Publisher: Haymarket Books
Release Date: May 20th, 2014
In her comic, scathing essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” Rebecca Solnit took on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. She wrote about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works, airing some of her own hilariously awful encounters.***I have, without any shame, copied this review from my review up on Feminists Talk Books***
She ends on a serious note— because the ultimate problem is the silencing of women who have something to say, including those saying things like, “He’s trying to kill me!”
This book features that now-classic essay with six perfect complements, including an examination of the great feminist writer Virginia Woolf ’s embrace of mystery, of not knowing, of doubt and ambiguity, a highly original inquiry into marriage equality, and a terrifying survey of the scope of contemporary violence against women.
I've become very interested in essay collections/personal essay collections, and I've been hoping to read more feminist essays, so Men Explain Things to Me was one of the first ones I came across and decided to check out. I almost wish I had found it and read it sooner.
The book is perfect for someone who's looking to start reading more about feminism, our patriarchal society, and similar topics. As shown in the blurb, the book covers the topic of marriage/marriage equality, domestic violence and gender violence in general, the silencing of women, and more. She uses her experiences to talk about wider topics affecting women, but she's definitely just scratching the surface.
I greatly enjoyed the diversity of topics, issues, presentation styles, etc in the book. I didn't find it dry or over-the-top. I know some people didn't like how in-the-face she was about violence statistics, but I thought it was well done. I didn't find it to be too much. People live that reality every day, and she did it in a classy, professional way without making it dull or slow. All of the essays, in fact, were easy to read, but they made me think about my experiences and form my own opinions. I honestly loved every single one of the pieces and for different reasons. The Virginia Woolf one, as well as the one describing the woman in the picture, particularly stood out to me because they were different, not because they were tons better than the other essays.
Only two small things irked me. There was something that Solnit said about women who wear a hijab/burqa (burka) or a veil that I don't agree with and found to be insensitive to different cultures and to the choices of individual women. Yes, it may be used to silence women and keep them under submission, but many women choose to wear a hijab/burqa/veil and are proud to. Some feel more empowered. For some, it's part of their religion and culture, and they feel comfortable doing it, choosing to wear it. Other than this one thing, she was great about writing with awareness and acknowledging different opinions/experiences/peoples.
The other was that I was hoping that she would have at least a small bit of exploration of how feminism also affects/applies to men and thus why we should all be feminists. She briefly thanks the men who support women and the feminist movement, but I think it would have also been effective to discuss how the feminist movement also helps men by breaking down social norms and societal expectations and gender roles. Women are leading the fight to break these down because it more obviously binds them, but it really helps everyone in society. I only wish she could have mentioned that somewhere and was almost expecting her to.
I am very happy to highly recommend Men Explain Things to Me, particularly if you're looking to start reading or building up a collection of books that talk about feminism/feminist topics (non-fiction). I myself will be buying the book sometime soon.
Rebecca Solnit: Website