Fear: Then vs Now

Fear of the unknown has a remarkable effect on the individuals of a society. Fear can be used as a means of gaining power, establishing justice, creating order, or fostering chaos. It almost seems like society THRIVES on the creation of monsters — which are simply manifestations of our fears and insecurities.

Over time, the evolution of monsters has become comparable to the evolution of technology — it has always been there, but now it has become smarter and more discrete. Back in the day, medieval society condemned women (and some men) as LITERAL monsters: sorcerers, witches, and werewolves. Interestingly, witches were believed to have a strong connection to the devil, because the only way a women could gain power was through sex with a man. But we all know that in reality, witches were women who stepped outside of their gendered assigned tasks or resembled male characteristics — large noses, beard fuzz. Their only way to ensure safety and eliminate hysteria was to torture and burn them at the stake. Seems a little extreme today, but really we are not too far off. Witches and werewolves did not create themselves. Society creates its own monsters to establish regularity in the midst of turmoil.

Comparatively, modern society breeds fear and division by blaming FIGURATIVE monsters — perceived societal threats such as undocumented immigrants, urban minorities, feminists, atheists, LGBTQ persons, the mentally ill, the homeless, the formerly incarcerated, and other outcasts. Unlike witches, the identity of the modern monsters is not always easily discerned. But as long as normativity exists, anyone who falls outside of the establishment is subject to monstrosity. We no longer burn at the stake, but we starve, lock up, torture, and shame people for their differences - a much slower and petty way to dehumanize a person or a group of people.

As mentioned, standards of normativity change over time, along with its creators and its “others”. With just a little knowledge, understanding, and tolerance, society has the power to eliminate many perceived monsters, but it would be naïve to think we could have a society free of all fear. There will always be some who benefits from creating fear, hate, and division. Put differently, there will always be some who will benefit from having monsters. The hope is that as society advances, the majorities prevail and persuade that inclusion and tolerance form a stronger society. When a monster returns it is because we allow it to return.




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Madelyn Rosen

Madelyn Rosen

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