The witch-hunt, then, was a war against women; it was a concerted attempt to degrade them, demonize them, and destroy their social power. At the same time, it was in the torture chambers and on the stakes on which the witches perished that the bourgeois
ideals of womanhood and domesticity were forged.
In this case, too, the witch-hunt amplified contemporary social trends. There is, in fact, an unmistakable continuity between the practices targeted by the witch-hunt and those banned by the new legislation that in the same years was introduced to regulate
family life, gender and property relations. Across western Europe, as the witch-hunt was progressing, laws were passed that punished the adulteress with death (in England and Scotland by the stake, as in the case of High Treason). At the same time prostitution was
outlawed and so was birth out of wedlock, while infanticide was made a capital crime. Simultaneously, female friendships became an object of suspicion, denounced from the pulpit as subversive of the alliance between husband and wife, just as women-to-women
relations were demonized by the prosecutors of the witches who forced them to denounce each other as accomplices in crime. It was also in this period that the word “gossip,” which in the Middle Ages had meant “friend,” changed its meaning, acquiring
a derogatory connotation, a further sign of the degree to which the power of women and communal ties were undermined.
Also at the ideological level, there is a dose correspondence between the degraded image of women forged by the demonologists and the image of femininity constructed by the contemporary debates on the “nature of the sexes,” which canonized a stereo­typical woman, weak in body and mind and biologically prone to evil, that effectively served to justify male control over women and the new patriarchal order.

Silvia FEDERICI, Caliban and the Witch, p. 186
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