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Men Explain Things to Me

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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.

She ends on a serious note— because the ultimate problem is the silencing of women who have something to say, including those saying things like, “He’s trying to kill me!”

This book features that now-classic essay with six perfect complements, including an examination of the writer Virginia Woolf ’s embrace of mystery, of not knowing, of doubt and ambiguity, a highly original inquiry into marriage equality, and a terrifying survey of the scope of contemporary violence against women.

130 pages, Paperback

First published April 14, 2014

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About the author

Rebecca Solnit

103 books6,746 followers
Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of more than twenty books on feminism, western and indigenous history, popular power, social change and insurrection, wandering  and walking, hope and disaster, including Call Them By Their True Names (Winner of the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction), Cinderella LiberatorMen Explain Things to Me, The Mother of All Questions, and Hope in the Dark, and co-creator of the City of Women map, all published by Haymarket Books; a trilogy of atlases of American cities, The Faraway NearbyA Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in DisasterA Field Guide to Getting LostWanderlust: A History of Walking, and River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (for which she received a Guggenheim, the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism, and the Lannan Literary Award). Her forthcoming memoir, Recollections of My Nonexistence, is scheduled to release in March, 2020. A product of the California public education system from kindergarten to graduate school, she is a columnist at the Guardian and a regular contributor to Literary Hub.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,400 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews294k followers
July 18, 2020
Overall, I don't read a lot of nonfiction, but when I do, it is often in the form of feminist essays. And I just think I may have been spoiled by better essay writers than Solnit.

Men Explain Things to Me was a natural choice for my TBR, but the writing quality is just okay, not very evocative or engaging, and the ideas are very basic. Compare this to Roxane Gay or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Bad Feminist, Hunger, We Should All Be Feminists, Dear Ijeawele) and it pales in comparison.

I think the strength of this book - and the reason it has done so well - is that it’s main concept will make sense to a lot of women. I keep seeing anecdotes from other reviewers on how men have tried to explain things to them in their lives. There is something very wonderful about someone putting into words an experience that up until this point you haven’t known how to explain. I get that.

But, unfortunately, that's where the positive ended for me. Take, for example, the title essay of "Men Explain Things to Me". The title pretty much says it all, and the essay doesn't take you into any more depth. Almost the entirety of the essay is contained within its title. The essay consists of Solnit talking about an encounter with a man who tried to explain to her something she knew more about than he did. She doesn't analyze this, or the history behind it - it is not so much an essay as it is an idea floating around without depth.

That's just the first essay, but the rest feel like Feminism 101, too. They are mostly statistics that learned feminists will have already heard of, and Solnit doesn’t give any additional insight. The book lacks intersectionality, which, you know, fine, I get writing about what you know, but then don't make absolutely ridiculous statements like this:
"violence doesn't have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender."

The author highlights her ignorance with this statement because violence has been shown repeatedly to have all of those things.

I thought for a while I could say this book was only for those who know nothing about feminism already, but reading statements like that make me think it isn't for those either.

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Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,194 reviews9,467 followers
October 19, 2014
This book is so depressing that I had to read this one at the same time to prevent me from spiralling down into despair.

You may have heard of the title essay, which is funny and deservedly famous. But in the second essay the floor suddenly drops away and we’re falling into the vile pit of misogyny. The second essay is called “The Longest war” and is about men hating, silencing, injuring and killing women.

Ah misogyny, men hating women. It’s like oil – every time you think we may be running out of it vast new reserves are discovered. Recent new geysers of hatred have been spouting forth from the internet and why? Because some women just do not know their place. Imagine – some of these women actually had the temerity to suggest a woman’s portrait should feature on a British bank note. So naturally, they got rape and death threats . Well, what did they expect?
Then some other women had the gall to suggest that many computer games are misogynistic. After the by now standard rape ‘n’ death threats came the bombing threats.

The writer Caitlin Moran has a reply to those who say aw, stop whining, just block the trolls.

For those who say “why complain -just block” on a big troll day it can be 50 violent /rape messages an hour.

Gotta love that internet.

In other countries the men don’t just talk the talk, they shoot 15 year old girls in the head if they have the temerity to speak publicly about the education of girls.

When they’re not actually raping & killing & trolling, men make movies in which men torture women to death, movies which some other men ban and others enjoy. Here's a few interesting titles (there are sooooooo many more)





Well, in the interest of fairness, some women also like this sort of movie…. Here’s Goodreads author J A Saare explaining where she’s coming from


But I’d say it’s mostly men, by a long long shot.


Rebecca Solnit lays this all on the line in this series of essays. But - maybe by sheer will power, she manages to end on an optimistic note, which I was very grateful for. She says that at least this is all known about & made public now; and the genie of feminism can’t be put back in the bottle, and even though the road is 1000 miles long

the woman walking down it isn’t at mile one. I don’t know how far she has to go, but I know she’s not going backward, despite it all – and she’s not walking alone.


