I Explain "Men Explain Things to Me"

I had been excited to read feminist author Rebecca Solnit’s book Men Explain Things to Me since I read the beginning excerpt of the work over the summer. I am happy to report that Solnit’s book does not disappoint, and “Men Explain Things to Me” is a wonderful, quick read for college feminists.

Although Solnit’s work is technically a book, a more accurate description of Men Explain Things to Me would be a collection of essays written from 2008 to 2014 that pertain to many aspects of feminism in the modern world. The book begins with the 2008 essay “Men Explain Things to Me”, which is basically a vignette describing a specific incident where a man tried to explain a subject to Solnit in which he had no experience and which she had literally written the book on. This essay when it was originally published struck a chord with many women, and actually led to the creation of the term “mansplaining” (though Solnit does not utilize nor particularly care for this term).

As all women know, it is not difficult to find “Mansplainers” who are willing to “educate” women, even if they themselves do not have a higher level of qualifications or experience in the subject that they are explaining to women. One of my favorite recent examples of mansplaining from this semester was the guy in my 7:30 am physics discussion who felt the need to loudly explain fallopian tubes to a group of women. Although the phenomena of men explaining things to women existed long before “Men Explain Things to Me”, Solnit succinctly illustrates the greater issues such as violence and rape that are caused by the continual silencing and belittling of professional women.

After her initial essay, Rebecca Solnit spends much of her other essays discussing the other issues and problematic ideas that still restrict the freedom of women around the globe. These topics include hard hitting subjects such as: the way violence against women is often treated as isolated incidents (despite the fact that this is an epidemic that occurs around the entire world), the dynamics of power and control in the relationships between men and women (this often relates to violence and the way patriarchal systems work in order to keep women “in their place”), the threat marriage equality makes to the inherently unbalanced nature of traditional marriages and gender roles, and the systematic erasure of women’s individual identity that exists within many cultures.

Although this book is now a few years old, it is quite sad to realize that many of the issues addressed in “Men Explain Things to Me” have not changed much in the course of the past few years. However, do not let this thought discourage you from reading the book; while it may be depressing to read about the issues of inequality that women are still forced to face, Solnit does leave us with hope and the view that things are slowly improving. Although feminism has a long way to go, the greater number of people who read, understand, and discuss works like Men Explain Things to Me, the faster we will be able to make progress towards a more egalitarian society.

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