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 writer with a master's degree in psychology. Her helpful, science-backed journalism and essays about mental health, mindfulness, and motherhood have appeared in The New York Times, WIRED, Romper, Elemental, and elsewhere. You can find the latest from Emily at

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: