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Witches: What Women Do Together

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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, an 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 the inherent revolutionary potential of these groups. Thoughtful, intimate, and convincing, Witches is a long-overdue celebration of the power and pleasure of working with other women.


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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, an 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 the inherent revolutionary potential of these groups. Thoughtful, intimate, and convincing, Witches is a long-overdue celebration of the power and pleasure of working with other women.

30 review for Witches: What Women Do Together

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mem

    I wolfed this down in two days (in order to get it back to the library in time, and yet, it was easy). Absolutely adored it. I almost gave it four stars because despite every chapter reflecting women and their magic, I felt it was missing a chapter about fat women and the fat acceptance movement. The author does admit to physical vanity so it had to leave me wondering if she still hadn’t crossed the hurdle of fat bodies being good bodies.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Giselle

    This book's title promises so much, which is perhaps why it has left me so disappointed. The author lacks any real feminist analysis, instead opting for the 'choosy-choice' school of feminism (libfem), the erroneous idea that anything a woman chooses to do is is a feminist act. Here is a good article that breaks down the concept of choice feminism: https://www.feministcurrent.com/2015/... After lamenting that she used to throw other women under the bus by claiming that she's "not like the other g This book's title promises so much, which is perhaps why it has left me so disappointed. The author lacks any real feminist analysis, instead opting for the 'choosy-choice' school of feminism (libfem), the erroneous idea that anything a woman chooses to do is is a feminist act. Here is a good article that breaks down the concept of choice feminism: https://www.feministcurrent.com/2015/... After lamenting that she used to throw other women under the bus by claiming that she's "not like the other girls", she proceeds to assure the reader that she's not like those other feminists (you know, the unpopular ones who centre women in their feminism). It starts promisingly, with the first two chapters speaking optimistically about the positive impacts of when girls and women join together, but it begins to unravel in chapter 3: Make-up. A nod to Naomi Wolf's "The Beauty Myth", the author seems to acknowledge the facts about the cost of time and money and expectations of women to conform, as well as the discrimination against women who don't wear makeup, then in the next breath, tells us that women helping each other in their subjugation is somehow a feminist act, rather than a form of horizontal oppression. Of course, the inclusion of a chapter on Trans makes clear the author's views, but it really does serve to highlight the lack of cogent and thoughtful analysis regarding the issue in liberal feminism. As I went through my checklist of what makes a woman...I saw...the illusion disintegrate. Just as I menstruate and have breasts, I also sprout thick hair on my legs and offensive odours from my pits. The line between male and female is as unreal as national borders... Is the author listening to herself? Body hair and body odour are completely natural and normal parts of being a woman. The idea that these are masculine characteristics and women should be smooth and lovely-scented are lies sold to us by the patriarchy under the neat packaging of 'Gender'. How can any 'feminist' not understand these very basic concepts? I also find it horribly ironic that for a book titled "Witches", that briefly touches on and acknowledges the history of witches being targeted, she uses the term 'TERF' so freely. TERF is a modern day witch-hunt of those who do not bow to gender ideology. It dehumanises people (mostly women) and legitimises the very real threats and violence towards them. Radical feminists are literally today's witches. There is nothing in the Trans chapter about women working together, instead it is an all-out attack on radical feminists. There is no mention of lesbians who are losing their spaces or being victimised for their sexual orientation. It was also a hideous affront to feminism to mention the Vancouver Rape Relief & Women's Shelter for excluding a trans-identifying man, when only months after publishing, trans activists succeeded in lobbying for funding to be withdrawn from VRR simply for being unapologetically woman-focussed and protecting the needs of some of society's most in need of protection. Likewise, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival was shut down after 40 years after being targeted by transactivist bullies, in an infantile show of "If we can't have it, no one will!" I suppose they are example of trans working together, but certainly not for good. The cognitive dissonance continues in the next chapter, Midwives, where she states: Birth is a curious thing. It seems fundamentally female, but of course it isn't; and Women are, of course, not the only people who get pregnant and give birth. How curious that it is only in humans that this confusion occurs...as far as I'm aware, no one is claiming that come tomcats birth kittens, or that roosters can lay eggs. Everyone knows these pregnant 'men' are women. What an insult to women that a chapter on birth - arguably the most fundamentally female thing - could be so tarnished by gender ideology. More lack of feminist analysis on the systems of oppression in the chapter on Sex Workers. She states that we need to listen to the experiences of sex workers, then completely scoffs at Andrea Dworkin's thoughts on her experiences. She also ignores the fact that many people who are hard-fighting proponents of the Nordic Model (somewhat of an inconvenient afterthought in the essay) are actually exited women from the industry. Exited women who try to speak out against the sex trade say that they are frequently silenced by those associations listed in this chapter. She briefly almost touches on the power imbalance, then bounces straight back into the libfem stance of "but some women choose this", without ever recognising the system under which these 'choices' are made. All in all, the valuable insights in this book are too few and far between to offset the harmful misinformation. Do not recommend.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    It seems more than fitting that I read this book just before the birth my baby girl, just as it was fitting that I read this book at this time in my life. As a woman, having a baby girl is both a source of pleasure and excitement, and of some anxiety. I know what it's like to be a girl, and it's difficult to say the least. Holding her small, trusting body in my arms, I have gazed into her peaceful face and thought, with a sense of dread, how do I protect her from the vultures of this world? Add It seems more than fitting that I read this book just before the birth my baby girl, just as it was fitting that I read this book at this time in my life. As a woman, having a baby girl is both a source of pleasure and excitement, and of some anxiety. I know what it's like to be a girl, and it's difficult to say the least. Holding her small, trusting body in my arms, I have gazed into her peaceful face and thought, with a sense of dread, how do I protect her from the vultures of this world? Add to that the niggling worry that I, who has never been 'girly', would have a 'girly-girl' child, well, that just adds to the list of unknowns. Sam George-Allen, a PhD candidate at UTAS, has filled in some gaps for me in my understanding of women, gaps I hadn't really realised were there before. She also makes me feel not so alone in this broad tapestry of genderhood. Witches isn't an angry examination of the wrongs done to women, which you might say Fight Like a Girl is (a good book but I still haven't finished it because it gets me so riled up!), but a "celebration of the power and pleasure of working with other women." Celebration is the perfect word for it, and she celebrates aspects of being 'woman' that I had previously dismissed as trite or stifling. More on that in a bit. This is no dry study, either, but a deeply personal exploration with touches of memoir to it. George-Allen speaks of her own sense of rivalry with other women, a rivalry "we're taught to enjoy. We look for and expect it. Celebrity feuds fuel the whole tabloid industry. [...] Films, books