From Circe to Clinton: why powerful women are cast as witches
During the 2016 US presidential election, American social media was flooded with images of Hillary Clinton wearing a black hat and riding a broom, or else cackling with green skin. Her opponents named her The Wicked Witch of the Left, claimed they had sources testifying that she smelled of sulphur, and took particular delight in depictions of her being melted. Given that the last witch trial in the US was more than 100 hundred years ago, what are we to make of this? In the late 19th century, the suffragette Matilda Joslyn Gage asserted something revolutionary. The persecution of witches, she said, had nothing to do with fighting evil or resisting the devil. It was simply entrenched social misogyny, the goal of which was to repress the intellect of women. Obviously, she was on to something. A better parallel to “witch” is the word “whore”. Let’s start with the classic: the evil, aged crone. The most famous of this type must be Shakespeare’s weird sisters from Macbeth.
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