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Men Explain Things to Me Paperback – May 20, 2014
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"[Solnit's] ability to make a landscape into a text is present in every piece of writing she’s ever done, and especially here. Solnit understands that our minds are also landscapes, that they are uncharted territory and we must constantly have something left to discover within ourselves. When men explain things to me, personally, it’s like feeling someone else draw up the borders of my brain. When men explaining things” becomes a concept, we react so strongly because it’s a map that we can use to bring us back to ourselves. The terrain has always felt familiar, but Men Explain Things To Me is a tool that we all need in order to find something that was almost lost."
"Where opponents would argue that feminism is humorless and superfluous, Men Explain Things to Me is a compelling argument for the movement's necessary presence in contemporary society. It approaches the subject with candor and openness, furthering the conversation and opening a new Pandora's box that's apt to change the way we talk about women's rights."
"It is feminist, frequently funny, unflinchingly honest and often scathing in its conclusions."
"A necessary read in these fraught times. Starting with the title essay, which went viral and inspired the ever-useful term mansplaining,” Solnit writes powerfully about the ways in which power is wielded in today’s society, and brings awareness to the staggering inequalities that we wrestle with on a daily basis."
"Sharp-witted and bold... quintessential Solnit."
Publishers Weekly, "Things We Like This Week" Blog
"Sharp narratives that illuminate and challenge the status quo of women's roles in the world. Slim in scope, but yet another good book by Solnit."
"I can’t place this book as anything less than a brilliant, varied, and thoroughly enjoyable readand definitely an addition to my list of feminist faves. With that, I urge you to get to your favorite bookshop or library and snag a copy of Men Explain Things to Me. Pull up a chair, brew something tasty, and venture into the wilderness of what a changed world might look like." Lip
About the Author
Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of eighteen or so books on feminism, western and indigenous history, popular power, social change and insurrection, wandering and walking, hope and disaster, including the books Men Explain Things to Me and Hope in the Dark, both also with Haymarket; a trilogy of atlases of American cities; The Faraway Nearby; A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster; A Field Guide to Getting Lost; Wanderlust: A History of Walking; and River of Shadows, Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (for which she received a Guggenheim, the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism, and the Lannan Literary Award). A product of the California public education system from kindergarten to graduate school, she is a columnist at Harper's and a regular contributor to the Guardian.
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Top Customer Reviews
Solnit is clearly a powerful mind and talented writer. Her prose is strong and forceful, and she writes with stirring— at times contagious—- conviction. The book’s most powerful essays (“Men Explain Things To Me” and “#YesAllWomen”) are intelligent, clear-sighted looks at a massive, difficult, dangerous topic. It’s saddens me to applaud Solnit for her courage in writing this, if only because that acknowledges the typical backlash against women who speak out against misogyny, but she IS courageous and that alone warrants commendation.
The book starts out with a funny, almost playful anecdote about being mansplained to by a pompous idiot at a party in Aspen, but then quickly moves into darker waters. Solnit goes on to use politics, art, history and new media as springboards for discussing the interconnectedness of cultural misogyny and how mansplaining and rape can be viewed as existing on a continuum. Towards the end of the book she summarizes this nicely: “It’s a slippery slope. That’s why we need to address the slope, rather than compartmentalizing the varieties of misogyny and dealing with them separately.” (p. 134) It’s a new way of looking at an ancient problem, articulated in a way that I don’t think I’ve heard before, and Solnit rounds out her case by anticipating counter arguments (i.e. men being falsely imprisoned for rape) and responding to them to the degree that they deserve.
So here’s the part where I complain: While her arguments are culturally important and her writing is strong, Solnit’s rhetoric seems, at times, deliberately hyperbolic and meant to divide readers. On pg. 57 she describes the case of Ariel Castro, a man accused of imprisoning, torturing and sexually abusing three women as being “a vicious version of the traditional [marriage] arrangement.” Later on in the book (p. 153) she takes a similar swipe at capitalism: “There’s more that we need to be liberated from… a system that serves environmental destruction and limitless consumption…” And beyond that there’s a general celebration of revolution, (non-violent) anarchy, as well as Solnit’s insistence that this is, indeed, “a war.” In other words, if you’re traditional / conservative / old-fashioned, then chances are you’re probably going to feel pretty alienated while reading this, if not all out attacked. I don’t consider myself conservative, but there were still times when I felt myself getting defensive. With that said, I was less annoyed with this on ideological terms than I was by what felt like a tactical mis-step. Simply put: This is a wise book. This is an important book. A lot of people should be reading it and absorbing it's message. And I could suddenly feel thousands of readers— good people who’s minds are ready to be expanded— fleeing from it’s very positive message, because they were being lumped in with rapists and murderers. I was frustrated because I felt like the book was preaching to the choir and, in-so-doing, entrenching conservatives deeper into their current belief systems.
One could argue that this book isn't intended to convert and so it's unfair to judge it by those standards; that it’s a celebration and reminder of what’s already been accomplished in the fight for gender equality, and that now it’s up to someone else to write the gentler, more palatable book that eases The Other Side into progressive thinking. And you know what— that may very well be the case. In the meantime, I encourage conservative thinkers who are interested in reading this to do so with an open mind instead of just looking for things to disagree with. Because the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of what’s discussed in this book really has nothing to do with superficial left / right politics and everything to do with how we want our nieces/daughters to be treated as they grow up in the world. And that feels like something we can all agree on.
I didn’t really like that text – it felt like she was cheery-picking examples of people coming together in her described disaster-anarchy and she used two examples that she was personally involved in. She was too close to her thesis to make what she was arguing compelling to me as a reader.
But there I go, trying to explain things about her.
What brought me to this text was I had read the titular essay on-line and I saw that it was being issued as part of a collection with some of her previously published works in other sites and spaces. I should have thought that what made the other noted work not succeed for me is what makes Solnit a very powerful essayist. Though these have been published elsewhere, they are a great introduction to her work. In these essays, she explores from multiple angles the violence that one gender has visited on another throughout time and cultures. Though she celebrates some of the movement we have had in naming the violence that happens between the sexes (and weasel sentences like that that deny agency to the men and creates an idea that the violence just happens) but she also acknowledges the distances that we still have to cross to eliminate the violence men visit on women and the lost cohort of women who are silenced and have been forever silenced. It is we men who have to fix it, and move from being all potential vectors of sexual violence to coequals, and as I type that, I know how much we still have to go.