Navessa's Reviews > Men Explain Things to Me

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
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really liked it
bookshelves: feminism, gender-studies
Recommended to Navessa by: Deborah Markus

This collection of essays is a relatively quick read at 130 pages. And no, it’s not just 130 pages of funny anecdotes depicting unwitting men explaining things to Solnit that she already knows. In fact, after the introductory essay, there’s no further mention of such behavior.

What follows is what I would call a crash-course in why feminism was so important in the past and also why there’s still a critical need for its existence today.

So prepare yourself before diving into this. Solnit’s knack for dropping bombs is unforgiving and unrelenting. She brings up stats and facts that are going to make a lot of readers uncomfortable. Especially those who are unfamiliar with world news, are new to feminism, or somehow managed to miss just how pervasive violence against women is in nearly every world culture.

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Quotes Navessa Liked

Rebecca Solnit
“Afraid of the darkness of the unknown, the spaces in which we see only dimly, we often choose the darkness of closed eyes, of obliviousness.”
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit
“How can I tell a story we already know too well? Her name was Africa. His was France. He colonized her, exploited her, silenced her, and even decades after it was supposed to have ended, still acted with a high hand in resolving her affairs in places like Côte d'Ivoire, a name she had been given because of her export products, not her own identity.
Her name was Asia. His was Europe. Her name was silence. His was power. Her name was poverty. His was wealth. Her name was Her, but what was hers? His name was His, and he presumed everything was his, including her, and he thought be could take her without asking and without consequences. It was a very old story, though its outcome had been changing a little in recent decades. And this time around the consequences are shaking a lot of foundations, all of which clearly needed shaking.
Who would ever write a fable as obvious, as heavy-handed as the story we've been given?
...
His name was privilege, but hers was possibility. His was the same old story, but hers was a new one about the possibility of changing a story that remains unfinished, that includes all of us, that matters so much, that we will watch but also make and tell in the weeks, months, years, decades to come.”
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit
“Men explain things to me, still. And no man has ever apologized for explaining, wrongly, things that I know and they don't.”
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit
“Many heterosexual marriages are childless; many with children break up: they are no guarantee that children will be raised in a house with two parents of two genders. The courts have scoffed at the reproduction and child-raising argument against marriage equality. And the conservatives have not mounted what seems to be their real objection; that they wish to preserve traditional marriage and more than that, traditional gender roles.”
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit
“Marriage equality is a threat: to inequality. It's a book to everyone who values and benefits from equality. It's for all of us.”
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit
“There are other ways women have been made to disappear. There is the business of naming.In some cultures women keep their names, but in most their children take the father's name, and in the English-speaking world until very recently, prefaced by Mrs. You stopped, for example, being Charlotte Bronte and became Mrs. Arthur Nicholls. Names erased a woman's genealogy and even her existence.”
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit
“Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.”
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit
“(Another way to put it: the more than 11,766 corpses from domestic-violence homicides between 9/11 and 2012 exceed the number of deaths of victims on that day and all American soldiers killed in the “war on terror.”)”
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit
“Feminism is an endeavor to change something very old, widespread, and deeply rooted in many, perhaps most, cultures around the world, innumerable institutions, and most households on Earth—and in our minds, where it all begins and ends. That so much change has been made in four or five decades is amazing; that everything is not permanantly, definitively, irrevocably changed is not a sign of failure. 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.”
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit
“At my glummest, I sometimes think women get to chose- between being punished for being unsubjugated and the continual punishment of subjugation.”
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit
“Recently, a lot of Americans have swapped the awkward phrase 'same-sex marriage' for the term 'marriage equality'. This phrase is ordinarily implied to mean that same-sex couples will have the rights different-sexed couples do. But it could also mean that marriage is between equals. That's not what traditional marriage was. Throughout much of history in the west, the laws defining marriage made the husband essentially an owner and the wife a possession. Or the man a boss and the woman a slave.”
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit
“We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it's almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn't have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.”
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit
“Some women get erased a little at a time, some all at once. Some reappear. Every woman who appears wrestles with the forces that would have her disappear. She struggles with the forces that would tell her story for her, or write her out of the story, the genealogy, the rights of man, the rule of law. The ability to tell your own story, in words or images, is already a victory, already a revolt.”
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit
“Women are an eternal subject, which is a lot like being subjected, or subjugated, or a subject nation, even. There are comparatively few articles about whether men are happy or why their marriages also fail or how nice or not their bodies are, even the movie-star bodies. They are the gender that commits the great majority of crime, particularly violent crime, and they are the majority of suicides as well. American men are falling behind women in attending college, and have fallen farther in the current economic depression than women, which you'd think would make them interesting subjects of inquiry.”
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me


