THE DANCE OF DECEPTION by Harriet Goldhor Lerner


Pretending and Truth-Telling in Women's Lives
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 The author of The Dance of Anger (1989) and The Dance of Intimacy (1990) completes her trilogy. But this new volume-- unlike the first two--isn't a self-helper but, rather, a freewheeling, feminist contemplation of truth-telling and deception, privacy and secrecy, and honesty and pretense in women's lives. Lerner (a staff psychologist at the Menninger Clinic) focuses on how these qualities function in relationships, and also in a woman's relationship to herself. She postulates that our culture is a patriarchy in which women are deterred from expressing thoughts or feelings that might disrupt the harmony of relationships. Consequently, privacy becomes necessary (speaking out exposes women to emotional and physical harm) as well as dangerous (privacy isolates women, keeping them trapped in false myths about female experience). Lerner views truth-telling as a process that requires women to be in the kind of conversation with other women that allows each woman to be herself and to explore that self: Only then can women identify what unites them and construct ``more complex, encompassing, richer, and accurate'' truths about themselves. Honesty, Lerner says, isn't always the best policy, for unconsidered honesty can create an atmosphere of anxiety in which real truth-telling cannot occur. She believes that pretending can be both destructive and constructive, for living a lie blocks one from self-knowledge, yet pretending to possess certain qualities can lead to actual possession of them. These moral ambiguities are explored in case studies and through personal anecdotes that reveal the impact of secrecy on family relationships and the many ways in which women deceive themselves and others. Low on organization but high in appeal, particularly to feminists. (For a less gender-specific--and sharper--discussion of the relative morality of truth-telling, see David Nyberg's The Varnished Truth, p. 124.)

Pub Date: April 28th, 1993
ISBN: 0-06-016816-1
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1993