The Settings Change, but the Story Doesn’t

By Caitlin Easter

I recently came across an illustration by Kasia Babis that made me think about the state of women today in relation to where we were as women when the Salem witch trials were happening. This got me thinking about the oppression of women that we see incessantly perpetuated throughout history, and why things don’t appear to be getting any better.

The image was a two panel comic strip with a witch being drowned and a man saying, “If she dies, she’s innocent, if she survives she’s a witch.” The second panel depict a woman holding a sign that says “#MeToo” and a man saying “If she seems ok, nothing happened. If she claims it was an assault, she’s just seeking attention.”  The artwork can be viewed at: https://thenib.com/how-sexual-assault-claims-are-like-a-witch-hunt.

While we may no longer be placed on ducking stools for behavior that is deemed inappropriate by society (aka white men), we are now put on trial to defend ourselves and our stories. Perpetrators might be the ones literally on trial, but the burden of proof and behavior has always rested on the shoulders of the victim. While going from being on trial and killed for being a “witch,” to being grilled at a trial that is not our own because of our “decisions” might be a step in the right direction, symbolically it isn’t that huge of a leap towards what we need to see.

At what point in history did we stop trusting women? Have we just always had this innate distrust for this entire diverse group of people? Women aren’t trusted by doctors when we say that there is something wrong with our own bodies, and we aren’t trusted by society when we talk about our experiences. Why is the scope of women’s expertise concerning ourselves and our environments seen as something that has such an incredibly limited quantity? In the future, when I talk, I want to be heard. A women’s experiences are just as valid as a man’s.

“Your silences will not protect you….We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language. I began to ask each time: ‘What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?’ Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, “disappeared” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever….Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end. And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had…And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”

― Audre Lorde