Men Explain Things to Me

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Men Explain Things to Me
Image of the book jacket cover
Author Rebecca Solnit
Illustrator Ana Teresa Fernández
Country United States
Language English
Subjects Feminist theory, women's rights, media culture, media studies
Published May 2014 (Haymarket Books)
Media type Print
Pages 130
ISBN 978-1-60846-386-2 (Paperback)
Text Men Explain Things to Me at Haymarket Books

Men Explain Things to Me is a 2014 book by Rebecca Solnit, published by Haymarket Books. The book is a collection of seven essays and, according to its publisher, "has become a touchstone of the feminist movement."[1] The main essay in the book was cited in The New Republic as the piece that "launched the term mansplaining"[2] (though Solnit herself did not use the word in the original essay and has rejected the term).[3] The September 2015 expanded edition of the book included two new essays: "Cassandra Among the Creeps" and "#YesAllWomen: Feminists Rewrite the Story."

Summary[edit]

Each chapter is a separate essay, from various years, that sums up one key aspect of the world of women under patriarchy.

Men Explain Things to Me (2008)[edit]

The eponymous essay of this book focuses entirely on the silencing of women, specifically the idea that men seemingly believe that no matter what a woman says, a man always knows better. This phenomenon would later come to be called mansplaining, but in this essay Solnit describes how the silencing of female voices is an infringement on female liberty and is in fact an abuse of power. With an absence of credibility to female voices in the male mind issues like violent death, abuse, harassment, and rape are often discounted. In this way, she argues, female silencing is a dangerous phenomenon.

The Longest War (2013)[edit]

This essay focuses on the violence against women, specifically that women are more likely to be murdered by their husbands, abused, raped and generally injured by males. Solnit describes how the online community also facilitates this violent environment and focus on the rape and death of Jyoti Singh in New Delhi as very public examples of what women face over all in their lives.

Worlds Collide in a Luxury Suite: Some Thoughts on the IMF, Global Injustice, and a Stranger on a Train (2011)[edit]

This essay about former IMF president Dominique Strauss-Kahn is in response to the rape of Nafissatou Diallo. In it, Solnit reflects on how the IMF takes advantage of formerly colonized nations much as the world rapes and takes advantage of women from less fortunate positions, equating the world with women and the IMF with men from their positions of power.

In Praise of the Threat: What Marriage Equality Really Means (2013)[edit]

Solnit poses the idea in this essay that the backlash to marriage equality by proponents of traditional marriage comes from a place of ideological misogyny. Her theory is that since same sex marriages no longer operated in the confines of traditional gender roles, they did represent a threat to traditional marriage as they were unions between equals. In that frame of thought, it is so ingrained that women must be subservient to men that marriage equality would mean the ideological emancipation of women in marriages if they were forced to be considered equals. So she is in praise of the perceived threat to traditional marriages same sex marriages pose because they demand equality in partnership, something women haven’t visibly had.

Grandmother Spider (2014)[edit]

Examining the symbolic annihilation of women over the course of history and under the law, Solnit describes how the disappearance of women is akin to helping to create the web of the world but never be caught in it. Specifically mentioned are English marriage laws where women are their husbands' property in the eyes of the law, family trees that contain only men and how the confinement of women to households adds to the erasure in texts of females overall.

Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable (2009)[edit]

This essay focuses on writer Virginia Woolf’s influence and that of her quote “The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think.” A meditation on the idea of an uncertain future, the essay reflects how future prospects can be murky, but within those murky prospects lie untold limitless and fluid possibilities that should be embraced instead of feared as uncertainty sometimes is.

Cassandra Among the Creeps (2014)[edit]

Using the story of Cassandra as a focal point, Solnit addresses the question of credibility—who gets to be believed and why—and how women are questioned especially when they speak out about abuse, harassment, and rape. Previously published in Harper's Magazine.[4]

#YesAllWomen: Feminists Rewrite the Story (2014)[edit]

In this essay, written in response to the 2014 Isla Vista killings and the #YesAllWomen movement it gave rise to, Solnit meditates on the power of naming and language throughout feminist history, touching on the coinage of now commonplace phrases such as "sexual harassment", "domestic violence", and "rape culture". Previously published as "Our Words Are Our Weapons" on TomDispatch.[5]

Pandora’s Box and the Volunteer Police Force (2014)[edit]

The final essay is a combination of a warning and a call to arms. Solnit writes that the fight for women’s rights is not yet over and points to the ‘volunteer police force’ of people who use rape culture, especially online, to keep women in their place for fear of retribution is the next step. Pandora’s box is a metaphor for the ideas of equality; for just as the spirits, i.e. women, were out of their original box, which looked like a coffin, ideas can’t be killed.

Reception[edit]

Helen Lewis of the New Statesman wrote, "I finished this book and immediately wanted to buy all the author's other works. In future, I would like Rebecca Solnit to Explain Things to Me."[6] Kate Tuttle of The Boston Globe wrote that it "hums with power and wit."[7] Haley Mlotek of the National Post called it "a tool that we all need in order to find something that was almost lost."[8] Christine Sismondo of The Toronto Star called mansplaining a civil rights issue and wrote that "[Solnit is] the perfect person to explain it to you."[9] Soraya Chemaly of Salon wrote, "It is feminist, frequently funny, unflinchingly honest and often scathing in its conclusions."[10] Katie Moore of the Utne Reader wrote, "At 124 pages, this collection is both an easy read and a difficult one. Easy because Solnit's writing is so eloquently full of both grace and fury—not something many writers can pull off; difficult because of the storm of appalling facts."[11] Kirkus Reviews described it as "slim in scope, but yet another good book by Solnit."[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Granta Books". Men Explain Things To Me. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  2. ^ "The Essay That Launched the Term "Mansplaining"". New Republic. New Republic. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  3. ^ Staff, MPR News. "Do we need a different word for 'mansplaining'?". Retrieved 2017-11-28. 
  4. ^ Solnit, Rebecca (2014-10-01). "Cassandra Among theCreeps". Harper's Magazine. ISSN 0017-789X. Retrieved 2016-09-01. 
  5. ^ "Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, #YesAllWomen Changes the Story | TomDispatch". www.tomdispatch.com. Retrieved 2016-09-01. 
  6. ^ Lewis, Helen (25 June 2014). "Mansplainers anonymous: Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit". New Statesman. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  7. ^ Tuttle, Kate (17 May 2014). "'The True American,' 'Men Explain Things to Me,' 'The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons,' 'Eating Wildly'". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  8. ^ Mlotek, Haley (12 May 2014). "Cultural Studies: Here, let me explain mansplaining (and Rebecca Solnit) to you". National Post. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  9. ^ Sismondo, Christine (4 June 2014). "Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit: review". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  10. ^ Chemaly, Soraya (20 May 2014). ""Men explaining things to me had been happening my whole life": The author behind "mansplaining" on the origin of her famous term". Salon. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  11. ^ Moore, Katie (10 June 2014). "Book Review: Men Explain Things to Me". Utne Reader. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  12. ^ "Men Explains Things to Me". Kirkus Reviews. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 

External links[edit]