Here's a little bit of good news from Britain : we have begun to jail men who threaten rape.

Labour MP Stella Creasy tells of ordeal as Twitter troll is jailed for 18 weeks

STELLA Creasy has described feeling "frightened" and "terrified" as a result of a hate campaign by a Twitter troll who was today jailed for 18 weeks.

Delivery driver Peter Nunn bombarded Stella Creasy with menacing messages including threats to rape her.

Nunn, 33, used social media for a series of vile statements after Ms Creasy supported a bid to put Austen on the bank note.

The campaign was launched by feminist Caroline Criado-Perez, a court heard.

She was also a target of threats from Nunn, City of London Magistrates' Court was told.

He retweeted one sickening message to the Walthamstow MP, which read: "You better watch your back, I'm going to rape you at 8pm and put the video all over."

Ms Creasy told 5 News Tonight: "I can't pretend that it hasn't had an impact on me. Of course it makes you much more wary of strangers, it makes you frightened, it makes you terrified because somebody has fixated on you and wants to cause you suffering and pain.

Nunn, from Bristol, was found guilty at an earlier hearing of sending indecent, obscene and menacing messages by a public electronic network between July 28 and August 5 last year.

Jailing him for 18 weeks today, District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe dismissed Nunn's defence that the messages were meant to be satirical.

She said: "This was extreme language with substantial threats to Ms Creasy.

I do not accept that this was free speech and jokes," she added.

Earlier the judge had remarked: "I can't see that this is anything other than grossly offensive and menacing.

"I am told that a lot of people joke about rape, I don't know if I'm sure that this is a common form of humour in any form of media."
Profile Image for Amy.
15 reviews
June 9, 2014
I've read this essay and others by Solnit all prior to their inclusion in this slim little tone with the exactly right-sized lettering on its cover. I am hugely adoring of her writing, so this review is less about the essays themselves (all fantastic) than the fact that it is a discrete volume you can, and should, be toting around in public.

Ladies, read it on the subway.

Two nights ago I was coming home from a lovely summer's walk to a favorite bookstore, where I snapped up the book. I took it out of my bag at 10:30 p.m. on a sublime Saturday night in New York, on the G train.

I was standing, but a Latina woman with her daughter on her lap craned her neck to try see the title of the book. Next to her, two other women who seemed to be out on the town for the night, were whispering to each other, "what does it say?"

The Latina woman cocked her head further and spoke up, "Men Explain Things..."

I spun on my heel and showed off the cover.

"'Men Explain Things to Me.' It's great."

"What is it about?" asked one of the women out on the town. I could tell by the tilt of her eyebrow that she thought its premise was dubious. She did not want Things Explained to her.

I scooched over to where they were sitting, and gave them a short precis of the essay's key narrative moment, closing with: "and you ladies know what she's talking about right? Has that ever happened to you?"

"Mmm-HMM." "You know it has." And a few little cheers and murmurs erupted from the half-dozen women in the train car. We all smiled. I went back to the book, and the women who were out on the town started talking about how Frankie was doing the exact same thing last week, and had no idea what he was talking about.
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
795 reviews3,612 followers
June 28, 2020
It´s so easy, subconscious, close to an automatic reflex. The hidden weaponization of language and social interactions.

See, even if we deem ourselves emancipated and identifying with the ideals of equality, there are so many seemingly harmless actions and social norms that manipulate how we interact with another. And it´s not just about copulation, it´s the presumption that motivates to think that certain interests or topics are gender specific and have to be condescendingly and jovially broken down to be understandable. But that´s just level one.

The invisible, hidden level area is avoiding to even mention certain topics and contexts, ultimately leading to the formation of gender clean groups and elites that are completely homogenous and close to impossible to reach and enter for women. That´s a mechanism so both subtle and vicious that it takes a while to even recognize that it has been there all the time, and that a writer like Solnit had to put the finger on the complex mechanism.

I deem it close to impossible to solve this problem, especially because it´s very tricky to draw the line between harmless, specific gender interests that are no problem, but just natural, and everyone thinking different should come down from planet, exaggerated equality at all costs if it even isn´t useful, and more a kind of escalating political correctness thing, and accept that biochemistry, hormones, and epigenetic make a good part of our personality. And next to this enriching diversity lurks the danger of belittling and ostracism, not even breakable by quotes, because the alpha group simply plays theater around the female managers, board members, ministers, and sometimes even presidents and form a shadow elite, don´t let them fully participate in their work, exclude the few influential women from the important contacts they would need for best performance,… It´s a bit as if stupid in groups in high school would keep dominating forever and that says a lot about the mentality behind it.