and magazines aimed at women all sell the same, sorry story of women competing with one another, often for the attention of men. And we buy it." (3) She's absolutely right. This is one of the things about being a woman in a Western society that I detest, though I mostly come across it when I glance at the cover of tabloid magazines while queuing in the supermarket, or those rare times I watch MKR (I cannot stand shows like The Bachelor, which would epitomise this). But like the author, I too have felt envy towards other women - there are very few women I haven't envied for something or other (always scratching away at a sense of lack in myself) - and sometimes that envy can turn into resentment. It is on this premise that Witches moves forward, examining several spheres in which women work well together, and the power that comes through that space of sharing, bonding and supporting each other. George-Allen makes a strong case for celebrating these spaces, as "for those invested in maintaining the [patriarchal] status quo, there's a lot to be gained from preventing women from getting together. [...] As Naomi Wolf observed in The Beauty Myth [...] a population divided, distracted and economically depressed is unable to demand to be released from oppression." (3) Examples of this abound, such as in Beyond the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo which immerses the reader into the real-life stories of several families living in a Mumbai slum, always competing over who has the better home to the extent that they never turn their gazes - or their anger - towards their society or government and demand change. This strategy has been used in times of war, and is no less true of women. Sam George-Allen notes in her introduction that her purpose in writing this book was partly as a self-help exercise. "I was finally trying to stitch together my feminist theory and my deeply flawed practice." (6) Much of this work is anecdotal, but supported by wide-ranging statistics and reports. It is a deeply feminist work, and reminds us that "everywhere, women are doing things together - wonderful things, magical things - in spite of all the bullshit we're told about women being catty, backstabbing, untrustworthy bitches. [...] This book is a letter to my former self, and to anyone who's ever felt like her. Look at all these women, I want to say. Look what happens when we come together. Magic, some people say, is change driven by intent. Of course we are witches." (10) In the spirit of the confessional, personal tone used by George-Allen, I felt it only right to reflect on the chapters in the same vein. Because this is a book that encourages you to reflect on your self, and where you fit into your culture, and which messages of the patriarchy you have unwittingly absorbed and used to further fragment and divide. The book is laid out into chapters that each explore the diverse ways in which women work together in positive relationships, including 'the beauty club', sportswomen, dancers, midwives, farmers, sex workers, trans women, nuns and musicians. I felt almost reluctant to read the chapters on fan girls, makeup and nuns because I've never identified with such girls/women or pastimes, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I learned and how deftly, and gently, the author helped me examine my own prejudice and think of these women and their interests in new, more sympathetic ways. It was also empowering to read about the "stealthy cultural heft of teen girls" (20), as evidenced by the pop idols and classic hits that they actively choose, the buying power they have - or that their parents wield on their behalf. Growing up below the poverty line, I never really experienced that, and while I went through the motions of putting up posters of teen heartthrobs while a young teen, I didn't actually like or care about any of them. I just kept that quietly to myself and tried to engage in what I felt were normal, regular teen girl activities. I was an outsider who faked being a member of the teen girl club, because what else can you do as a girl but try to fit in? Especially in a small regional town. Likewise with Chapter 3: Make-up - The Beauty Club. Another chapter I couldn't personally relate to, and another topic for which George-Allen convinced me to have more respect. I don't wear make-up: I have sensitive skin, so it makes me break out in hives; it's stupidly expensive, hard to maintain and time-consuming to put on. Honestly, there are more important things in life, I've always felt. I sometimes study my reflection, though, and acknowledge that of course I'd look "better" with make-up - if it's applied well, everyone does. I've also felt resistant to the pressure to wear it and look a certain way, feeling like it's one shackle too many. George-Allen, though, takes a different perspective, and it's a fascinating one. She looks at the 'beauty club', the hugely successful YouTube channels devoted to sharing tips and techniques, and how women have claimed ownership of the beauty rituals. "Membership of this club might be forced upon you, but the upside is admission to a worldwide VIP room full of secrets, esoteric knowledge and your best mates." (53) She notes that these spaces are full of positive expression and that there's no place for men in them. Men are simply ignored, when they trespass. It's heady, and perhaps the only way women can subvert the social pressure of always looking good: by owning it. "We know that beauty is not as simple as trying to outcompete our peers for male attention or praise. We know that an understanding of beauty, and membership to the club, is really about gaining and sharing the means to move through the world easily, skilfully, and without detection - a means of smoothing the system from the inside." (57) Her argument is compelling, and she convinced me to soften my dismissive views on make-up. The chapter on Sportswomen - subtitled "The Body is a Verb" - was likewise of little interest to me at first. The few times I have tried to play team sport it has been a mostly miserable experience. I'm just not equipped to handle the catty, bitchy game of netball (it was fascinating to learn why it was invented - in that sense, rural Tasmanian netball really gives decorum the finger), or indoor cricket, or bitchy girls in general, and they always seemed to turn up for and dominate sport. After grade six I gave up and simply tried to avoid sport altogether, which I regret now (it probably has more to do with where I lived than sport itself, to be fair). This chapter focuses on women in sport, the pay disparities - she compares the Matildas (female soccer team, ranked 6th in the world) with the Socceroos (male team, ranked 43rd): "in 2015 it was reported that world-renowned player and Matildas co-captain Lisa De Vanna made about $27,397 for the whole year, while Socceroos star Tim Cahill made about that figure per day" (79) - and the popularity of women's AFL. The chapter on nuns, the one I thought might be the least interesting, was possibly the most interesting (after midwives). This review will get way too long if I go into it but get yourself a copy of this book yourself! By combining social justice issues with a sensitive, sympathetic and empowering exploration of women's relationships with each other, George-Allen both caught and held my attention, taught me ways to subvert the ingrained misogyny even women have (without realising it), and helped empower me in celebrating the things women do together, rather than being dismissive of them, or embarrassed by them (that classic internal cringe: unless it's something men do or men approve of, it's not worthy, right?). You could say that there's a lot she doesn't go into or cover, things missing that were surprising - such as roller derby - and perhaps I wanted more on what women are up against, to balance out the celebration. But at the end of it what I really take home is the idea that women do work well together despite the patriarchy, that if we embrace the things that we want to do and enjoy doing and share these things, that we form stronger connections with other women and that it is this, the joyful, often exuberant relationships between women, that the patriarchy rightly fears because it is how we can break free. Witches: What Women Do Together showed me that to help my new daughter grow into a strong woman, I need to embrace what makes her Woman, in whatever ways that appears, and model healthy, mutually supportive female-female relationships. (This does, of course, need to be balanced with consideration of age-appropriateness etc. Girls are being pressured to grow up too fast these days; I feel so sad when I see very young girls wearing hooker boots and boob tubes.)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mel Campbell

