A Modern Day Witch Hunt

Classic Case of Victim Blaming & A Modern-Day Witch Hunt

Peter Anderson, long-time supporter of the Wil-Mar, writes open letter to their Board of Directors.

“It is wrong – very wrong – for some in the trans community to make the issue personal and seek to deprive a feminist with whom they disagree of her livelihood and bar her from the public square in some kind of medieval variant of shaming, as if this were the Salem witch trials.”

Read Peter’s full statement, including his experience, “That night when I found it “easier” to give in to mob demands two years ago will haunt me to my grave. I would not want you to fall into the trap of what seems easier in the flush of a moment of contention, when the path down the road to mob pressure ends in rupturing everything we all hold dear in a fair and democratic society.”

Women are being accused of violence and harmed based only on opinions that men are not biologically female. Witch hunts of 15th to 17th centuries accused women of consorting with the devil based only on the imaginations of their accusers.

What is victim blaming? According to Julia Churchill Schoellkopf at the University of Rhode Island,“Victim-blaming occurs when the victim of a crime or abuse is held partly or entirely responsible for the actions committed against them. In other words, the victims are held accountable for the maltreatment they have been subjected to. Perpetrators of crimes for which they blame the victim commonly enjoy a privileged social status opposite the victim, and their blame typically involves use of stereotypical negative words. The phenomenon of victim blaming is thus common in hate crimes, discrimination, rape and bullying. The main motivation for people to victim-blame is to justify abuse or social injustice.”

The reaction of some members of the Madison community to the ongoing harassment and harms to Thistle’s personhood is a text-book case of victim blaming. Victim blaming, like its predecessor, the witch hunt is most commonly directed against women, i.e. the female sex. In modern-day victim blaming the victim’s behavior is said to be the cause of their victimization. Witch hunts went a step farther. The accused witch was said to have “caused others” to commit crimes. These examples from the Madison community fit both definitions.

If you believe that victim blaming has no place in Madison,sign our support statement today.

In February 2017 the Wisconsin Network for Peace, Justice & Sustainability published “WNPJ Board Members Take a Trans-Affirming Stance”. The letter, signed by eight board members, said that the network planned on pulling their sponsorship of the Pipeline Fighters Benefit Concert, which was held in support of indigenous and citizen resistance to the Enbridge pipeline, if Thistle played at the event. Even though Thistle had removed herself from the lineup due to threats against her, these WNPJ boardmembers still felt the need to defame Thistle publicly on their website. Rather than affirming trans people, they defamed Thistle for her feminist opinions about gender See their full statement here.

If you believe that public defamation against feminists has no place in Madison, sign our support statement today.


The language that they used is a classic case of victim blaming. “We do not condone any death threats or threats of violence against Thistle and we hope that she can see that her actions promote this type of violence towards trans people. We hope that she would change her actions to not further this type of violence.” The letter recognizes that Thistle was threatened but instead of condemning those threats, they not only blame her for what has been done to her, they go on to insist that her words cause violence against others.

The board members made no reference to who the hypothetical perpetrators of violence were, but since feminists have never assaulted any transgender person, the hypothetical perpetrators of violence against trans people could only be men. The board members were blaming women for male violence.

The second example comes from a respected member of the Madison activist community. When asked if they would denounce the harassment and defaming of Thistle, the anonymous commenter blamed the victim. “I am appalled to hear that Thistle got shit by mail but I will not support her… She comes from a place of hatred and I can’t support that. Truly, I think there’s much bigger issues to worry about nowadays than a hate-mongering so-called ‘feminist'”

If you believe that victim blaming has no place in Madison,sign our support statement today.

Once again Thistle was falsely accused of hate even though she was the victim. The comment illustrates a dangerous precedent on the left in which community members are willing to tolerate abuse if the victim has unpopular ideas. For a timeline of the abuse Thistle has suffered with screen shots and photos, read our fact sheet.