Like so many problems, it´s a cultural and traditional one
and as long as, highly subjectively, dubious, and not certainly useful elements of social interactions dominate much of human lives, the end results are often unnecessary, outdated, and dangerous power structures.

That´s just the highest level of discrimination without directly harming and physically hurting the privileged women able to defend themselves, trickling down to severer and more and more harming to deadly consequences the more rights are taken away, finally culminating in a „Shut up, I am,“, I mean, „I have a dick.“ attitude. The legitimization of this deplorable worldview begins with each argument, rhetoric trick, psychological manipulation, the whole armory of

And as difficult as it is, men have to accept that they´ve been culturally conditioned to act in destructive ways without even recognizing and try to overcome their burden of sexist brainwashing in everyday situations. This is difficult as heck, because many women still shaped and styled to conform to gender norms don´t really make it much easier, not to talk about the ones demonizing men in general without much differentiating. Reading and spreading the words of the progressive, feminist thinkers such as Solnit seems to be one of the most important things one can do to both initiate change and try to live it too.

Gender specific interests are something that´s often instrumentalized in this context, because some stereotypical prejudices aren´t evil or discriminating, but just a logical consequence of biochemical reactions, leading to unpleasant situations for one gender in a group of the other gender with completely different interests.

Solnit created a short work, a collection of impressions, but the most important idea worth spreading is how language can be abused for domination and control, how subconscious prejudices can mislead even emancipated men in behaving belittling and arrogant when talking to women.

The title is ingenious, it´s an immediate critical conversation starter, a perfect premise of one of the most essential problems we are facing today. Not to forget the irony that female language use and competence is in many cases much better than that of men, leading to the bizarre satire real life events that relatively blunt, simple males try to explain seemingly difficult things to literate and educated women, similar to arrogant kids trying to explain to an adult why they are right. Much second hand embarrassment when being witness of it in real life, especially if acquainted with all participating in the facepalmity, often in combination with group dynamics of deluded Duh guys, just a more primitive version of the more cultivated discrimination practiced by sir manager and mister minister.

Other parts of the work include the sad, too well known truth, the direct suppression and killing of misbehaving women in many countries of the world and the Western alternative of trolls promising rape, torture, and death if a woman dares to enter the lands of male privileges.

Something a bit confusing, that could be mistakenly mixed up with the important equality and emancipation theme, is the extreme complexity and subjectivity of the sense and quality of human conversation, especially small talk. It´s highly dependent on interests, age, many other factors, and how enjoyable or torturing it is for participants is mainly depending on partly random factors. So it doesn´t make much sense to bash against people, unknowingly entering the land of
just because one can´t find joy with the topic. If a woman voluntarily joins a manly discussion about topics she hates, to double agent style find arguments against the other gender, and vice versa, it´s the woman´s /man´s fault and her/his misandric/misogynic argument against everything male/female being stupid is wrong and just fuels the stupid gender wars.

A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this completely overrated real life outside books:
Profile Image for Meave.
789 reviews56 followers
March 27, 2014
It ... didn't go where I thought it would. It starts out strong, she ends on a decent note, but it meanders in the middle in a way that makes me wish it hadn't been a book at all. It's good writing, and the points she makes are important, but overall it was just a little, I don't know, unfocused? Lackluster? Something about the third quarter, all that Woolf/Sontag musing, that lost totally lost my interest. I was hoping for more connection, something sharper.
Profile Image for Patrick Brown.
141 reviews2,458 followers
July 7, 2014
The titular first essay is required reading for humans, especially men. I enjoyed (is that the right word?) the rest of the book as well, though I felt the essays were best when they were most direct. My only quibble with the book is that the essays weren't meant to appear together, which led to some unfortunate repetition, right down to quotes from primary sources that appear in multiple essays. Still well worth the time.

One note: The best part about reading this as a book? No comments section. You forget how great it is to read someone's ideas without a chorus of nutters shouting at them from the comments.
Profile Image for Jude Watson.
71 reviews23 followers
May 1, 2023
What a mixed bag. The title essay works best for me because it actually discusses the author's personal experiences with getting talked over by men although she obviously knows a great deal more than them about the things they're discussing. The Woolf/Sontag essay is interesting too.

Everything else reads like an intro feminism pamphlet with a focus on rape and DV, but with poorly done intersectionality, especially around race and colonialism. The more she talks about global issues with a sweeping brush, the more uncomfortable I felt. My greatest wince was this part as she's looking a photograph of an Afghani family: "I realized with astonishment that what I had taken for drapery or furniture was a fully veiled woman... Whatever all the arguments may be about veils and burkas, they make people literally disappear."