    I was so excited to read this book. I am ‘into witch shit’; I really liked the idea of using witchcraft as a metaphor for women’s solidarity, and all the powerful feelings and social effects this homosociality can produce. In the end I found myself wishing it had been more uncompromisingly witchy. While I enjoyed the chapters individually, I felt like the central thread of witchcraft and magic wasn’t necessarily carried through. It’s a mark of the book’s success that it did invite me to consider I was so excited to read this book. I am ‘into witch shit’; I really liked the idea of using witchcraft as a metaphor for women’s solidarity, and all the powerful feelings and social effects this homosociality can produce. In the end I found myself wishing it had been more uncompromisingly witchy. While I enjoyed the chapters individually, I felt like the central thread of witchcraft and magic wasn’t necessarily carried through. It’s a mark of the book’s success that it did invite me to consider the role of lore and ritual in practices as diverse as makeup application, social work and permaculture farming, and how nuns, elders and midwives become guardians of the watchtowers: magical guides across life’s thresholds. I considered how it’s through collaboration with other women that we can access powerful states of transcendence: through playing music, through teenage fandom, through dance and athleticism. Implicit throughout is the idea that these rituals, facilitated by these relationships, transfigure womanhood itself into something fluid and mercurial, something felt from the inside rather than a stolid category that can be pinned down from the outside. This is an especially powerful concept in regard to the trans chapter co-authored with Liz Duck-Chong. But I wish Sam George-Allen had been more explicit, more insistent, that all this IS witchcraft! The power of being completely present in your body and mind, feeling you can change the world, and the feeling of belonging completely to your friends, to your passions, to your work, your community and surroundings, just as they in turn sustain you and lift you up… THIS is what witchcraft is – not just tarot or crystals or spells! The introduction promised this approach, but then the chapters seemed to get bogged down in memoir, or discussions of patriarchal panic over women’s skills and collaborations. The prose was clean and delightful to read, with a lot of evocative scene-setting and observation, and I had a sense of plentiful research and erudition bubbling below the surface; but there was a lot of rumination on what is and isn’t considered feminist, and how men have sought to atomise and belittle women. I’ve admired SGA’s essays in the past but this book felt like it was pitched to the entry-level feminism market. Reading it felt like riding in a sports car at 40kmh. The sophisticated level of critical analysis I’ve seen from SGA before, and was craving here, seemed to me like it had been dialled down in order to make the book ‘approachable’ and ‘accessible’. Maybe my own inner witch wanted a more freaky and nerdy book than the Australian trade nonfiction market can sustain?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael Livingston

