On Reading “Men Explain Things to Me” by Rebecca Solnit

The blessing of public transit (October 2014, NYC High Line)

The blessing of public transit (October 2014, NYC High Line

“Yes people of both genders pop up at events to hold forth on irrelevant things and conspiracy theories, but the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men. 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 being heard when they dare; that crushes young women in to 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 (Men Explain Things to Me, Chapter 1).

My lunchtime read this week has been Rebecca Solnit’s book “Men Explain Things To Me”, and I really want you to read this book. Quite simply, it is a brilliant collection of essays written in different years that all touch on different aspects of violence, and regardless of your gender, it is an important read. Rebecca Solnit defines violence as “the refusal to treat someone as a human being, and the denial of the most basic of human rights, the right to bodily integrity and self-determination”, and notes that violence comes from the premise “I have the right to control you”. From this refusal to treat women as human beings, violence manifests itself in the way women are silenced, the way women are sexually harassed and violated, the ways in which women are not heard, the ways women are abused by intimate partners, the ways in which women and their histories and genealogies are silenced and erased, the ways in which non-quantifiable epistemologies are violently rejected, the ways in which the earth is violently abused, and so much more. The list goes on and on of how violence shows up in everyday life.

Continue reading