Angelina Jolie famously portrays Maleficent, the so-called "wicked" witch from Sleeping Beauty who is, at least per the latest Disney film about her, not actually so wicked as she seems. And in a column for Elle, Jolie argues that if you look throughout history at the type of women who are said to be "wicked" or "witches," you'll find that they are simply women who are "free in mind and body"—and thus powerful, and thus considered "dangerous." Such accusations are simply used "to control and silence women," Jolie writes. Looking at the tens of thousands of people, mostly women, put to death during witch hunts from Europe to Salem, Massachusetts, she notes, "Women could be accused of witchcraft for having an independent sex life, for speaking their mind on politics or religion, or for dressing differently."
And it's not just a problem from thousands of years ago: "a woman dancing or singing in public is viewed as illegal or indecent in many countries today," and women who run for office are often called witches, Jolie continues. Women who rebel, who fight for human rights, are decried as deviant or weird—or, in some countries, incarcerated, raped, or killed. Jolie theorizes she herself might have been burned at the stake had she been born in a different time or place. "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." Read her full piece here. (Read more Angelina Jolie stories.)