    Brilliant, thoughtful essays about a wide variety of women's experiences. George-Allen focusses especially on the ways that groups of women work together - nuns, sportspeople, dancers etc etc etc. Every essay is bursting with ideas, the writing is clear and George-Allen comes across like your very smart friend who's fundamentally optimistic about the world. Brilliant, thoughtful essays about a wide variety of women's experiences. George-Allen focusses especially on the ways that groups of women work together - nuns, sportspeople, dancers etc etc etc. Every essay is bursting with ideas, the writing is clear and George-Allen comes across like your very smart friend who's fundamentally optimistic about the world.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elise Lawrence

    Sam George-Allen weaves her own story through the book in a way that is considered and careful not to overwhelm the core of her chapter - groups of women from a range of backgrounds, identities, and vocations. I particularly loved Liz Duck-Chong's writing on gender and transness, and I learned a lot about sex work and its Australian advocates and activists. I didn't necessarily agree with all the conclusions the author drew - particularly in the chapter centering on dancers, due to my experiences Sam George-Allen weaves her own story through the book in a way that is considered and careful not to overwhelm the core of her chapter - groups of women from a range of backgrounds, identities, and vocations. I particularly loved Liz Duck-Chong's writing on gender and transness, and I learned a lot about sex work and its Australian advocates and activists. I didn't necessarily agree with all the conclusions the author drew - particularly in the chapter centering on dancers, due to my experiences with pursuit of that career - and sometimes felt as if the benefit of the doubt was being given, but I enjoyed the conversational tone, the way the reader felt as if they were learning alongside the author, and the care taken to represent women in their own words as much as possible.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bridget Greci

    Yikes, this book was insufferable. I honestly can’t believe I finished it... but it was so bad I felt I had to finish. Hold on, I know you’re going to think I’m some kind of conservative who couldn’t wrap her head around this “feminist” piece. But nope, I’m a middle aged feminist witch and the entire book I was cringing. But wait! Am I just doing why the book says and putting another woman down? No, definitely not. I actually haven’t read a book written by a man for over a year... I just think t Yikes, this book was insufferable. I honestly can’t believe I finished it... but it was so bad I felt I had to finish. Hold on, I know you’re going to think I’m some kind of conservative who couldn’t wrap her head around this “feminist” piece. But nope, I’m a middle aged feminist witch and the entire book I was cringing. But wait! Am I just doing why the book says and putting another woman down? No, definitely not. I actually haven’t read a book written by a man for over a year... I just think this book would have been better written in 20 years when Sam has a better sense of self/ life/ the world. Her actual writing was pleasing enough, I wish she had picked a less ambitious topic. There are dozens of books that do what Sam attempted to do much better. I could continue to rant about this title but I’ll leave it at: there are dozens of books that achieve what this book attempted. Read one of those, skip this.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lee Ramsey

    This is a story about Sam, and what Sam thinks about being a woman. Good for you Sam! Sam has not had children, hence, no chapter on mothers (ever heard of a mother’s group?) or motherhood. Sam forgot about lesbians. Sam has a friend who is trans, who has told her all about TERFs, but not about TEMMs (Trans Exclusionary Misogynist Males), so we get a whole chapter on that. Just to clarify, not a chapter about the experience of transwomen, a chapter on what some transwomen think TERFs think about This is a story about Sam, and what Sam thinks about being a woman. Good for you Sam! Sam has not had children, hence, no chapter on mothers (ever heard of a mother’s group?) or motherhood. Sam forgot about lesbians. Sam has a friend who is trans, who has told her all about TERFs, but not about TEMMs (Trans Exclusionary Misogynist Males), so we get a whole chapter on that. Just to clarify, not a chapter about the experience of transwomen, a chapter on what some transwomen think TERFs think about transwomen. I must admit, I didn’t read the whole thing, life’s too short. After a few chapters, I checked the cover, thinking I must have misunderstood the title. I did. “Women working together” tricked me: I thought this would be a feminist book. It isn’t.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Toni

    I love this younger woman’s exploration of feminism and the nature of girlhood and womanhood. I might not agree with her about the magical but I find her thesis around women as witches intriguing and a bit persuasive. Her take on contemporary female youth culture is particularly educational to this old crone.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sim ✨(wholesimreads)

    ✔️ 10. (adv.) A book set on an abbey, cloister, monastery, vicarage, or convent 🌟🌟🌟💫 3.5 stars I thought this had a good combination between history and current culture. It was an interesting foray into the intersects of feminine identity, though it got a little ramble-y at times. Good dose of magic throughout ✨

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I really wanted to like this book more, some of the chapters were great and insightful and others rubbed me the wrong way. Everyone's experience is different and I feel like that's something that is hard to incorporate in any book that's set out like this. I really wanted to like this book more, some of the chapters were great and insightful and others rubbed me the wrong way. Everyone's experience is different and I feel like that's something that is hard to incorporate in any book that's set out like this.

