Guys, I have good news. I promise it’s good news. Misandry is almost done.
No, hear me out. I’m into misandry in a big way. It handily expresses the frustration that women (and conscientious men) feel with the toxic masculinity our culture valorizes. It lets us confirm one another’s experience in a system that calls us crazy or worse for recognizing mistreatment, and it helps us build around that shared mistreatment a necessary exoskeleton of shared anger and support. It makes blowhards and douchebags really, really angry. For that last reason alone, I’m not done with it yet.
But if we call ourselves misandrists, even as a joke, that still puts men at the very center of who we are. Eventually, we’re going to want an identity that doesn’t focus on men.
“I’m not a lady, I’m a witch.”—Terry Pratchett
We can’t do it yet — they’re just too noisy, too violent, too inescapable, too dangerous especially when they think you’re not paying attention. Worse, they’re constantly training each other that they have a right to our time, our regard, our bodies. Right now, it’s not safe for us to turn our backs.
But isn’t that the goal? I want to trust men enough that I can ignore them if they’re not my friends, colleagues, or loved ones. I want to know that unless I invite them into my life, they will be truly irrelevant—that they won’t try to shout or threaten or grope or fuck or murder me into paying attention. I want us to be able to safely treat men we don’t know or care about with genuine indifference—not fear, not wariness, not conciliatory coddling, not real or ironic or semi-ironic hatred.
Somewhere just a little ahead of us, there’s a new identity: one that’s not about pleasing men or about discarding them, but instead about ignoring them and celebrating women’s power. She is not here yet, but she’s visible, and getting closer. In fact, she’s easy to see, because she’s silhouetted crisply against the moon as she rides across it on her broomstick.
“A witch is just a girl who knows her mind.” — Cathrynne M. Valente
The idea of witchcraft is a rich anthropological subject, cutting across genders and cultures. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the Western cultural concept of the witch: a woman defiantly powerful, often defiantly unlovely, totally uninterested in preserving the status quo, and perceived as threatening to the establishment because of her abilities or her unconcern or both. Maybe she really has magic powers, or maybe she’s just been deemed too big for her pantaloons by men; either way, her defining characteristic is that she doesn’t fucking care what you think. She’s Hermione Granger, The Girl Who Gave Literally Zero Fucks. She’s Susanna Martin, laughing in the face of her accusers.
What makes a witch? Here’s the secret: it’s not a pact with the devil, or hunger for children, or I’ll-get-you-my-pretty revenge. It’s just turning your back on expectations, flipping the bird to the patriarchy and all its little monsters. A witch doesn’t need to have a bad attitude—but she doesn’t need to be a submissive helpmeet either. She doesn’t need to hate children, but there’s nothing wrong with her not wanting to host them in her womb or in her house. (She cannot eat them. We still have to live in a society.) She can hate men, or find them pointless, or she can love them—she can love as many men as she wants. She doesn’t need to be ugly, but she’s under no obligation to be beautiful.
And maybe magic isn’t real, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have powers. There are types of influence and capability that have always been recognized as valuable, and because they’re recognized as valuable, society tends to reserve them as much as possible for men. Witches barge their way in anyway because they don’t care, of course, but the roadblocks are high. But there are also abilities that have long been dismissed as “womanly,” and these are witchcraft too, the crafts of witches. We have tinctures for prolonging youth, healing alchemies to reduce pain or stave off sadness or control reproduction, enchantments to increase charisma and influence. With a little pigment, some of us can completely shape-shift our faces; others can disappear into any group simply by choosing the right bits of fabric. Many of us can augur someone else’s mind in order to predict or influence or simply understand their behaviors. Many of us can, with a single incantation, calm a child or earn someone’s trust. Just because these are “girl things” doesn’t mean that they aren’t power.
“Contouring is legit witchcraft.” —Isaac Fitzgerald
Stay alert: I think we’re going to see witch iconography coming into vogue. It’s already happening, if you look. (If you’re not already nodding, and you probably are, think about this: Angelina Jolie in Maleficent. Meryl Streep in Into the Woods. Charlize Theron in that otherwise dreadful-looking Snow White movie.) I predict increasingly more vocal appreciation for Hermione, Willow and Tara, the girls in The Craft. I see us swapping out our “I Bathe in Male Tears” t-shirts for “We are the granddaughters of all the witches you weren’t able to burn.” I can already hear the delighted roar going up when someone calls Hillary Clinton a witch, again. And as funny and useful as I still find misandry, I support striking out for an identity that renders men irrelevant. Grab your cat, grab your broomstick, and join the coven — let’s turn anyone who bothers us into newts and get on with our lives.