Men Explain Things to Me

Men Explain Things to MeMen Explain Things to Me
by Rebecca Solnit
Published 2015 by Haymarket Books
130 pages. Paperback
Genres: Nonfiction, Social Sciences, Essays

Rebecca Solnit tackles feminist issues in this collection of essays.

Solnit begins her collection with a lighthearted essay about how men often assume women know less about something than they do and take it upon themselves to explain it to them. She uses her own personal experiences highlight the issue and how it leads to the silencing of women’s voices. With each subsequent essay, Solnit explores the ways in which women are silenced and how that silence can sometimes cause violence and even death.

These essays weren’t really written to be collected. They were written in different years for different publications, but it’s obvious that the silencing of women is something that has concerned Solnit for years and should concern all of us. While she starts on a more lighthearted note (though I must say I find men trying to explain things to me that I already know infuriating, not funny), the bigger issue is how that silence trickles down to women who are ignored or silenced after they’ve been violently or sexually assaulted. Solnit is thorough and includes a bit of history of gender politics as well as specific examples of violence against women that has been mostly ignored by the vast majority. It’s a smart and searing collection that, while slim, takes time to process. This updated edition is worth picking up since it includes two new essays about more recent feminist issues.

Anyone with an interest in feminism who hasn’t read this should definitely pick it up. It definitely marketed for the adult nonfiction market, but I can see teens with an interest in feminism learning a lot from this.

I did a lot of underlining and annotating in this book. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

But we are free together or slaves together. Surely the mindset of those who think they need to win, to dominate, to punish, to reign supreme must be terrible and far from free, and giving up this unachievable pursuit would be liberatory. (pg. 35)

Feminism is for everyone! Also, this could be applied to other social issues.

Part of what interests me is the impulse to dismiss and how often it slides into the very incoherence or hysteria of which women are routinely accused. (pg. 104)

Women are constantly dismissed and everyone has an opinion about how or why they’re lying about the violence against them.

The men who get it also understand that feminism is not a scheme to deprive men but a campaign to liberate us all. (pg. 153)

Again, FEMINISM IS FOR EVERYONE.

If they were telling the truth, he would have to challenge the whole edifice of patriarchal authority to support them. (pg. 106)

This particular quote stood out to me because I think it perfectly illustrates the underlying issue. Feminism challenges the status quo and that’s what truly scares people. People have a tendency to hate change and this is change. I have news, though, we’re making progress. It’s slow, but it’s progress.

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