The Witch Trials of Salem in 1962 have powered the implementation of feminism to demonstrate itself as highly influential and relevant work from 1962 till date as modern feminism repackages itself as a gang of puritans which hovers over the society to control anti-social impulses of people. The inability of modern feminism to consider the real evidence as elucidated in the Salem Witch Trials is indicative of its puritanical nature in the contemporary world. Modern feminism shares the similar ideology of puritans as it revolves around punishing a group of people for thoughts they spend their entire lives repressing which resulted in the Salem Witch Trials. The Trials show the prosecution of people who gave their lives to Satan in the hands of puritans who looked for ways to control people’s behaviors and thoughts around them in a negative way primarily based on punishments. Both the ideologies, Puritanism and Modern Feminism never realize that they are the primary instigators of the evil forces these ideologies used to combat. This essay seeks to explore attitudes towards women and feminism with the modern perspective of feminist criminology theory through the lens of the Salem Witch Trials.
Women as the descendants of “Eve” are always perceived as easy targets for mass moral persecution and deviant perception. In early 1692, two daughters of Reverend Samuel Parris, the local Salem pastor, began spending time with Tituba, a slave girl of the pastor in the kitchen. Later, they began to have awful fits, random screams, and crawl on all fours barking like dogs while contorting themselves frightfully which suggested that they might have machination of Satan. People being convinced that Satan had come to Salem listed three women named Tituba, Sarah Osbourne, and Sarah Good as inherently suspicious because they lived on the outskirts of their gender roles and societal conventions. All the three girls continued their convulsions because the Puritans of Salem found them mysterious and the magistrate found out that nearly 200 people were the consorts of the evil. However, skepticism crept into Salem society when the president of Harvard College was accused as one of the tormentors. Magistrate told all three girls that they were mistaken and were “double-edged” which led to nearly 13 women and 2 men being hanged for the occult activity although the epidemic died out. Bridget Bishop was the first of those women who were hanged in the Salem Witch Trials as she was convicted by the societal norms (Mei).
The descendants of Eve, women in Salem were treated as witches due to Puritans’ belief in the Biblical reference that “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live” Puritans in the 17th century believed that all those three women were vulnerable to Satan’s influence. They were indoctrinated into the belief that women who attempted to step out of their gender roles would be labeled as “witches” due to the patriarchal belief that the dignity of a woman is construed with feminine characteristics (McManus). As women are considered inherently deviant, criminology sums up that a woman who commits an offence is perceived as “criminal” because she deviates from the true biologically determined nature that is attributed to women. So the Witch Trials suggest that women are worthy of suspicion as they can easily be conditioned to crimes and are highly liable to deviate just like Sarah Good who refused to submit to gender norms and expected societal roles.
In conclusion, the Salem Witch Trials are an infamous manifestation of modern feminist criminology that those women who wandered without confining their maternal and feminine roles were accused of witchcraft. In the contemporary world, when a modern woman commits a crime she is alienated from her true nature. In the conception of criminology, such women are unable to determine their actual position in society as Tituba and Sarah Good were easy targets for suspicion in the eyes of Biblical puritans.
McManus, Edgar J. The Devil’s Disciples: Makers of the Salem Witchcraft Trials. HeinOnline, 1997.
Mei, Alex. Bridget Bishop: Convicted by Societal Norms. p. 16.