected they were finding indirect ways into institutional power. (usually through their husbands, ofc) Clearly these husbands couldn’t have supported women having power because they were poor innocent men, *eyeroll* so it must have been TEH MAGICS.

  23. Carolyn_Nth 24

    Oh, my. I have just been googling about witches and representation of women. It is interesting how the images of good vs bad witches have been perpetuated by Hollywood – good usually equals young, blond and beautiful. bad is usually represented as old, dark and ugly – a couple of sources pointed to the Wizard of Oz as being influential in this.

    There’s this vid that includes stuff about how representations of women as witches coincides with waves if feminism:

    This article in Teen Vogue on witches in pop culture set me off on another search.

    Mention of “Coven” reminded me that Helen Clark’s team in office were soemtimes referred to as a coven.

    A search showed KB commenters and Ian Wishart as particularly using this slur against Clark.

    Here David Slack mentions Wishart’s use of coven in relation to his biography of Clark:

    Top ten surprises in Wishart’s ‘explosive’ new Helen Clark biography:

    Coven meets on Sunday evenings behind Premier House, gets covered in possum fat, dances naked around patio heater.

    In 2010, No Minister used the word “coven” to describe people protesting against something Paul Henry said on TVNZ

    However, it is fascinating to see the lengths to which the Left will go, in their attempts to have him sacked. It seems they regard him as a cockroach to be squashed. A right winger nestling in their private little coven of leftist seat warmers at TVNZ. A veritable interloper.

    Here is a comment by David Garrett on KB in 2014 on Helen Clark and her UN job:

    Milky: Well do tell what made her an “excellent Prime Minister”…for me she was a ruthless social engineer with no discernible principles, and no personal loyalty to those around her…except to the members of the coven she headed..

    And, in my googling I cam across this about Jacinda Ardern during last year’s election – do you recall how some claimed Ardern “cursed” the All blacks?

    However, Michell Duff did an excellent OP taking thew piss out of the whole idea.

    So there we all were: Jacinda Ardern, Jenny Shipley, Helen Clark and me. We’d sent Annette King off for more eye of newt ages ago, but she was taking her sweet time.

    It was a dark and stormy night, somewhere. Oh right, Wellington. Yup, it was stormy.

    My left ear started to tingle, which usually happens when the All Blacks are about to kick off against the Wallabies. A vulture wheeled in the night sky.

    “Ca-caw! Ca-caw!” it crowed, portentously. Wait, how could I hear it through the thick glass of the Beehive’s top floor?

    “CA-CAW!” Lorde screeched again, at my right shoulder. “The coven will come to order.”

  24. greywarshark 25

    Al Nisbet does seem to have a nob at the end of his pen. Quite often.

  25. greywarshark 26

    While thinking about women and how we, they and the media present them, you would find this report of asurvey interesting – from Radionz. 9.24mins

    A study in Australia has found that while having a confident personality helps men rise in the workplace, there is no benefit for women showing assertiveness.

    Dr Leonora Risse, economic researcher at RMIT University in Melbourne, led the study which used government data alongside a psychological framework to assess the career prospects of men and women….

    “There are studies from America which show a man who shows confidence is viewed favourably – he’s decisive and firm and authoritative – whereas if a female shows these traits she’s perceived to be bossy, headstrong or too ambitious.”

    She believes Sandberg’s lean in concept is too narrow.
    “Because it is encouraging women to converge to one mould and suggesting that there’s only one way to be successful and that’s to be bold and assertive.

    “It’s overlooking a lot of the other important attributes, personality traits and talents that people can offer workplaces.”

    It seems that women need to be quietly confident and sturdily determined, with a bit of cunning planning to add. (If you want to view cunning planning and lateral thinking from a self-centred male viewpoint in a cartoon, and are in a city business, then I suggest each day look for the latest Alex cartoon from the Telegraph done by Peattie and Taylor.)

  26. Obtrectator 27

    I don’t see Nisbet’s work very regularly, but on this evidence he’s a superannuated hack who ought to acknowledge he’s totally out of step with the times and exit the profession as soon as possible.

    Followed by one or two others who’ve been coasting for the last two decades or more. (No names, but most people will doubtless have their little lists.)

  27. Delia 28

    Al loves all the attention these cartoons give him.

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