Elizabeth Janeway, Man's World, Woman's Place: a Study in Social
Mythology (Morrow) 1971, pgs 119-122:
There must have been witches since time began. Shrewish wives and henpecked
husbands appeared as soon as the institution of marriage did, and fairy
tales tell us that ogres and evil stepmothers were haunting figures before
history was written. Dr. Fiels and other anthropologists report that
witch cults still flourish today. All these creatures are aberrant types,
deviates from expected roles. No wonder they persist, for there are always
people who can't fit the patterns prescribed by any society, no matter
how lenient...It is [Dr. Robert Jay] Lipton's hypothesis that 'the shrew',
whenever she appears, is a specific product of social breakdown...
But the very fact that the shrew appears so promtly when shifting social
circumstances call for changes in role behavior should warn us that she
does not represent a true alternative to the old feminine role...
With no one to please or beguile into acting for her, she must act for
herself. In turning away from her old role, she reverses it in a total
looking-glass shift to its opposite, with the idea that if the old ways
won't work, she'll get as far from them as she can...
As for the other participants in the relationship, we can understand their
contribution to the negative role of shrew easily enough if we consider
that what is happening is what they have always feared. The myth of female
power is supplanting the myth of female weakness.