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Men Explain Things to Me Paperback – September 1, 2015
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"The Antidote to Mansplaining."The Stranger
"Feminist, frequently funny, unflinchingly honest and often scathing in its conclusions."Salon
"Solnit tackles big themes of gender and power in these accessible essays. Honest and full of wit, this is an integral read that furthers the conversation on feminism and contemporary society."San Francisco Chronicle Top Shelf
"Solnit [is] the perfect writer to tackle the subject: Her prose style is so clear and cool."The New Republic
"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."National Post
"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."Shelf Awareness
"Solnit’s intimate understanding of how the twin bulwarks of language and silence fuel political agendas is only part of what makes her writing so exciting. The other essays in the collection complement the first (some are even stronger), but theirs is the poetic correlation of masterful storytelling. Ultimately Solnit’s interdisciplinary, patchwork narratives are drawn together by a single theme: hope."The Baffler
"An engaging primer on the realities of mansplaining."Bitch Magazine
"Solnit’s pull-no-punches observations... make this a valuable contribution to feminist theory."The Indypendent
"A riveting collection of feminist essays."Chicagoist
"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."FlavorWire
"A brilliant, varied, and thoroughly enjoyable readand definitely an addition to my list of feminist faves."Lip Magazine
"Sharp-witted and bold... quintessential Solnit."Publishers Weekly
"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."Kirkus Reviews
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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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.
Ladies, read it on the subway.
Two nights ago I was coming home from a lovely summer's walk to a favorite bookstore, where I snapped up the book. I took it out of my bag at 10:30 p.m. on a sublime Saturday night in New York, on the G train.
I was standing, but a Latina woman with her daughter on her lap craned her neck to try see the title of the book. Next to her, two other women who seemed to be out on the town for the night, were whispering to each other, "what does it say?"
The Latina woman cocked her head further and spoke up, "Men Explain Things..."
I spun on my heel and showed off the cover.
"'Men Explain Things to Me.' It's great."
"What is it about?" asked one of the women out on the town. I could tell by the tilt of her eyebrow that she thought its premise was dubious. She did not want Things Explained to her.
I scooched over to where they were sitting, and gave them a short precis of the essay's key narrative moment, closing with: "and you ladies know what she's talking about right? Has that ever happened to you?"
"Mmm-HMM." "You know it has." And a few little cheers and murmurs erupted from the half-dozen women in the train car. We all smiled. I went back to the book, and the women who were out on the town started talking about how Frankie was doing the exact same thing last week, and had no idea what he was talking about.
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