Historically, witches have been scapegoats, and witch-hunting has occurred during periods of crisis such as wars, and times of famine or disease. More recently, the consequences of the global economic crisis have been devastating: unemployment, poverty, and in some countries, an increasing number of suicides. But some politicians have more pressing concerns: in Spain, for example, the Conservatives target women who can already come under heavy fire when it comes to economic issues. This behavior can uphold patterns such as the economic and social marginalization of women.
What is at stake? Don’t worry, just witches…
To give the illusion of a situation that is under control, and to avoid confronting reality, politicians prefer to invent problems. And so they have found the witches of the new era: women – and, more broadly, people – who don’t match with their requirements. In Spain, the Conservatives are using the economic crisis to launch their offensive on all fronts, attacking abortion rights, threatening homosexuals, endangering secular education, and taking control of the public media.
Removing rights helps destabilize a population that is already economically and socially weakened. For instance, I’ve observed that some female volunteers with activist organizations have such financial difficulties that they reduce the number of meals they eat each day. And after the beginning of the global economic crisis, I witnessed a tendency that could be called “the feminization of the pauperization.”
Women are in the hot seat
In a crisis, women are often the first to be financially affected, and more likely to suffer discrimination in hiring. Moreover, the lasting impact of the global financial crisis could be “particularly pronounced” for women. Women are more vulnerable because they are more likely to sacrifice and thus not invest in their career in the long run. This can reinforce other persistent patterns, such as economic and social guardianship: in difficult times, a woman could make concessions in her career goals. In addition, in a family context, women can become housewives against their wishes. This situation could become a vicious circle, because a concrete loss of financial independence can occur without warning.
Worse still, what is going on in Spain shows that in time of crisis, the population as a whole cannot rely on political leaders who close the door to freedom. The scapegoats are those who want the door to remain open. When witches were burned at the stake, the problems didn’t disappear. Now, the issues do not disappear, but the freedom does.