Three Women by Lisa Taddeo is supposed to be a book about women and their desires. Desire to me is not about power differentials (well, excluding kinks). The women in these stories seem to only desire men who have power over them. They are affected by these awful relationships where they lack power, but it seems like they do not want power.
At first, I was angered by these women. This book isn’t about desire; it’s about weak women who don’t know how to be in control of their lives. White women with no other problems in their lives other than to complain about how much they are unloved, so they seek out these awful men who they base all their self-worth.
I was annoyed at the invention of problems to make their lives more interesting. I feel like in general, I have this implicit bias against white women and their tears. I guess because for so long their tears have been weaponized against my own suffering. Having my feelings invalidated sucks.
But if it sucks so much, why don’t I extend them the same patience (don’t let anyone say non-violence in the face of violence is weak. This ish is hard!)? I tell myself over and over how everyone’s feelings are valid, that I don’t always know what other people are going through. These three women have had hard lives in their own right and who am I to judge that?
I have worked so hard unlearning all of the internalized racism and sexism that I lived with growing up. I guess part of that unlearning has formed this hardened shell of impatience for the people who have taught me to hate myself. I’m not perfect and this is a journey of gentleness I am embarking on, gentleness for myself and for other people.
At the end of the day, I connect with these women in their experience as women. I recognize my bias of at first blaming the women for wanting crappy men in their lives to control them. I identify as a feminist, so why did I not blame these men first for thinking they could be entitled to treat these women this way? Sometimes it’s women who perpetuate patriarchy.
On a side, related note, one of my coworkers sent our department a link to a bias cleanse MTV created with the Kirwan Institute that is supposed to help us fight our implicit racial, LGBTQ+, and gender bias. I honestly thought it was too basic for me, but I think it would be helpful for people who are just beginning to explore their biases and even more for people who don’t think they have biases at all (good luck getting those people to sign up).
Even though I thought I was hella feminist, I apparently need some work (a lot more) and Three Women has opened my eyes to that. But I’m human and I won’t pretend like I will ever reach a place where I can extend empathy 100% of the time to 100% of people. All I can do is commit to getting there.