Centuries after the infamous witch hunts that swept through Europe and America, witches continue to hold a unique fascination for many: as fairy tale villains, practitioners of pagan religion, as well as feminist icons. Witches are both the ultimate victim and the stubborn, elusive rebel. But who were the women who were accused and often killed for witchcraft? What types of women have centuries of terror censored, eliminated, and repressed?
Chollet has a knack for entertaining prose, and that makes this dense narrative easy to read. She looks at the work of researchers, psychiatrists, actors, writers, sociologists, journalists, some of her friends, and even her own experiences and enters into a conversation with them, and with herself and the reader, to make her points. In the process, she asks important questions with a historical perspective...makes scathing observations about what many call 'social institutions'...and makes strong declarations that, given the amount of evidence presented, are impossible to argue with ...
In Defense of Witches celebrates women, offers a plethora of reasons to accept a variety of viewpoints, and shows how women are still expected to act certain ways or be ostracized. Despite all that, the element that overpowers all others is the celebration of feminist minds and their work, our modern witches. Yes, this book will make you angry at the staying power of misogyny, but it will also make you scream 'Long live witches!'—and that makes it a must-read.
... revelatory ... Even a devoted reader will find it difficult to think of a book besides Chollet’s that does more to redirect preconceptions of how the world was formulated. In that sense, for most, her book will be rewriting history ... reorients past and present events and further exposes the subterfuge that has monumentalized a patriarchal worldview. It connects dots across centuries of Western time, mapping a slow and methodical repression that created a phenomenon of physical and 'psychological alienation' from women. Lastly, the 'witch' permeates the present. Through a genuine interrogation of the past, a modern truth is uncovered, making this book necessary for those who are eager to possess a greater understanding of how human civilization works or is rather, not working ... Ultimately, Chollet’s book leaves us with a lot to ponder and some hope, too.
[A] thought-provoking, discursive survey by Mona Chollet, a bright light of Francophone feminism ... Chollet has emerged as a quiet revolutionary, pushing back against the clichés and the patriarchy that shapes them ... Above all, In Defense of Witches explores what it means for a woman not to have children, and how women can find a positive identity without motherhood ... Although Chollet draws on French sources — Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex remains a foundational text — much of her vocabulary comes from the Anglosphere, popularizing American-style feminist thinking for French audiences. In Defense of Witches is a kind of French answer to Rebecca Traister’s 2016 All the Single Ladies, which Chollet cites admiringly ... Chollet’s style is accessible. She mixes personal experience with astute analysis of pop culture, leavened but not dominated by feminist theory. Her tone is one of self-aware curiosity ... Sophie R. Lewis’s translation into British English is crisp; the book itself would have benefited from a more rigorous edit ... Still, for all Chollet’s endeavors to reclaim the witch as a positive symbol, I frankly wish we could retire the role. Can’t we come up with a better term? Chollet’s entire project underscores the paucity of our vocabulary for describing womanhood outside biology or family.