Cover Image: In Defense of Witches

In Defense of Witches

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Member Reviews

Oh my word, this book made me so angry and sad. 

The premise of In Defence of Witches is that women are still suffering the same prejudices that occurred during the witch hunts. Independence, check. Choosing to remain childless, check. Ageing, check. 

Mona Chollet, a French feminist writer, does a great job of gathering supporting research and articles, as well as expressing her own theories, to support her claims. To read of the experiences of women who are so severely judged on every aspect of their life is devastating. We hear from women whom the medical system has failed, women whose husbands left them for younger women, and mothers who felt peer-pressured into having children, and are now completely miserable. 

One thing I really loved about this book, as that it shared details of other feminist texts; I will certainly be checking out Sophie Fontanel’s work.

Chollet’s style, translated from French to English by Sophie R. Lewis, is incredibly engaging. I didn’t find her style didactic, but as a feminist, she was preaching to the choir. This is an incredibly valuable read for everyone, but unfortunately shows us that we still have a heck of a long way to go to achieve true equality.
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It is easy to see why and how the symbol of the witch is embraced and celebrated by the modern female, for "the witch embodies woman free of all domination, all limitation; she is an ideal to aim for; she shows us the way." 

Recently, I have found myself turning up my nose at a lot of current witch/witchcraft "trends." Author Mona Chollet helped me figure out why this adoption by mainstream society bothered me so much. It is because "nowadays, witches have become a neo-liberal girlboss-style icon. That is to say, capitalism has gotten ahold of her; and, like so many things capitalism touches, she is in danger of dissociating from her radical roots." She elaborated on these trends, and absolutely blew my mind when she described its commercial cycle "whether a spiritual and/or a political practice, witchcraft is also an aesthetic, a fashion . . . and a lucrative money-spinner. It has its hashtags on Instagram and its virtual aisles on Etsy, its influencers and its indie entrepreneurs, selling their spells, candles, grimoires, superfoods, essential oils and crystals online. Witchcraft is a fashion inspiration; the big brands are adopting and adapting it. And there’s nothing surprising in this: after all, capitalism is always engaged in selling back to us in product form all that it has first destroyed." 🤯(brb, gonna stare at the wall and ponder this for awhile.)

I've studied how paganism's eco-conscious and spiritual aspects align with most modern witchcraft practices. I've also extensively studied how patriarchal laws and practices contributed to female oppression in the guise of "witchhunts." While I love reading books and watching shows and movies about fun women with magical powers, I'm also constantly craving the deeper analysis and theory provided by Chollet. Hollywood witches are fun, but read this if you want a deeper understanding of the witch as a symbol.
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Mona Chollet's "In Defense of Witches" corrects the historical record, showing the witch hunts were clearly about silencing and eliminating women (Sidebar: to me this was so obvious I was shocked historians debated it.), while also showing the ways we continue to grapple with the legacy of the witch hunts today.

I enjoyed Chollet's book and think others interested in feminism will too. It can get a bit wonky at times, but's overwhelmingly an accessible text.
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I'm not entirely sure how to rate this because I was really interested in the topic, but the delivery didn't fully work for me and I was expecting a bit more about the history of witches and witch hunts. The book starts with the history of witch hunts and moves on to focus on the modern issues of bodily autonomy, (expected) motherhood, age, and healthcare, and the ways these all affect women. I did find that most of the writing only applied to afab women, and didn't include discussion on trans women. A lot of the information (at least the specifics) included in this book was new to me, which is not always the case in feminist nonfiction, so I would definitely recommend it to people looking to read further after some of the introductory/popular collections!
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This book was perhaps more about feminism and less about witches than the description led me to believe, but very interesting and fun to read.

I mention this every time I review nonfiction, but I really don’t read a lot of nonfiction. This one grabbed my attention with that awesome cover and title—I love reading about witches (fictional or no). While Chollet does keep connecting both historical and modern-day witches to the issues she addresses in In Defense of Witches, the book is mainly an exploration of feminist issues.

