Why Are Women Still Looking for Witches to Burn?

A few weeks ago, I went to Augusta for “Women’s Day at the State House,” an event presented by the Maine Women’s Alliance. After scouring my closet for the suggested red article of clothing—I found one, but latex is not State House or even outside-of-my-house appropriate—I settled on a black dress and black coat and black leggings because, honestly, that’s just where I’ m living these days.

I think this perpetual mood is best described by a sign I saw at the Women’s March in January. A young woman, whose half-shaved h ead mirrored my own, was carrying a piece of cardboard that read, “We are the daughters of the witches you didn’t burn.” I remember making sligh tly pained eye contact with her,  the way in which only women who are so tired of this shit can.

But the phrase has stuck with me, and I’ve talked about it at length with most of my acquaintances. A few weeks ago, my best friend, who has recently taken up embroidery, proudly showed me a tote bag she’s been making for me with the quote stitched on one side. (My love for the bag, and my friend, is not lessened by the fact that her beginner stitchwork reads closer to, “We are the dogwalkers of the witches you didn’t burn.")

Back at the State House, one of the first panel’s speakers was a lobbyist whose credentials were better than average. She spent her allotted five minutes going over a series of talking points on how to best reach and influence your elected representatives. It was a useful topic, and I thought she delivered her spiel well. A woman sitting next to me, however, pointedly kept her hand raised despite an earlier explanation that a Q&A period would have to wait due to time constraints.

The lobbyist, weary of pretending not to see the raised hand, took the woman’s question, which ended up being more of a snotty statement that disagreed with the speaker’s position on whether to contact state representatives outside your own district—the lobbyist said this wasn’t a good use of time, and could backfire, which is a true and reasonable thing to say.  The woman asking the question, however, found the answer less practical than I did, and muttered under her breath to her friend, “Don’t womansplain to me.” I listened to them cackle in horror.

I’ll freely admit, I laughed out loud at the sheer ridiculousness of it. Our speaker, a progressive woman with plenty of practical experience, offering her expert opinion, couldn’t even find a wholly welcoming audience among the liberal women gathered to support the (now failed) constitutional amendment hoping to enshrine gender equality. The sheer idiocy of the situation, juxtaposed with the reality that liberals are failing miserably to consolidate power, much less halt conservative policy initiatives, nearly left me hysterical.

It’s enough to wonder why, in the middle of one of the most insanely batshit presidencies this country has ever witnessed, liberal women are still finding ways to rat each other out to the Inquisition.  I can’t stomach any more talk about women who voted for Trump, but I can focus on the women with whom I’d hoped to align post-election. Thus far that focus has been particularly disappointing.

Later in the day, it was revealed that Kellyanne Conway was in the building for a discussion with the Governor and Secretary Tom Price about Maine’s opioid epidemic. The Hall of Flags, buzzing with angry women, was suddenly alive with energy. Planned Parenthood signs were distributed, and chants of, “Shame!” could be heard echoing through the State House. In my black dress, I watched the sea of red find solidarity against a new foe.

At least these daughters can recognize a dark witch when they see one.


Sultana Khan can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




Last modified onFriday, 26 May 2017 09:49