  12. 4 out of 5

    WheeldonHS

    I have always found it hard to relate to the experiences of other women. I don't know if it's due to being autistic, having non-traditional interests for a girl, being an introvert, an extension of being aromantic, or something else. So when I read books like this I find them difficult for two reasons 1) I do not possess the shared understanding that the author expects, and 2) because it reinforces the fact that I'm missing out on the shared closeness and intimacy and sisterhood that I'm told all I have always found it hard to relate to the experiences of other women. I don't know if it's due to being autistic, having non-traditional interests for a girl, being an introvert, an extension of being aromantic, or something else. So when I read books like this I find them difficult for two reasons 1) I do not possess the shared understanding that the author expects, and 2) because it reinforces the fact that I'm missing out on the shared closeness and intimacy and sisterhood that I'm told all women know but I clearly don't. I have female friends. Good, close, female friends but that sense of sisterhood and belonging and shared female experience just isn't there. I can feel no distinction between my male relationships and my female relationships. And so it makes rating this book impossible. What I can say is that it is well-written, considered, and the author's thoughts, ideas, opinions, and arguments are nicely articulated.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lori Mcvay

    As someone who has researched and published about the positive factors that help women gain leadership skills and positions, it was so refreshing to read a book about the power of women working together and supporting one another. I have a few criticisms, which are more accurately labeled discussion points (e.g. the urban focus in the farming chapter), but overall I appreciated reading the stories and successes written about here. Keeping in mind that it is written from the author’s perspective, As someone who has researched and published about the positive factors that help women gain leadership skills and positions, it was so refreshing to read a book about the power of women working together and supporting one another. I have a few criticisms, which are more accurately labeled discussion points (e.g. the urban focus in the farming chapter), but overall I appreciated reading the stories and successes written about here. Keeping in mind that it is written from the author’s perspective, I appreciated the places where the author talked about her privilege and gave space for other women to speak and write rather than speaking for them. Overall, I found this a fascinating and joyful read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    I loved absolutely every chapter of this book and the case studies chosen were so interesting (the chapter on women in farming!!). This book just felt like a massive celebration of women getting together and doing amazing things (exactly what was intended) and I felt energised after reading it. It's exactly the kind of book you want to have with you and dip into for a couple of minutes when you need a little optimism boost in your day. I have always been a witch at heart and it is a joy hearing I loved absolutely every chapter of this book and the case studies chosen were so interesting (the chapter on women in farming!!). This book just felt like a massive celebration of women getting together and doing amazing things (exactly what was intended) and I felt energised after reading it. It's exactly the kind of book you want to have with you and dip into for a couple of minutes when you need a little optimism boost in your day. I have always been a witch at heart and it is a joy hearing about my sisters in spirit from another Weird Sister. Blessed be!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I’ll be real and say I picked up the book for the cover but I still read it so WHATEVER. This was a fun light easy read - nothing wildly revolutionary but some chapters were very interesting. The first two chapters and the chapter on nuns was a great time. Nuns have always kind of been mythical creatures to me who just exists in movies as tropes so it was v fun to dive into that world. Some of this book felt a bit weird, contradictory and not well explained. Some bits felt out of place and like I’ll be real and say I picked up the book for the cover but I still read it so WHATEVER. This was a fun light easy read - nothing wildly revolutionary but some chapters were very interesting. The first two chapters and the chapter on nuns was a great time. Nuns have always kind of been mythical creatures to me who just exists in movies as tropes so it was v fun to dive into that world. Some of this book felt a bit weird, contradictory and not well explained. Some bits felt out of place and like the author just wanted to include it even if it didn’t fit the theme but that didn’t bother me too much. It’s sort of fun to read through someone’s own grapplings and understandings of feminism and how to piece that in with their lives. Although I do feel like she has this stance of every choice someone makes is a feminist issue (for example she waves off criticism of Gal Gadot’s pro military anti Palestinian stance as people just loving to give women shit when newsflash there are issues that don’t fit into your well if it’s good for women it’s good simplistic view of the world.) Feel like she tries to be nuanced but because of the size of the book, some of her chapters feel simplistic and surface level but others are fab hence the 3 star rating. Overall had a good enough time with it!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Fox

    The back of this book made it seem so amazing and I immediately bought it. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations. The first chapter is strong, but the entire middle is very weak and her thesis of this book is totally lost. The last few chapter are pretty good, but they couldn't make up for the middle. The author herself seems to only have surface level knowledge of trans issues, matriarchal societies, and sustainable agriculture. She also references YouTube, tv, and movies way too The back of this book made it seem so amazing and I immediately bought it. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations. The first chapter is strong, but the entire middle is very weak and her thesis of this book is totally lost. The last few chapter are pretty good, but they couldn't make up for the middle. The author herself seems to only have surface level knowledge of trans issues, matriarchal societies, and sustainable agriculture. She also references YouTube, tv, and movies way too much! Film is not an accurate representation of real life most of the time. It's very exaggerated to make it entertaining. I enjoyed the narrarives and interviews (especiallly aunty dawn's), but she depends too much on them to carry her book. She needs ideas and opinions of her own and to use the interviews as a supplement. I wish this book dived deeper, it just came off as very shallow.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elene Papazoglou

    ✔️ a book set in an abbey, cloister, monastery, vicarage, or convent (this book is not set in any of those places but it has a whole chapter on nuns and I’ve decided that’s as close as I’m going to get to fulfilling this prompt) 🌟🌟🌟💫 3.5 stars

  18. 5 out of 5

    Annarella

    A brilliant and well written book, full of food for thought. I liked the style of writing, how well the author explains the different situations and how engrossing it is. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC, all opinions are mine

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marisa Romano

    Inspiring take on how women empower each other. Learned things about Aussie culture Locks intersectionality

