Review: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
"It's the nuances of desire that hold the truth of who we are at our rawest moments. I set out to register the heat and sting of female want so that men and other women might more easily comprehend before they condemn. Because it's the quotidian moments of our lives that will go on forever, that will tell us who we were, who our neighbors and our mothers were, when we were too diligent in thinking they were nothing like us. This is the story of three women.”
Let me firstly give you the trigger warnings for this book: underage rape, abuse, exploitation, eating disorder and societal judgement. A non-fictional book documenting and telling the story of three women – Maggie, Lisa and Sloane.
Maggie is a woman who was abused by her high school teacher but didn’t realize of the abuse until later on in her life – 6 years after that the teacher told her that they needed to stop doing what they were. The book covers her troubled teen years and her court trial against the celebrated teacher.
Lisa is a woman who had been raped as a teen and as a married woman, has not been kissed or shown any affection by her husband in the last 11 years. The book will cover her bit of the story as she shared with a group of women in a doctor’s office where they met often. It will also go on to tell about the physical effects of not feeling loved and even the desperation of taking whatever you get.
Lastly, Sloane is a woman who has become the talk of the town because her husband likes to watch her do it with other men, either while he’s present in the room or later in a video or even over text while it happens.
In all three stories, you’ll come to understand that life’s choices aren’t as simple as saying no because contrary to popular patriarchal belief, women too have desires and needs. Our society has for centuries looked down upon and even shamed women for showing any signs of sexual desires. The book does bring to light the fact that women are the ones who judge other women more harshly, which is something I won’t deny.
Earlier this year, I had the honour to read the ARC for a book coming out this September - Seven by Farzana Doctor (review link) which pointed out something that stuck with me, “…while the men might have made the rules, it is women who’ve enforced them.” Three Women reiterates that point. Ask yourself how many times you have judged or heard judgement for wearing too much make up? Or knew someone who was called a whore for dating too many boys/men? Or called a slut for what they choose to wear or when and where they decide to go? How many times have you heard the phrase, “She was asking for it” when you hear of yet another incident of rape? With the recent #womenforwomen challenge going around the internet, I’d love to see more women accepting the choices that other women make.
“Women shouldn't judge each other’s lives, if we haven't been through one another's fires.”
The book is honestly uncomfortable to read and is even squeamish at times but it makes you ask yourself some very important questions. It has statements which inevitably make you stop and ponder over how you’ve been viewing women around you.
“One inheritance of living under the male gaze for centuries is that heterosexual women often look at other women the way a man would.”
When I was two-third along in the book, I remember thinking that Sloane had it pretty easy with a partner who is supportive of a lifestyle like that, has a good business and even a loving family compared to the other two women but towards the end I was reminded that not everything is perfect just because it looks that way from the outside. This lesson also helped me understand the purpose of mentioning the prose by Charles Baudelaire at the very beginning of the book.
When I read about Lina’s teenage years, I was amazed by how decent her life had been till then, but at the same time I was subconsciously waiting for something bad to happen. Which made me realize that that’s the funny thing about stories and life right? We’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Maggie was the more featured woman in the book with good reason. I won’t talk much about her here, rather I’d like for you all to pick up the book to read her story on your own, because her story deserves to be heard and believed in.
I immensely enjoyed the writing style and my favorite parts about it were the witty analogies filling the pages alongside narrating the stories of these women. This clever writing on Lisa’s part is highly commendable. I am also aware of the problem that this book is lacking diversity but think about it, how many women can one convince to come forward and share their stories? To share their deepest secrets and desires not only to you but the rest of the world through a book? So I won’t blame the author for her choice in the women which were featured. But if you are really looking for a book inclusive of PoC then I’d recommend reading Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (review link).
I rate this book 4 out of 5 bookmarks. A non-fiction book told in a long story format simply makes for a compelling read that is recognizable to all women and one which will send an earthquake through many men’s entire perception of the women and the world around them.
I do hope many of us will be able to move past our initial judgements on women and accept them for who they are because that’s a whole different set of empowerment altogether. I will definitely recommend this read to everyone.