"Cassie, as a huge fan, I want to thank you for writing such magnificent books. And…. here’s my question! I read your post in which you explain why Tessa’s relationship with Jem was more than friendship and I’m fascinated by the way you explained and pointed out things so as to make clear that they were more than friends. I was wondering if you could do the same with Will&Tessa. All characters show us they’re thoughts and therefore, we can deduce what they’re feeling but I’m sure there’s something you can add, just like you did with Jem and Tessa :) Daniela."
Hi, Daniela! The thing is, I don’t really get questions from people who think Will and Tessa were just friends. The opposite side of the argument (taken to an extreme) seems to be that Tessa and Will only felt lust for each other, not Love.
I think probably obviously that’s not what I was thinking when I wrote it. But shipping has a lot to do with personal preferences about kinds of relationships and kinds of personalities. Do I think Tessa and Will loved each other? Yes: I don’t think you’re willing to give your life for someone you just lust for (Will, Clockwork Prince), nor do you burn your hand with a poker because the emotional pain of someone you just lust for hurts you so much (Tessa, Clockwork Prince.) I think the fact that after Jem left, Tessa and Will didn’t touch each other for months while they dealt with the grief of his going, and sincerely tried to build the foundations of a solid emotional relationship with each other, speaks volumes in itself. And of course a marriage of fifty-odd years, in which one person grew older and one continued to look twenty, in which there was never a failure of passion or commitment, speaks to a deep love indeed.
The problem with the Lust narrative isn’t in thinking that Jem and Tessa have a deeper connection — that’s normal; we all react to fictional relationships in ways that reflect what we prioritize or prefer in life — the problem is that it sometimes winds up in blaming Tessa and slut-shaming her, which I have to admit, does bother me. So, I’ll share with you a brief clip from a post from a professed Jem fan (though God knows I love my Jem fans and would never tar them all with this brush, not even close) about Tessa herself. The link to the post was sent to me by a very upset fan, and I think it’s better if I don’t mention their name or the name of the poster. But here it is. Trigger warnings for rape culture, calling women bitches, misogyny.
Post: “Good lord, I knew she [Tessa] had no fuck to give for Jem, she only wanted to bang Will, but jesus christ, have some empathy, respect… Boys were doing everything for this bitch, got hurt, one finally died for her and because of her, all she could do was demand, put people in trouble and act out and never appreciate neither feel bad, and she did so much bad she was not sorry for, she was so fucking selfish and wanted to get the best out of it for her and all she could do was play them, disrespect them as people, and their lives, and describe their looks whether they were dying or not and care about nothing else but her own good.
I wish someone bought her [Tessa] a dildo because her hormones obviously made her incapable of sorting out her priorities. And it killed Jem.”
Wow. Just, I mean, WOW.
In other words: Tessa being a woman, specifically a woman capable of sex, killed Jem.
Well, I’m not exactly sure. She didn’t sneak into his room at night and smother him with her thighs. He was dying when Tessa arrived. There was no cure for his illness. There is absolutely nothing Tessa could have done to keep him alive — and remember, she was the one pushing to find a cure, not Will. If it wasn’t for Tessa, Jem would never have chosen Silent Brotherhood, he never would have lived to be Brother Zachariah, he never would have been cured, and he would not be alive and happy today.
“Boys were doing everything for this bitch, got hurt, one finally died for her”
I’m seriously curious which one died for Tessa since Will died of old age and Jem’s still alive. In fact, he’s 135 years old. The thing is, Tessa saved Jem’s life. She saved Will’s, too. It takes an enormous effort of deliberate, willfull misogyny to miss that.
POST: “ all she could do was demand, put people in trouble and act out and never appreciate neither feel bad”
From the books:
“I’m sorry,” Tessa said. She couldn’t count the number of times she’d told him she was sorry over the past hours. (Clockwork Princess)
“You saved my life at the tea warehouse, and I am grateful, Will.” (Clockwork Prince.)
“Oh, Will. This is all my fault. Jem threw away his life for me. If he had taken the drug more sparingly—if he had allowed himself to rest and be ill instead of pretending good health for my sake—” (Clockwork Princess)
She shook her head. “How can you bear to have me near you?” she said in despair. “I took your parabatai from you. And now we will both die here. Because of me.” (Clockwork Princess)
Tessa, actually, often feels bad for things that are not her fault: so do Will and Jem, but when they do it, it’s because they are poor sweet babies, when Tessa does it, it’s because — yeah! It IS her fault! You can’t win for losing when you’re a lady. Of course Jem taking all his yin fen at once isn’t her fault: she didn’t even know about it. Obviously Tessa feels bad often, is eaten up with guilt often, but unfortunately no woman can ever feel bad enough about herself to be satisfactory. Society as a whole tells women they must hate themselves and each other, and this sort of thing is the result.
Thinking Tessa killed Jem with her lady parts as opposed to what she actually did do, which is save and prolong his life, requires an absolute dedication to misogyny and the belief that women are significant and important only in how they treat the men in the story. If they make them happy constantly, the women are okay. If they ever seem to be making them unhappy, if a man ever does anything stupid or life-threatening because of a woman even if she doesn’t know about it, if he’s unhappy even if she couldn’t prevent it, if she sleeps with someone else even though she thought he was dead and he couldn’t give less of a damn anyway, if she doesn’t prioritize the imaginary pain of a dead man over what she needs for her own survival and mental health, she’s a bitch who needs to die. If she observes with surprise and no lust that a man is naked because she’s a Victorian girl and she’s shocked to be in the same room with a naked man, she’s a whore. And if she wants to have a consensual pleasant sexual experience before a lifetime of being raped (by the actual villain of the books — his name is Mortmain, by the way, and he’s the one who actually makes everyone unhappy) she’s not just a whore, she’s a murdering whore.
It’s the mentality at the heart of rape culture: that women are vending machines, and if you shove a few coins of attention or affection into them, they better respond with sex and obedience or they’re … broken.
Ship wars brew easily and it’s easy to get into the “If Jessa gets a thing, Wessa gets a thing” mentality. I decided to go a different way and present you with something I think both Wessa and Jessa and even Heronstairs shippers can agree on: this kind of thinking? Is revolting.