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    I have no idea what to rate this, so hopefully, that becomes more apparent as I write this review. This is bsacially a social science book interjected with memoir moments of the author, Sam George-Allen. She discusses the many different groups females are grouped together: from stereotypical pink groups of teen girls all through farmers, a more unexpected female group. I'm currently taking a Women's Health & Sexuality course at my college, so this group paralleled a lot of those topics really we I have no idea what to rate this, so hopefully, that becomes more apparent as I write this review. This is bsacially a social science book interjected with memoir moments of the author, Sam George-Allen. She discusses the many different groups females are grouped together: from stereotypical pink groups of teen girls all through farmers, a more unexpected female group. I'm currently taking a Women's Health & Sexuality course at my college, so this group paralleled a lot of those topics really well. I especially enjoyed reading about women without having to take meticulous notes. But, anyways! I really liked her introduction. Her reasoning for the book is essentially she became very jealous of another woman and wanted to explore/correct her mind for these feelings. Overall, George-Allen makes a lot of great points about society's perception of women together. She explores how teenaged girl's opinions are demeaned, how women often need to rise above other women to succeed in our male-dominated world, and how together women seem to always feel companionship and comfort. These messages I really loved. I definitely picked this book up because I really wanted to read the chapter on midwives. I've had a big quick recently in learning about reproductive health and its origin (hence my college course), so I was definitely waiting to arrive at that chapter. The chapters before the midwives chapter didn't all interest me. The sportswomen one was eh simply because I'm not a big sportsfan. The dancers one also did wow me. The makeup chapter also seemed like it could almost be culminated with the teen girls chapter or something, but I still really appreciated its message. Even though I was sometimes bored by the first few chapters, I still really loved little parts of each chapter and the book's overall messages. The midwives, sex workers, and matriarchal societies were easily my favorite chapters. The sex workers chapter was especially interesting because, as a society, we're never taught about sex work, so it's always interesting to read a sneak peek into that heavily curtained off world. Naturally, the midwives chapter was awesome and didn't disappoint. The matriarchal societies chapter corresponded really well with my college class too and I just really love the idea that there existed matriarchal, egalitarian societies prior to the Golden Age of Greece that we're little educated on. The Aunty Dawn Daylight chapter heavily confused me. The chapter centers around this women that George-Allen is friends with in Australia, but there were so many references to historical events about this woman's past that it made it impossible for me to completely follow her story. It seemed less focused to me in contrast to the other more specific chapters too. Although, I thought it was a cool idea to whittle the book down to focus on one woman toward the end of the book, which discusses women together. Anyways, I think I'll give this book 3.5 stars. I found myself zoning out many times during this book. However, it was really thought provoking at some points and it gave me a lot of conversation with my boyfriend. I would recommend for anyone interested in a feminist social science read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Linley Moyle

    uhhhh i expected so much more from this book. the opening chapters were powerful, and there’s some great content in there but as a critical care/anaesthetic nurse the chapter on midwifery supremely pissed me off, and honestly put me off the whole book. Yes, obviously midwives are incredible and do (and have done) amazing empowering things for women (for centuries). But the chapter was SO DAMNING on modern medicine (ie. caesarean sections), with little recognition for the other roles that woman p uhhhh i expected so much more from this book. the opening chapters were powerful, and there’s some great content in there but as a critical care/anaesthetic nurse the chapter on midwifery supremely pissed me off, and honestly put me off the whole book. Yes, obviously midwives are incredible and do (and have done) amazing empowering things for women (for centuries). But the chapter was SO DAMNING on modern medicine (ie. caesarean sections), with little recognition for the other roles that woman play in healthcare (nurses, doctors, allied health). The author clearly has no idea about perioperative obstetrics, she clearly spoke to a few midwives who argued strongly for natural birth - which all midwives do - and took that for gospel. It’s not always the case. There are a plethora of advantages to caesarean sections, not the least of which is PRESERVING THE LIFE OF BOTH MOTHER AND CHILD and ensuring PATIENT SAFETY. Additionally are many MANY health advantages for the mother such as avoiding perineum tearing, postpartum haemorrhage, loss of bladder control, and vaginal prolapse. For the baby there is less risk of asphyxia, hypoxia and shoulder injury. There are obviously pros and cons for both options that should all be considered on a patient by patient basis. but I felt that this chapter was very one sided. Personally I believe that giving women the power to choose what birth they want, empowers them to make their own choice about their own BODY. I have worked in the specialty for 7 years and i’m telling you right now it’ll be an elective caesarean for me when the times comes. Women deserve the right to make that choice without being SHAMED because it’s “not natural”. I think that damning caesareans is actually an extremely archaic anti feminist approach and it really doesn’t sit well with me. very disappointing. Anyway. my 2c.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Karrah

