38. Men Explain Things to Me and Other Essays 

Isn’t it funny that whenever I come near to posting about any feminist text, I feel that I must take up the arduous task of defending myself and my position. Or rather, isn’t is appalling that I assume someday I shall be on the other end of cheap shots taken by internet strangers, who may be misinformed, but who will certainly be angry. I want to deflect death and rape threats before they arrive. I want to emphatically carve my position into the introduction of a post, yet that takes up far more of a blog post than it should because it transforms it into a passionate plea for reason and for what I believe is morally right.

But to make it simple for all of you that are poised above the keyboard muttering ‘feminazi’ under your breath: I am a feminist. I am a woman. I have never believed in a matriarchal society. I believe that misogyny is as a destructive force to men as it is to women, and that perpetuating toxic ideas of masculinity is in fact emasculating and destroying men. That when we enforce the idea that boys do not cry, we are raising men who are unequipped to deal with emotions in a healthy way. When we enforce that paternity leave is not as socially valuable as maternity leave we are undermining the value of fatherhood. I believe someone’s gender does not limit their potential job.

I believe that it is not okay to reduce people into animalistic lumps of flesh swinging their fists around, any more than it is okay to belittle people into walking meat sacks whose only purpose is incubating other human beings.

Men Explain things to Me and Other Essays – Rebecca Solnit

I also believe that women deserve the right to be heard and believed. That her body should be governed by only herself and nobody has the right to abuse it with violence when she says no. That it is not okay to joke about rape or pussy grabbing or how you want to enforce your sexual violence upon someone for ‘bants’. That it is not okay to victim blame. That it is not okay to send death and rape threats online to women no matter how much you don’t agree with what she says. That it is not okay to tell someone to ‘kill themselves’ because they don’t like your dick pic, or because they aren’t interested in dating you, or because you’ve decide that you have been ‘friend zoned’.

I believe that good feminist essays are supposed make you angry. Men Explain Things to Me and other Essays, made me angry, they disgusted me, they left me feeling upset and genuinely appalled. But they gave me a little bit of hope too and now I feel like I need to read them again.

Solnit has an easy to digest writing style that doesn’t patronise the reader, it doesn’t demonise men, but it seeks to resonate with an attempt at answering why feminism is still a relevant global topic today. These seven essays aren’t 130 pages of Solnit anecdotally belittling the men who have explained things to her or patronised her, as may be assumed. The title essay tells of an older gentlemen explaining Solnit’s recently released novel to her, pursuing on regardless of being repeatedly told ‘that’s her book.’ But there are essays dedicated to the pervasive sexual violence against women, vibrant writing on the topic of IMF and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and powerlessness. She discusses the egalitarian marriage, Woolf, and the last essay ends with some dignity and hope for the topic.

They forced me reflect on the young girl who was snatched and killed from my secondary school all those years ago, and on another local woman who was found unconscious with no underwear, and on the statistics of a rape being reported every 6 minutes in the USA, and on gang rape, and on how many sexual assault survivors I know, and on women being set on fire and then eaten for refusing sexual advances, and on brave women being left for dead by assailants but still walking to the nearest police station.

But these essays also made me reflect upon myself as a product of society, both as a unwilling subject for the Male Gaze and how deeply my own fear of sexual violence runs. I found myself reflecting on how perverse I find misogyny and violation. How difficult I find it that someone somewhere, believes wholeheartedly that they have the right to someone else’s body without consent. Good feminist essays make you angry. Really good feminist essays make you angry and then solidify and consolidate your ideas into concrete. But as always there is a peppering of sadness – why, why, why, why do human beings do this to one another?

Something that has resonated with me from this collection is the suggestion that a pandora’s box (or jar) of ideas has been opened. That all of the ideas that have flown out and established themselves will be forever difficult to budge. Women will never again relinquish their hold over their own bodies, voices, votes, and worth. That traditional gender norms are being unravelled. That, with complete certainty, there is more than one way to be a human and to have value. And surely, given the state of 2016 is about to leave us in, that is a happy thought to hold on to.


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