With the emergence of the #metoonz movement the Press decided to run this cartoon from Al Nesbit,
— Donna (@kebabette) March 4, 2018
Nisbet is an embarrassment to cartoonists. And men. C’mon fella, think it through. https://t.co/lS5wCiQa7J
— Toby Morris (@XTOTL) March 4, 2018
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.
It is so perfectly patriarchal, and a sign of how little we've "advanced" as a culture, that men hear the phrase "witch hunt" and still think "women are coming to get me"
— Stephanie Rodgers 🌹 (@bootstheory) March 4, 2018
These guys KNOW that this isn't what witch hunts were, but it's impossible for them to consider a scenario in which they are not the poor innocent victims of a world gone PC mad
— Stephanie Rodgers 🌹 (@bootstheory) March 4, 2018
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,
The terrible thing is the ordinariness of it. I’d like so much to not have to warn my daughter about this stuff.#MeTooNZ #MeToo my @SundayStarTimes @NZStuff #cartoon @Alisonmau #sexualharassment #predation pic.twitter.com/7uaYjafvCl
— Sharon Murdoch (@domesticanimal) March 3, 2018
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.