    Witches: What Women Do Together is an interesting look at female communities within our cultures and societies; some female-dominated (such as midwives and nuns) and some where female involvement is just becoming accepted (such as contact or strength-based sports). Parts of the book read like an essay on feminism and the history of women, while other parts read more like the author’s memoir in which she deals with her personal demons (I much preferred the former as the history was insightful and Witches: What Women Do Together is an interesting look at female communities within our cultures and societies; some female-dominated (such as midwives and nuns) and some where female involvement is just becoming accepted (such as contact or strength-based sports). Parts of the book read like an essay on feminism and the history of women, while other parts read more like the author’s memoir in which she deals with her personal demons (I much preferred the former as the history was insightful and interviewees experiences compelling, but I unfortunately found the author’s self reflections a bit vague and shallow). When I began this book, the first few chapters weren’t exactly what I expected, but I enjoyed it more the further in I got. The overarching point that women are stronger together (and the reminder that we shouldn’t continually compete and compare) is a greatly encouraging one, and the chapters that highlighted this the strongest were definitely my favourites to read! In a time where the construct and understanding of sex, gender, and “roles” are under a lot of scrutiny, this book also raises some good points, as well as shines light on some inconsistencies with the concept of “fluidity” (not from the author’s perspective, but my own while examining her thoughts on the matter). I found this additional line of thought interesting and complex to consider in the context of being female (and feminine) in our current society and culture. 3.5 stars overall.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lulu Fitz

    I liked this book. Was it revolutionary? Not at all. But did I come away from the book feeling proud of (and slightly more connected to) my Womanhood? Absolutely. I had such high hopes after reading the first chapter. As someone who is a teenage girl currently, I found it hard to believe that the author, a woman in her 30's, could open my eyes up to my current reality. I mean, i'm the real deal, why would I want to read about that? But I was wrong, in fact this chapter was my favourite because I fe I liked this book. Was it revolutionary? Not at all. But did I come away from the book feeling proud of (and slightly more connected to) my Womanhood? Absolutely. I had such high hopes after reading the first chapter. As someone who is a teenage girl currently, I found it hard to believe that the author, a woman in her 30's, could open my eyes up to my current reality. I mean, i'm the real deal, why would I want to read about that? But I was wrong, in fact this chapter was my favourite because I felt someone really saw me, and could articulate how I felt about the misogyny surrounding Fangirls, girls who are deemed 'Basic', and the girls who identify with being "not like the others." However, for the chapters following the first, I didn't get the same satisfaction. Was it because I couldn't personally relate? Probably. However, I felt that most of this book lacked the analysis I was after. I was disappointed that during the Sex Workers chapter, she dismissed the topic of empowerment because she "doesn't think it matters." I felt as though empowerment plays a huge role in the commodification of female sexuality. Although some chapters felt like filler and lacked depth, I felt like I did walk away from WITCHES: What Women Do Together, a tad more intelligent. I loved learning about Matriarchal societies and the older women in our lives who are so much more than "old crones", but mystifying, wise, female leaders. I recommend people to give it a go as there definitely will be something that resonates with you.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    DNF. It’s rare that I don’t finish a book but this one was just not living up to what I thought it promised. There are a lot of other reviews that sum up my feelings on this. It promised to be a book about the power and magic of women working together. And the first few chapters delivered that- but then it turned into a rant and forgot that there was a thesis at all. The chapter on trans women didn’t at all celebrate the amazing gifts and contributions that trans women bring to the table but ins DNF. It’s rare that I don’t finish a book but this one was just not living up to what I thought it promised. There are a lot of other reviews that sum up my feelings on this. It promised to be a book about the power and magic of women working together. And the first few chapters delivered that- but then it turned into a rant and forgot that there was a thesis at all. The chapter on trans women didn’t at all celebrate the amazing gifts and contributions that trans women bring to the table but instead was a tirade against TERFs - which essentially dedicated the whole conversation to them, in my opinion, at the expense of the thesis and trans women. It wasn’t a chapter celebrating the magic of women coming together. A lot of the book felt more like an expose on the shadow side of women working together than the empowering concept that magic happens when women create communities. The lack of focus and the lack of concrete details to prove her thesis just made this a struggle for me. Loved the concept and really wanted to hear this perspective; I like the idea of women having a kind of magic and reclaiming the term “witch.” The author just didn’t get there, in my opinion. There were a few chapters that I thought the author nailed it - I wish it all had that momentum. I’m disappointed.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Vail

    This book is a rich collection of many groups of women, all of which are often maligned and mistreated, striving for equality or carving out their own pieces of the world to escape the world of men. Teen Girls, Midwives and Nuns were fascinating studies for me. Dawn Daylight’s life story and the Stolen Generation broke my heart. I also appreciated the chapter on trans women and the quote that sticks with me: “All of the things that I might immediately grab onto to assert my womanhood are fleeting This book is a rich collection of many groups of women, all of which are often maligned and mistreated, striving for equality or carving out their own pieces of the world to escape the world of men. Teen Girls, Midwives and Nuns were fascinating studies for me. Dawn Daylight’s life story and the Stolen Generation broke my heart. I also appreciated the chapter on trans women and the quote that sticks with me: “All of the things that I might immediately grab onto to assert my womanhood are fleeting... Gender is like money and manners: imagined, held together by shared beliefs.” What makes a woman a woman? Pregnancy, breasts, specific levels of estrogen and progesterone, the existence of a womb? As the author points out, all fleeting. I say this as a woman who can't get pregnant due to high levels of androgens in my body. Some think this makes me less of a woman too. The inability to do “something my body was made for.”That’s bullshit, just as it's bullshit to say trans women are not women. Anyway. An excellent book on groups of women, how women group ourselves by choice/hobby/career/societal expectations and how we subvert or fight against a system designed to oppress us because together we can be powerful.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rekha O'Sullivan