The introduction has most of the history of witch persecutions found in the book, explaining how certain women—usually childless, elderly, or independent ones—were targeted historically. Chollet reminds the reader of what can easily be forgotten with the casual, sometimes lighthearted treatment the witch hunts receive: countless innocent women were tortured and killed for no reason but subjugation. In the following chapters, Chollet discusses how societies are still persecuting women for choosing to be independent, choosing not to be mothers, or just aging naturally. In Defense of Witches is smart, humorous, and, like so many feminist works, equal parts inspiring and infuriating. It touches on many different topics while weaving witches into the narrative. I really appreciated getting both French and American perspectives on women’s issues (and witchiness).

The book is well-written and researched, and it’s translated from French beautifully. If you’re looking for an in-depth history of witches or witch trials, this is not the book for you, but if you’d like a general overview of feminist thought, check it out. Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for my copy in exchange for this honest review.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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Mona Chollet successfully balances evidence from historical and contemporary society to reach readers. She compiles compelling facts about witches, womanhood, and the ways that women are oppressed because of the intersection of the two. Personally, I've never given much thought to the witch hunt's impact on women's societal and domestic roles. However, Chollet's novel reveals the subtle, or perhaps overt, connections between the witch hunt and the modern war on women. I could read Chollet's research every day.
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This is well-written. More than an exploration of the proverbial witch, it’s a history of misogyny. Which really felt like a missed opportunity to me. We already have so many books highlighting the ways a patriarchal society persecutes women that reject the norms they set. I wanted a book about those independent women. Those childless women. Those elderly women. Not yet another a book defining them in juxtaposition to Men’s expectations. If this is your first book about women on the edge - I’m sure you’ll love it. It’s a good book. A solid book. Does it add anything new to what already exists in this vein? I just don’t think so.
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A really great book about the history of the witch hunts and witches, clearly laying out the ulterior motives behind them. 

Thank you to netgalley and the publishers for providing me with an arc for an honest review!
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I tried so hard to finish this one but I just couldn’t get into it. And I really wanted to read this too!! I think this may be a just not right now read for me. I will come back and update my feedback once I am able to read this one.
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If you are interested in the history of witch trials and the status of women through history this is a must read. I found it informative, enlightening and infuriating. It shows the reader how far women haven't progressed and that is the infuriating part. From the history of witches to the current status of women in society, this is a very well researched and very readable book, a book that will keep me thinking about it for a considerable time.
My thanks to the publisher, St. Martin's and to NetGalley for giving me an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
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Mona Chollet’s In Defense of Witches is an adept interweaving of past and present as it explores the connections between the witch hunts throughout history and feminism today. 

Chollet focuses on three categories of women who were most often accused of witchcraft: the childless, the elderly, and the unattached. The parallels between the past and the present are on full display throughout as Chollet weaves a narrative that is both interesting and at times infuriating (if only because we haven’t come as far as we should have in the intervening years). 

In all, the book is both thought provoking and impeccably researched, and the way that the author weaves the past and the present together is as impactful as it is didactic. 

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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A very interesting book with a very inaccurate titles. Witches feature prominently in the intro and then periodically throughout, but if you're looking for a history of witches and witch trials, this isn't the book for you. If you're looking for a more general book about feminism, then this is a solid read. For those who have studied the topic in depth, these's not a lot of new material here, but for those just getting into feminist thought, this could serve as a great, not-too-academic intro text. It's well written and researched and presents both American and French perspectives, which is somewhat rare in most feminist literature.
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This was a great historical look at how witch hunts have affected women, even in today’s society. My one thing is that this was obviously written in another language (French) and then translated, which is fine but it added a disconnect. In all, I really enjoyed the way this book was formatted.
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An interesting book. I've known about the Salem witch trials but not about what was happening in Europe. Witches/women were always the healers. They knew what herbs/plants to mix to help heal people. I never knew what drove them out and it's sad that they have not regained their prominence. Women are being attacked in the USA for their reproductive health care and that is wrong. We are not stupid. As for our beauty, keep it simple. Body shaming is  still not right. Men and women are still judged by different standards. Find love where ever. It shouldn't matter the color of your skin or sex. It's hard enough to find the person you want to walk through life with without adding obstacles.
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This is a translation of a previously published work in French, which makes a lot of sense as many of the author's references are French/based in Europe.

