A book by Rebecca Solnit
“Men Explain Things to Me” is divided into 7 chapters, each consisting of an essay that explores the silencing of women and girls in patriarchal culture, and how this silencing comes in many forms. Solnit’s iconic essay with the same title as the book makes up the opening chapter, where she tells us the hilarious story of how - when introducing herself to a man as an author - he immediately starts downplaying her knowledge about her book’s topic, and lectures her about this incredibly important book (which he hadn’t even read) that came out last year, on the same topic. Not until the man was told three or four times that the very important book was actually her book, he paused his rant. Long story short (or short story shorter): Solnit experienced what so many other women have - that some men, especially the middle-aged sort with a lot of money, assume that women just dabble with topics they know nothing about as a little hobby, while the men write the very important books and have the very important opinions. (If this wasn’t a serious online magazine, I’d put an eye-rolling emoji here.)
The rest of the book continues with essays describing how this silencing and patronizing is the root cause of inequality between men and women. Women being seen as lesser beings, as not capable of contributing with very important books or very important opinions (or any valid opinions at all), is closely connected women being silenced and shamed in other ways, such as by violence and sexual violence. It may sound like a small thing, but not being taken seriously is part of a much bigger problem: that men for centuries have had the power to decide what a complete human being is, and that women consistently haven’t been part of that definition. It’s about respect and equality, or rather the lack of it. Silencing can take place as small - and sometimes almost funny - incidents like the one Solnit describes in her book, for a few lucky women who have made it to the top. However, it has far uglier consequences for women around the world: from young women being ignored when saying no, to not being allowed the status of personhood and a voice of their own without being defined by a father, husband or even male child.
Needless to say, reading this book makes me angry - but in the way that is necessary to initiate change. It’s an engaging anger, the sort that feels like a personal call to action: I’m left with the feeling that women need to be angry about this, we need things to change and we need to dare speak up when we’re being silenced. Read Solnit’s book - she connects the dots in a beautiful way, and rather than being all doom and gloom (like I tend to), she emphasizes how far we’ve come with women’s rights in just a few decades and states something that’s very important to remember: although we have a long way left to go, there are now way more people walking the same route with us, and raising their voices, than ever!