Calling all "wicked" women!
Angelina Jolie has portrayed a variety of women in her acting career, but she's particularly famous for bringing one infamous "villain" to life: Maleficent. While fans wait for Jolie to return to the silver screen for the sequel in October, the Oscar winner is tackling a subject darker than Disney.
In an essay penned for Elle's September issue—the cover on which she stars—Jolie explored the history of "wicked women" and how they came to be called such. "What is it about the power of a woman free in mind and body that has been perceived as so dangerous throughout history?" she began her powerful piece.
In discussing the attributes of women deemed "witches," the star found personal similarities. "Women could be accused of witchcraft for having an independent sex life, for speaking their mind on politics or religion, or for dressing differently," she explained. "Had I lived in earlier times, I could have been burnt at the stake many times over for simply being myself."
Jolie also pointed out how societies around the world continue to constrain and persecute women today for the same qualities they did all those years ago. "Since time immemorial, women who rebel against what is considered normal by society—even unintentionally—have been labeled as unnatural, weird, wicked, and dangerous. What is surprising is the extent to which this kind of myth and prejudice has persisted throughout the centuries and still colors the world we live in," she wrote.
"It is startling how often women who run for political office in democratic countries are described as witches," Jolie continued. "Bring together a group of strong women, and before too long someone will brand them a 'coven'—the technical term, to be clear, for a gathering of witches meeting at night to consort with the devil. Women who stand up for human rights in many countries are still labeled 'deviant,' 'bad mothers,' 'difficult,' or 'loose.'"
The famed humanitarian raised the various ways women and girls are controlled and punished, including through genital mutilation, rape or honor killings. "For all our modern advances, the independence and creative energy of women is still frequently seen as a dangerous force to be controlled, often in the name of religion, tradition, or culture," Jolie penned.
"Why is so much energy expended to keep women in a secondary position?" she asked. "Looked at in this light, 'wicked women' are just women who are tired of injustice and abuse. Women who refuse to follow rules and codes they don't believe are best for themselves or their families. Women who won't give up on their voice and rights, even at the risk of death or imprisonment or rejection by their families and communities. If that is wickedness, then the world needs more wicked women."
As the actress concluded her essay, she brought up the importance of a strong mind, a lesson she relays to her daughters. "There is nothing more attractive—you might even say enchanting—than a woman with an independent will and her own opinions," she wrote. "With love to all the wicked women, and the men who understand them."
The September issue of Elle hits newsstands on August 27.