Today in my World Civilizations class, we discussed the Salem Witch Trials and the aspects of them. As we talked about how the accusations were primarily pointed at single women of independent wealth, I could not help but make connections with our present-day society.
In today’s world, where a rape victim can be blamed for her suffering because she was out alone or not covering enough skin, where a twelve year-old can be accused of inciting a group of grown men to rape, where women are continuously targeted and isolated for discussion and defamation by the public, are we really all that different from the time of the Salem Witch Trials?
It’s not always explicit either. The subtle act of someone saying something to a group of young adults like “When you all get married,” readily assumes that everyone in that room will or even will want to get married, will want to tie themselves to another person. While I have nothing against marriage (in fact, I hope to be married with children sometime in the future), I do have something against the assumption that marriage is the final destination, the ultimate goal of every young person’s life, especially young women. Because, I mean really, how often do you hear a man’s parents telling him to go ahead and settle down and have kids? A man is much more likely to be praised for focusing on his career instead of forming a family than a woman is.
This parallels the old witch trials so well, because it was mainly single women of advanced age who suffered. They defied societal norms. They were often characterized as troublesome and loud. And, of course, there were the customary statements about how “ugly” they were. Sound familiar?
What I propose is that we, as a society, stop targeting and shaming women who don’t quite “fit” into the current standard of normal. She doesn’t want to get married? Great for her! No, she’s not just going through a phase. Don’t tell her she’ll change her mind someday. Don’t sneer at her and call her ridiculous. Acknowledge her choice and respect that because it is, to be quite frank, none of your business.
Stop the witch hunts and let people be people.