    DNF I am a Brisbane girl and a fan of the author's music, and was really looking forward to hearing what she had to say about women and feminism. While the author has really thought about what she thinks feminism is, it's presented in an extremely personal and opinionated way. If you disagree in any way with what is posited by the author, the themes can become grating. That said, I applaud anyone who wants to hold women up and celebrate them in all their forms and glory. I just don't particularly e DNF I am a Brisbane girl and a fan of the author's music, and was really looking forward to hearing what she had to say about women and feminism. While the author has really thought about what she thinks feminism is, it's presented in an extremely personal and opinionated way. If you disagree in any way with what is posited by the author, the themes can become grating. That said, I applaud anyone who wants to hold women up and celebrate them in all their forms and glory. I just don't particularly enjoy being preached to. The book did open me up to some interesting concepts but I think they will appeal more to people who are younger than me. My nieces are in their 20's and I am glad that they are being raised to be empathetic and accepting. If young people like this author are making them think about their humanity as well as their womanhood, well that's a good thing. I'll recommend it to them. As a woman of colour, in my late forties and a mother, this book just didn't strike a chord with me. I got to the chapter on Farmers and had to leave it there.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sonia Nair

    I really enjoyed this collection of insightful essays Sam George-Allen has crafted about women in a number of different professions I'd never thought deeply about, from nuns and farmers to weight-lifters and ballet dancers. I enjoyed how the collection often wade into the grey areas of empowerment; George-Allen revels in the joy, agency and friendship that women find in the very oppressive forces that are used to subjugate them, whether it's in the camaraderie of learning how to do one's makeup, I really enjoyed this collection of insightful essays Sam George-Allen has crafted about women in a number of different professions I'd never thought deeply about, from nuns and farmers to weight-lifters and ballet dancers. I enjoyed how the collection often wade into the grey areas of empowerment; George-Allen revels in the joy, agency and friendship that women find in the very oppressive forces that are used to subjugate them, whether it's in the camaraderie of learning how to do one's makeup, or the sportsmanship and skill involved in becoming a virtuoso ballet dancer. I did, however, resist George-Allen's temptation to laud any group of women who did things together as 'feminist' i.e. in this direct quote from the book: "And I still do think that nuns are, secretly, even if they're anti-abortion or cloistered or deeply conservative, also unavoidably feminist".

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    I was reminded of Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession while reading this book. I had a similar feeling that, although what I was reading wasn't bad, it wasn't really what I expected. This book would be better marketed as personal essays. They are insightful stories into her life, and her relationships and experiences. But it feels very reductive to have cobbled together stories of women merely being near other women as evidence of something larger, that women relating to women I was reminded of Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession while reading this book. I had a similar feeling that, although what I was reading wasn't bad, it wasn't really what I expected. This book would be better marketed as personal essays. They are insightful stories into her life, and her relationships and experiences. But it feels very reductive to have cobbled together stories of women merely being near other women as evidence of something larger, that women relating to women is inherently somehow feminist, or revolutionary. It was like all these reflections on the various lives women live were shoehorned into a last minute thesis.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    The chapters I enjoyed the most were: Midwives, Farmers, Matriarchal Societies, Nuns, and the Crone. In the intro on p.3 George-Allen relates a story where a director tells a group of women excitedly buzzing together ", "to spread out so I can see you'. Isolated women are easier to sell things to, easier to control, more easily compressed into the very few ways to acceptably be a woman." How very true. I didn't relate as much to some of the other chapters and I also felt that the thesis of the bo The chapters I enjoyed the most were: Midwives, Farmers, Matriarchal Societies, Nuns, and the Crone. In the intro on p.3 George-Allen relates a story where a director tells a group of women excitedly buzzing together ", "to spread out so I can see you'. Isolated women are easier to sell things to, easier to control, more easily compressed into the very few ways to acceptably be a woman." How very true. I didn't relate as much to some of the other chapters and I also felt that the thesis of the book got lost at times. The "Dancers" chapter is difficult to relate to the idea of women together because it has always seemed to me that being a dancer was a solitary occupation. Some interesting women in this book, especially the older ones whose life experiences have made them strong, independent and so living their own lives. Some good role models here.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    This isn’t my favorite feminist book but it has a lot of good points and honesty on behalf of the author both of which I appreciated immensely. From focusing whole chapters on teenage girls to nuns, trans women, women in farming and more I think there’s plenty for any reader to find some interest in. The author is Australian and many stats are predominately of Australia and New Zealand but most are applicable or at least relatable to much of the Western world. Long story short I love that, as th This isn’t my favorite feminist book but it has a lot of good points and honesty on behalf of the author both of which I appreciated immensely. From focusing whole chapters on teenage girls to nuns, trans women, women in farming and more I think there’s plenty for any reader to find some interest in. The author is Australian and many stats are predominately of Australia and New Zealand but most are applicable or at least relatable to much of the Western world. Long story short I love that, as the subtitle implies, magic happens when women work together. Reading this book and acknowledging how society often pits women against each other and/or diminishes the power and legitimacy of women’s work would be a great first step toward throwing away that whole notion of women competing against women rather than helping each other thrive. “We are at a cultural turning point where it feels like real change is at once within reach and about to be snatched away for good. Even as the #MeToo movement powers on, toppling predators from their thrones, the most powerful man in the world has made his predatory nature part of his brand and his platform. Women are spurred into solidarity with one another by the eerie plausibility of The Handmaid’s Tale just as much as they are by the aspirational fantasy of Wonder Woman. The world, not just for women but for everyone, seems to have gone awry.”

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