When I first saw the trailer for The Witch, I immediately made plans to watch it. It takes a lot to get me to see films in theaters these days, but this caught my attention.
I went, I saw it, and it was everything I thought it would be: Very well written, directed, and acted. It’s a film based on Puritan nightmares – things they actually believed at that time.
Afterward, I read every article I could find about it. Most of them were comprehensive reviews, detailing the themes, theories and historical significance of the film. Then there were some articles that not only took its meaning to a different level, but made other things clear to me about an entire cause.
These reviews I speak of are by those who argue The Witch is a ‘feminist’ film. After finishing the article linked above, and a couple of others like it, something dawned on me: These are the types of people who make feminism a more controversial cause than it should be.
Feminism, I’m told, means female equality with men. That’s not controversial to me. What constitutes ‘equality,’ however, can be more divisive, as feminists themselves have never-ending debates about certain subjects and whether they’re ‘feminist’ or not (like, supporting Bernie Sanders over a woman, Hillary Clinton).
Is ‘female empowerment’ feminist? That’s the ‘feminist’ part of The Witch, after all. To some, yes, but that often stretches beyond ‘equality’ and plunges into areas that, at best, gives extra edges to women because they are women, and at worst, encourages them to do anything they want, right or wrong, because they are women (this sums up the end of the movie). It’s these notions that have made otherwise fair and well-meaning people turn away from the cause, as its meaning is expanded – if not entirely redefined – to justify self-serving desires, or even outright prejudice.
Not everyone wants to subscribe to a broadly-defined cause due to the divisive sub-categories and radical spokespeople. Plus, I do NOT need any cause to know the difference between right and wrong, nor should any decent human being. This doesn’t make me a misogynistic jerk who wants women to stay in the home, cook, clean, and have babies. Just like skeptics of other causes, I see the hypocrisy, double standards, lack of common sense, and at worst, the hedonism and narcissism, of those who over-embrace a cause that’s defined as ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.’
Here’s my view of how we got here: Life evolved, and gender roles happened along the way due to circumstances both natural and societal. In every society throughout time and location, males had their roles and females had their roles. Societies with no connection to each other had similar roles for men and women. What? How? Is patriarchy natural? Maybe, though I’m sure a guy hauling a dead lion back to his family for dinner might misogynistically argue in his op-ed how it was logistically inefficient for his pregnant wife to do that chore instead of cleaning the cave.
Regardless, is it ever right or good that women have different expectations (among other things) than men? Not necessarily, but hundreds of thousands of years of it tells me that’s merely been a part of human evolution. Sure, awful, unfair laws get passed, and people are discriminated against for no reason other than gender. And race. And religion. And age. And size. And nationality. And sexual preference. And birth order. And family name. And whether they owned land or not. And…
In the 1630 Puritan New England, men and women took their places. It wasn’t great for women at the time, but it wasn’t great for men, either. They carried the burden of building a home, hunting, farming, and making sure the family didn’t starve to death. Even in a patriarchal (and ultra-religious) society, that’s not necessarily meant to be a curb-stomp to gender equality, but what these folks found to be the most efficient means of living their lives. Start a planet from scratch under the same conditions and I bet the same thing will happen.
Today, however, our American lives have little resemblance to those times, let alone the previous eon. Thank you feminism? Maybe, but also thank you to a variety of inventions and circumstances that finally enabled us to rise above distinct gender roles and expectations, and a government that allows us the freedom to even make these arguments without being burned at the stake.
In these articles, I’ve read comments that William, the father in The Witch, has everything his way, while the daughter, Thomasin, is just another victim of patriarchy. She doesn’t have a great life. She is expected to conform to her role in society. Had these critics actually watched without their feminist blinders on, they’d see that the younger brother, Caleb, also has expectations and pressure to be the man this society (or family) expects him to be. Maybe he would have rather been a wandering minstrel than someone who felt the ‘patriarchal’ duty to step up and provide for his family (only to suffer the consequences in this ‘feminist’ film). I won’t stand on my soap box over that, but clearly there’s a double standard when it comes to those who complain about oppression: ‘Privileged’ demographics don’t count.
After reading that the Satanic Temple of Detroit gave this film a thumb’s up, loving every moment of it for different reasons than what I listed earlier, I felt I had to try to understand. They do in fact believe this film is feminist. They may even have some valid points, as it’s broadly about the journey of a young lady who breaks free from gender-based oppression and escapes to the holy land of freedom. But there’s a huge difference between what is the pursuit of equality, and what ultimately amounts to the embracement of pure evil. If that’s feminism, please count me out.
Let’s also not forget that in The Witch, they kidnap babies, kill them, destroy crops, steal milk, and torture people, children included. Why? Because of evil (or, perhaps female empowerment), not feminism. The daughter, at the end, has the choice to either starve to death or become a witch. Not much of a choice, there, just signing a deal with the devil. Is that feminism? Perhaps it is, according to the Satanic Temple of Detroit, and a handful of other folks whose pursuit of ‘equality’ has turned them into radical revenge-seeking female empowerment ‘feminists.’
My hope, in regards to real feminism and not the hijacked meaning, is that common sense and fairness will prevail. I’ll continue to treat all people the way they deserve to be treated, circumstances considered. This country has made progress, despite those who are hellbent on holding people back, or those intent on reversing the tide in the complete opposite direction.
I love this film. While meant to be a spooky history lesson of illogical Puritan concerns, this film also exposed those who reinforce the reasons why ‘feminism’ is an uncomfortable word.