In her comic, scathing essay, “Men Explain Things to Me,” Rebecca Solnit took on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. She wrote about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works, airing some of her own hilariously awful encounters.
This updated edition with two new essays of this national bestseller book features that now-classic essay as well as “#YesAllWomen,” an essay written in response to 2014 Isla Vista killings and the grassroots movement that arose with it to end violence against women and misogyny, and the essay “Cassandra Syndrome.”
I expected the essay on men actually explaining things to women in the way they do that spawned the term “mansplain”. It’s one of my favorite words. I’ve even shared it with other men who love it just as much. They know the ones that are notorious for it, the ones who always try to shut down the women around them, the ones who think they know everything, who think they show intellect by silencing others. Sometimes all I need to do is explain what it means and I get a smile and nod and sometime later there begins to be support in shutting the mansplainer down.
The rest of the essays were a bit of a surprise. They took on a much darker tone. They draw the line between something like mansplaining and the more permanent or physically dangerous ways that women are silenced. While its easy to look around and see the price we pay for speaking up, it’s much harder to see the pay price we pay for silence. The whole thing was great but it was the last two essays that I particularly enjoyed. Here’s the list of essays:
- Men Explain Things To Me
- The Longest War
- Worlds Collide in a Luxury Suite: Some thoughts on the IMF, Global Injustice, and a Stranger on a Train
- In Praise of the Threat: What Marriage Equality Really Means
- Grandmother Spider
- Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable
- Cassandra Among the Creeps
- #YesAllWomen: Feminists Rewrite the Story
- Pandora’s Box and the Volunteer Police Force
It starts with something as simple and seemingly harmless as mansplaining and then draws a line to the violent ways women are silenced, the reasons we are silenced, and bigger picture effect of our silencing. It’s a powerful set of essays that takes what we know and broadens it so show what we can be scared to see. At least, that’s how I felt.
I got the updated edition, so the last two essays #YesAllWomen and Pandora’s Box are new in mine as opposed to those who read the original 2014 edition. Some other parts were updated as information had come out that wasn’t available the year before. If you read the original, I still recommend picking this one up at the library or browsing through the last few in the bookstore coffee line or something.