Wasn’t witch burning proof that we cared less about women than about men?
When we think of burning witches at the stake, we often think of the Salem witch trials and men burning women. In fact, the Salem witch trials were a direct result of two girls who experienced epileptic convulsions and blamed their convulsions on the witchcraft of several women in Salem.59 The. Salem witch trials were a result of the community believing the girls without question and trying to save the girls.
When a communin’ condemned a woman as a witch, they did not believe they were condemning a woman: they believed this woman was a nonwoman – that she was supernatural. The very purpose of the trial was to discover whether she was in fact a nonwoman. She increased her chances of becoming a nonwoman if she did not play the contribute-to-survival game: if she had never been married, was a midwife who had attended bad births or given birth herself to deformed children, was a heretic, or practiced forms of healing that led to deaths.60 She multiplied her chances if she became an outspoken advocate of any of these practices.
Ten to 20 percent of witches were men61 (often called warlocks62). Men who were Quakers – who refused to sacrifice themselves in war – were burned at the stake. As were homosexual men.63 A “faggot" was literally a bunch of sticks that people tossed into the fire; it was less literally a heretic that people burned at the stake.64 Often that “heretic” was a homosexual65 Witches (females who wouldn’t reproduce) and homosexuals (males who wouldn’t reproduce) were both burned.
Why were artists and writers often condemned? In part, because writing and art got people to question all this. But more importantly, artists, sculptors, and writers were also condemned because they often gained this freedom to create by not supporting a family. And because many homosexuals did not have to support a family to begin with, they could become writers and artists – thus putting homosexuals in double jeopardy.
Being an artist or being gay uas not in itself the problem. When a gay man added to an institution’s ability’ to protea its citizens – for example, by becoming a priest, minister, or rabbi, or otherwise adding to the grandeur of religion as Michelangelo did by painting the Sistine Chapel66 – he could hope to be accepted. Similarly, in the old Soviet Union, the artist had to add to the grandeur of the state. Even shamans, witch doctors, or oracles were permitted as long as they were perceived as adding an additional layer to the community’s protea ion