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This past week has had the distinct whiff of 1692 Salem about it. Add together the Republican leadership’s firm contraception-is-bad stance, Rick Santorum’s increasingly publicized misogynistic rhetoric and the Virginia legislature’s punitive implementation of its misogyny and you sense more than the ever-present undercurrent of sexual anxiety. From puberty on, heterosexual men are more or less bewitched by women  and some of those men, for various reasons that are mostly beyond the scope of this post, despise themselves for their helplessness. If such men are in positions of influence or power, their antipathy often turns outward and women suffer – sometimes fatally as in Salem, sometimes by attempts to degrade and humiliate as with the Virginia legislature’s mandatory vaginal-penetration ultrasound exam.
The redolence of witchy women was so ubiquitous in the land last week that what would normally have been a hot story here in Arizona – Mitt Romney’s campaign co-chair, Sheriff Paul Babeu, resigned from that position when his unhappy Mexican boyfriend outed him – slipped beneath the surface like a stone, as the lyric goes. No, it was “women as vessels of sin and/or instruments of Satan” 24/7. It was Republican Anti-Estrogen Week, with precious little time left over for gay-bashing.
The Republican leadership loudly demonstrated that it wants sexually active women to “suffer the consequences” of their activities: pregnancy as punishment. Sex is not fun, ladies! Every sperm is sacred. Have you not read your Old Testament? The leadership spent no time debating how many abortions are prevented by ready access to contraceptives. The plight of zygotes and fetuses could not compete with the bewitching bouquet of girls who just wanna have fun.
Santorum’s history of misogynistic statements provided the week’s YouTube hits – women should not be permitted to fight for their country on the front lines, contraception is harmful to women and society, women in the work force harm families – but he truly channeled the Salem Fathers with his resurrected 2008 warning that Satan, an actual personage he also referred to as “The Father of Lies”, was attacking the United States, using “the great vice . . . of sensuality”, a warning he defended yesterday. Of the four remaining Republican presidential candidates, Santorum is the most transparently fearful of the power of women. And by “the power of women” I mean “sex”. One response to the threat of male inadequacy posed by women  is to subjugate them. So Santorum seeks to diminish women and their bewitching power in every way he can, except one: as the recipient vessels of a male’s sacred sperm.
It was the Republicans of Virginia’s legislature, however, who would have felt most at home in 1692 Salem. Staunch defenders of minimalist government, they saw no untoward government intrusion in their requirement that any woman contemplating an abortion must suffer, against her will and for no necessary medical purpose, the penetration of a 10-inch probe into her vagina. That’ll show her who’s boss. Abortion is evil and therefore any woman contemplating abortion is evil and an evil woman is a . . . Well, we don’t actually have to say the word “witch”. We know what we’re talkin’ about.
Some of us thought that witches and witchcraft had faded from our electoral process with the fading of Sarah Palin. Not so, as it turns out. What has happened instead is what always seems to happen in Republican political discourse: the language becomes more coded. Just as Republicans can’t publicly use the N-word to refer to the President, but must use code words instead – Kenyan-born, Muslim, food-stamp president, etc. – so can they evoke the witchiness of women without the W-word, by references to their emotions and their disruptive effect on men, and by linking them to “attacks” on patriarchal religions, chiefly the patriarchal religion.  And the message is conveyed: women are not the moral equals of men.
Last night’s 20th, and apparently last, Republican presidential debate gathering pretty much stayed away from “women’s” issues, camping instead on comfortable “guy” ground – taxes and wars and Obama-bad. When the timid moderator, John King, showed the audience a Twitter question addressed to each of the four candidates – What is your position on contraception, a question that must be in the minds of approximately 99% of sexually active female voters – the audience booed the question lustily and King permitted the candidates to rail against Obama instead of answering. We can see why the attending partisans wanted to guide their champions away from this dodgy ground: the party line on witches is clear, but the partisans know they will need the votes of nonbelievers in November. How the witches, er, women, vote then will be most instructive.
When Glinda the Good, clearly a Republican, asked Dorothy that question, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?”, Dorothy had the right answer for today’s women voters: “I’m not a witch at all.” We will not truly be free of witches and witchcraft until a substantial majority of women echo Dorothy’s answer, and soundly and definitely reject the Party of Witches.
 The Big Bopper expressed this disorienting, human attraction as well as anyone in “Chantilly Lace” in 1958:
Ain’t nothing in the world Like a big-eyed girl Make me act so funny Make me spend my money Make me feel real loose Like a long-necked goose Like a girl Oh baby that’s-a what I like
 But not by men. Is this the source of the Repressed Right’s morbid fascination with homosexuality? Is this why they seem to think that all of us men must be protected from the attractions of gay sex? Does gay sex feel so attractive to the gay-bashers that they just assume it must be attractive to all of us?
 Hey, you don’t see Wiccans repressing women. And we know that the Catholic male hierarchy has had a lot of practice at sniffing out witches and burning them down.
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