Reading Progress

March 10, 2015 – Shelved
March 17, 2015 – Started Reading
March 17, 2015 –
page 1
0.77%
March 17, 2015 –
page 9
6.92% ""Most women fight wars on two fronts, one for whatever the putative topic is and one simply for the right to speak, to have ideas, to be acknowledged to be in possession of facts and truth, to have value, to be a human being. Things have gotten better, but this war won't end in my lifetime. I'm still fighting it, for myself certainly, but also for all those younger woman who have something to say...""
March 17, 2015 –
page 13
10.0% ""Murder is still a crime committed by men 90 percent of the time... So many men murder their partners and former partners that we have well over a thousand homicides of that kind a year - meaning that every three years the death toll tops 9/11's casualties, though no one declares a war on this kind of terror.""
March 17, 2015 –
page 20
15.38% ""A woman is beaten every nine seconds in this country. Just to be clear: not nine minutes, but nine seconds. It's the number-one cause of injury to American women...""
March 17, 2015 –
28.0% ""There's something about how masculinity is imagined, about what's praised and encouraged, about the way that violence is passed on to boys that needs to be addressed. There are lovely and wonderful men out there, and one of the things that's encouraging in this round of the war against women is how many men I've seen who get it, who think it's their issue too, who stand up for us and with us..." \n \n AMEN."
March 17, 2015 –
28.0% ""Women's liberation has often been portrayed as a movement intent on encroaching upon or taking power and privilege away from men, as though in some dismal zero-sum game, only one gender at a time can be free and powerful. But we are free together or slaves together." \n \n This. Book."
March 17, 2015 –
29.0% ""We have far more than 87,000 rapes in this country every year, but each of them is invariably portrayed as an isolated incident. We have dots so close they're splatters melting into a stain, but hardly anyone connects them, or names that stain... This is a civil rights issue, it's a human rights issue, its everyone's problem, it's not isolated, and it's never going to be acceptable again. It has to change."
March 17, 2015 –
45.0% ""Gay men and lesbians have already opened up the question of what qualities and roles are male and female in ways that can be liberating for straight people. When they marry, the meaning of marriage is likewise opened up. No hierarchical tradition underlines their union." \n \n Exactly. Thank you. I've always wondered if this is why some ppl are REALLY against it. They cling to those traditional gender roles."
March 17, 2015 –
79.0% ""Feminism is an endeavor to change something very old, widespread, and deeply rooted in many, perhaps most, cultures around the world, innumerable institutions, and most households on Earth - and in our minds, where it all begins and ends.""
March 17, 2015 –
82.0% ""At my glummest, I sometimes think women get to choose - between being punished for being unsubjugated and the continual punishment of subjugation... there's still a huge effort to put women back in their place. Or the place misogynists think we belong in, a place of silence and powerlessness.""
March 17, 2015 –
100.0% ""
March 17, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by Vanessa (new) - added it

Vanessa J. This seems like a really good book. Great review!


Navessa Thanks. It was.


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ That really sounds interesting! Sadly, old stereotypes are always alive... I see that every day with my (young) pupils :/


Navessa @ Anna: Ugh. That's so sad :(

@ Ayten: Woot! Hope it impacts you as much as it did me.


message 5: by Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ (last edited Mar 20, 2015 05:14AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Navessa wrote: "@ Anna: Ugh. That's so sad :(

@ Ayten: Woot! Hope it impacts you as much as it did me."


I know :( Today we talked about Toys and their vision is, of course, so biaised by all this marketing-wrapped blue for boys and pink for girls. Not to mention the "cleaning" toys. I think I would freak out something fierce if somebody bought this to my daughter (I don't have any kids, but I just know it) :


That's the toy we were talking about. And it's classed for the girls only, that's what piss me off so much. Okay, imitation, blabla, but COME ON. If that makes me an asshole, I don't care. Nobody is buying this to my daughter.


Navessa It doesn't make you an asshole to not want traditional gender roles shoved down the throats of children. I truly believe that this type of cultural brainwashing is harmful, and that its especially detrimental at such young ages, when we're the most easily influenced.


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Navessa wrote: "It doesn't make you an asshole to not want traditional gender roles shoved down the throats of children. I truly believe that this type of cultural brainwashing is harmful, and that its especially ..."

Exactly. People don't always realize how much young children are easily influenced. They drink the adults's words so what is every toys ad tells them that it's okay to think that some toys are for girls and other for boys? They just conclude that it's the Truth. (yes, with a capital T, because at this age, the world isn't grey but often black and white). And boys who want a doll are laughed at often by their own PARENTS. UGH.


message 8: by Liz (new) - rated it 4 stars

Liz This one sounds like a good thing to read actually. A bit of reality, huh? Definitely adding this one, thanks! :)
Have you read A Room of One's Own? This is another feminist work that is frankly speaking quite moving ;)


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