Book Club: Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit


I picked up Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things To Me thinking it would be a bunch of funny feminist essays, à la Lindy West.

Boy was I wrong.

The first essay is a little bit funny, as she tells the story of a Very Important Man mansplaining to her about the book she wrote. Then she draws a straight line from mansplaining (a relatively benign way to silence a woman) down to more aggressive and violent ways that women are silenced and have their power taken from them.

That's what the rest of the essays were about.

Don't get me wrong. They're all very good. They are smart and engaging and well-researched. She takes you along for the ride, for sure.

It's just also... not what I expected when I brought the book along to read on my camping trip.

I read Men Explain Things to Me on my camping trip. Not exactly the relaxing read I was expecting.

Here are some quotes that I wanted to come back and ponder:

On Virginia Woolf:

"She is always celebrating a liberation that is not official, institutional, rational, but a matter of going beyond the familiar, the safe, the known into the broader world. Her demands for liberation for women were not merely so that they could do some of the institutional things men did (and women now do, too), but to have full freedom to roam, geographically and imaginatively."

How many people are confused about the necessity of feminism since we are "officially" equal now? A lot. It is beautiful and disheartening to know that, many years ago, Virginia Woolf was trying to explain that it is important to have the freedom to go for a walk alone at night.

On those who claim feminism has failed and we should give up:

"A woman goes walking down a thousand mile road. Twenty minutes after she steps forth, they proclaim that she still has nine hundred ninety-nine miles to go and will never get anywhere." 

"What doesn't go back in the jar are ideas. You can whittle away at reproductive rights, as conservatives have in most states of the union, but you can't convince the majority of women that they should have no right to control their own bodies. Practical changes follow upon changes of the heart and the mind. Sometimes legal, political, economic, environmental changes follow upon those changes, though not always, for where power rests matters."

Sometimes it feels like nothing has changed. Then you remember that a lot has changed, and we just have more to go. The ideas are the most important part, and the most heartening thing is to see that these ideas are being held up by people of all genders, not just women. It's spreading! We shall overcome!


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