Less than a month after the news that Angelina Jolie is now one of Time's contributing editors, the actress and activist has taken her writing skills to a new outlet. Rather than give a traditional interview to Elle for its September issue, Jolie has written her own cover story, which the magazine published on Monday.
Jolie isn't the first celebrity to take things into her own hands: Taylor Swift and Beyoncé have also made similar moves as of late, writing a listicle and a series of essays, respectively. Jolie, on the other hand, chose to write one cohesive essay, which essentially doubles as promotion for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, her upcoming film with Elle Fanning and Michelle Pfeiffer. (As with the first installment of the series, the sequel, out this October, stars Jolie as the titular villainous fairy.) To boot, the story begins with a definition of the adjective: "causing or capable of producing evil or mischief; harmful or baleful."
But there's more substance to Jolie's story than initially meets the eye. The actress uses the topic of maleficence as a jumping off point to tackle the broader historical phenomenon of how so often women who resist being silenced or controlled have been persecuted. Two sentences in, she references the Old Testament, citing the command "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" as what has historically led to the execution of tens of thousands of people, "from the witch hunts in Europe to the Salem trials in America." Importantly, Jolie notes, "the vast majority of these were women."
"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 writes. "Had I lived in earlier times, I could have been burnt at the stake many times over for simply being myself."
As for some of the women who, "like the ultimate conspiracy theory," have been blamed for things that couldn't be explained, Jolie points to Joan of Arc. "The initial charges against her included witchcraft, and she was accused of dancing near a fairy tree at night—textbook witchy behavior. It is so ludicrous that it almost seems funny, until you consider that a woman dancing or singing in public is viewed as illegal or indecent in many countries today. Iranian girls who post videos of themselves dancing are challenging what the country’s law and religious dogma still deems unacceptable behavior for women, six centuries later."
Jolie draws more modern-day parallels, from "women who run for political office in democratic countries [who] are described as witches" to the estimated 200 million women and girls subjected to genital mutilation to the thousands of Sudanese women who were allegedly raped by authorities after calling for free elections while marching in the streets. "Women who stand up for human rights in many countries are still labeled 'deviant,' 'bad mothers,' 'difficult,' or 'loose," she adds, before bringing it back to her personal experience. "In my work, I travel often to countries where I know that if I were a citizen there, my beliefs and actions as a woman could land me in jail or expose me to physical danger."
"'Wicked women' are just women who are tired of injustice and abuse," Jolie concludes. "If that is wickedness, then the world needs more wicked women." Admittedly, it's a strange point to make in between glamorous photos of herself posing in, say, gowns by Dior and leather jackets by Celine, but a stirring one nonetheless.