I found this book quite interesting. As someone with a degree in psychology, who learned all about how witchcraft was diagnosed as a mental illness, and as a feminist, this non-fiction narrative hit many of the right notes for me. It is important to remember that men have always used methods to have control over women and their agency, and witches/witch hunts are a prime example of this. In 1400s it was the Malleus Maleficarum, and in our present date it's... well you can figure it out.

In the 1890s, women started to take back the title of witch and transform it into a feminist manifesto.  For example, did you know that in 1939, Frank L Baum created the first "good witch" in Glinda? Hilary Clinton being labeled a witch during her presidential run ? Well good, that just means she is powerful.

This book utilizes media, pop culture, historical figures, court cases and global practices to demonstrate how women are treated from motherhood to being child free, from how women aren't taken seriously by medical professionals and the invisibility as we age. From Gloria Steinem and the discourse (and fear of) independent single women to Broad City and women's experience with greying hair, Chlollet takes on a journey of all the ways in which women are still targeted and persecuted for straying from the "norm". 

I do admit that I was hoping for more information about the actual witch trials/history of that period. Further, many of the references were dated or were European and therefore I didn't relate to this book as much as I had hoped as it wasn't as current/relevant to me, however, overall I think the author sheds light on the very important topic of the treatment of women and has done a great job of researching the facts to support these points.
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An incredible translation by Sophie R. Lewis. Unfortunately, the original text is lacking - it's very White European/American cisgender woman-centric, with very little thought given to trans women or women of color.  Many of the points that Chollet raises are interesting and insightful, but would have only been deepened by thinking about, for example, women who cannot bear children. I guess that in 2022, I'm pretty tired of "feminist" texts that are really only engaging with the cisgender woman experience. And, too, a book that's thinking about the enduring legacy of witchcraft can only be improved by including witches of color - this seems like a major miss.
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This is a unique book, and very interesting.  It starts with the Witch Hunts, but continues on through today.  Mona's deep look is a look at how the same types on women are still persecuted even today.  This is a fascination and interesting read.
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This book traces the progression of patriarchal attacks on female power, from the European witch hunts to the present day. It's a fascinating and informative text, engaging and easy to read.

Thanks, NetGalley, for the ARC I received. This is my honest and voluntary review.
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Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for this advance digital galley, in exchange for an honest review.  Of note--this was the first time I was actually invited to download a book by the publisher, so I was eager to do so!

In Defense of Witches has an interesting thesis, noted in its subtitle “The Legacy of the Witch Hunts and Why Women Are Still on Trial”. The them is essentially that the witch hunts were all about society’s (men’s) efforts to control women, and misogyny that continues today exists as remnants of those efforts.  The book examines this on several levels, in different areas—historically, socially, in the workplace, in specific fields—making many valid, well-documented points.

The first two chapters focus heavily on when women choose not to have children and how society treats this choice. The third looks at the differences between how men and women age, or how society treats them differently as they age. These sections were clear, organized, focused on the topics. I was occasionally reminded that the book was written and published in Europe, as it would refer to resources in French, and mention how things were in America.

The fourth chapter confused me. It began very much in the first person, and I wasn’t quite sure what message the author was trying to get across (although it did suggest some authors and works that I have since added to my reading list).  It seemed to address a potpourri of topics that the author did not want to leave out, including the relationship between women and the natural world, women’s place in academia, women’s place in medicine and how women are treated by the medical profession, and archetypes.

And then the book ended—this further confused me, because my electronic version showed me at 66%, and I was expecting more of a conclusion, but the remainder was footnotes.

So, to conclude, this book gave me a lot to think about—if I had had a hard copy, I expect that it would now be full of highlighted sections and notes in margins. I believe it will probably find a home in women’s studies classrooms. It definitely has a lot to say—perhaps it tried to say a little too much?
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In Defense of Witches was well researched, informative and thought provoking. Witches have always had a unfair reputation, and have often been persecuted in modern society. The author does a fantastic job of showing the ways that women still face oppression today.  I definitely recommend this book, it is very impactful.

Thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange of my honest opinion.
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