Witches: What Women Do Together

Sam George-Allen

 
Witches: What Women Do Together
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Witches: What Women Do Together

Sam George-Allen

Covens. Girl bands. Ballet troupes. Convents. In all times and places, girls and women have come together in communities of vocation, of necessity, of support. And wherever women gather, magic happens. Female farmers change the way we grow our food. Online beauty communities democratise the intricacies of skincare. Teen girls invent phrases that enter the urban lexicon, and choose our next pop superstars.

Patriarchal societies have long been content to uphold men’s and boys' clubs, while viewing groups that exclude men as sites of rivalry and suspicion. In this deeply personal exploration of what women make together, Sam George-Allen delves into workplaces, industries and social groups to dismantle the cultural myth of female isolation and uncover evidence that these groups are formidable.

Thoughtful, intimate, and convincing, Witches is a long-overdue celebration of the power and pleasure of working with other women.   

Review

Witches can be many things, but one thing is for sure: they are women of fearsome power. They are also women who have a tradition of helping other women. Witches are women on the margins, and in our patriarchal society that makes just about all women witches. Witches and women’s rights have been growing together in popularity over the past few decades. Since 1970, there has been an increase in interest in Wicca, a resurgence of witches in pop culture (Buffy, Sabrina, Charmed, Bewitched, and Wicked), and a web of connections forming through digital communities. Witchhood is an alternative to the typical idea of femininity, and with it have come girls and women claiming their place in a sisterhood that feels magical, whether or not it is.

In Witches: What Women Do Together, Sam George-Allen looks at the power of women working together in groups, particularly groups that focus on the group rather than the individual, such as female-only bands, AFLW, midwives, nuns and matriarchal communities. Women working together frighten our patriarchal society, and often women have to work against their own internalised misogyny. George-Allen wrote Witches to help herself and others learn from other women. Her tone is light-hearted when talking about her experiences and insecurities, and Witches, though covering serious topics and delving into feminist theory at times, is accessible, with numerous funny moments.

The West has a history of discrediting feminine knowledge. In exploring different communities of women, George-Allen offers a sense of collaboration – she doesn’t keep her interview subjects as just subjects, she also lets them tell their own stories; when she writes outside her own experience, she literally collaborates with her subjects, giving them space to write in their own words. Witches honours the heritage of the women who have come before us and those still fighting for equality today. George-Allen represents girlhood as something multi-faceted that isn’t easily defined, but shows how the power of women working together is magic.


Cindy Morris works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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