The way we think about our past

⁣”The way we think about our past informs what we think is possible today.“ This line can apply equally well to an individual’s past and to our collective human past, but since I read it in Naomi Alderman’s The Power, I’m mostly considering it with respect to the latter.

Part of the book involves a gender hierarchy that is inverted. It is not a subtle literary device. One of the most telling things for me is how, even being able to see the deliberate substitution for male when we’d expect female, I still emotionally respond to that substitution as not-right or somehow uncomfortable.⁣

For instance, at one point in the book, a woman asks a man, “Have you thought about the evolutionary psychology of it? Men have evolved to be strong worker homestead-keepers, while women—with babies to protect from harm—have had to become aggressive and violent.” “Well,” I think, “that’s silly, if anything, women evolved to be homestead-keepers.” And then I am caught in my own trap. The story could go both ways. And what does that mean? What does it open up to think about the past in a different way?⁣

The way we think about our past informs what we think is possible today.

Published by Emily P.G. Erickson

Emily P.G. Erickson is a freelance writer specializing in mental health and parenting. She has written for popular digital publications, including Everyday Health, Health, The New York Times, Parents, Romper, Verywell Mind, WIRED, and more. Emily is a professional member of the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), and the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ). Previously, Emily researched PTSD for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and earned a master's in psychology. You can find the latest from Emily at

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