Like, WTF is that?! If you have such unfamiliarity with Afghani/Muslim culture that you initially mistake a woman for a piece of furniture, maybe don't assume you can make a judgement about the visual significance of their women's clothing to the point that you call your opinions "literal." A good question to ask yourself: "Is this piece of clothing the Invisibility Cloak from Harry Potter?" If the answer is no, then the clothes don't not make women "literally disappear." That's just your ignorance talking!

It's clear that this book was only meant to scratch the surface, as evidenced by the inset quotes from the book that all but scream "I assume you're skimming this!" So a fair bit of strategic essentialization was inevitable, and there's a place for that in short essay writing of this style. But in these essays - of which four out of seven contain horrifying accounts of individual rapes and murders followed by shapeless metaphors about progress and hope - foreign countries are basically only cited as places of horror and oppression, while the lighter moments of the book (like the Woolf essay or a short piece on marriage equality) are all situated in white American thought and activism.

And when she does take on colonization, it's so heavy handed it hurts. "Her name was Africa. His was France, He colonized her, exploited her, silenced her" she writes about Dominique Strauss-Kahn's rape of Nafissatou Dialo. Like, why does he get the specificity of representing his country (despite being the head of the IMF) while she's expected to represent a whole continent? Nitpicky, I know, but if you're a white lady writing about international feminism, you gotta get your shit together on this stuff. Don't represent brown countries as only places of pain, and don't make women of color part of your convenient narrative at the cost of their visibility or individuality.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68.1k followers
May 23, 2021
The Subtleties of Power

Power tends to hide itself as a defense against any potential challenge to its existence. So democracy, it is said, is government ‘of the people’ not of the autocratic head of the local council. The greedy CEO is forced by his position to act in the interests of the corporate shareholder, or so he says. And men commit intellectual, and emotional, as well as physical violence against women because it is claimed to be their nature; besides, the world would be less organized, less innovative, and less safe for women and other living things if men were not so aggressive..

The camouflage is effective; even those wielding power feel themselves constrained as powerless. The council leader can’t impose his development plan; he must cajole, and argue, and compromise. The CEO fights a continuous battle with his senior managers about whether cost, or innovation, or marketing is the priority of the moment - with the consequence that he can never get entirely what he wants. And men perceive themselves as nagged, put upon, and having to endure unappreciated economic peonage within a family life they never imagined and didn’t sign up for. Victims all, if you press them hard enough.

This ‘power hiding as victim’ tactic is a central theme of Men Explain Things To Me. It is such a common ploy that it seems almost trivial to point it out. Except it is undoubtedly the most important source of the most prevalent injustice everywhere in human civilization - the oppression of females by males. The rationale of absence of power is a substantial component of what Rebecca Solnit calls “the archipelago of arrogance,” that pattern of subtle and quotidian male dominance which is an extension of the more visible, because more overtly violent, male crime against women.

There is reportedly a female as well as a male reaction against such apparent female gender prejudice - movements like Incel, #WomenAgainstFeminism, Concerned Women of America, the National Coalition for Men and many other organizations have claimed that Solnit’s arguments demonize men. She repeatedly points out this is not her intention; but also cites the raw statistics to show that “Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.” It is after all, for example, men who constitute almost 19 of every 20 inmates in American prisons; who are the leading cause by far for deaths of pregnant women, who executed all but one of the sixty-two mass shootings in the US at the time of her publication, and who are responsible for the overwhelming majority of cases of domestic abuse.

The male attempt at control, of course, is a generic and cultural trait. Like racial prejudice, it isn’t really captured in statistics but is viscerally experiences in the existential reality of women. Solnit has to be considered representatively credible when she makes claims like “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.” The fact that many men do it to other men while almost no women do so, in my own experience, is personal confirmation of her thesis.

This attempt at control is routinized and normalized often by law; but most commonly it is exerted through the informal mores of civilized society. The pervasive didactic male attitude “is one way that, in polite discourse, power is expressed—the same power that in impolite discourse and in physical acts of intimidation and violence, and very often in how the world is organized—silences and erases and annihilates women, as equals, as participants, as human beings with rights, and far too often as living beings.”

You either get it or you don’t. But if you don’t, your world us a very strange and probably threatening place indeed. Gender dominance is a training ground for other forms of control in society from racism to mass political and commercial manipulation. The subtleties of male superiority establish an implicit right to power which “comes out of entitlement, the entitlement to inflict suffering and even death on other people.” It is this entitlement as an attitude as well as a cultural fact that Solnit is attacking, not men. “We are free together or slaves together,” she says; to me, quite sensibly.

Nancy Pelosi appears to be giving this basic lesson to Donald Trump as I write. Good luck Nancy.
Profile Image for Navessa.
Author 10 books7,515 followers
April 15, 2018
This collection of essays is a relatively quick read at 130 pages. And no, it’s not just 130 pages of funny anecdotes depicting unwitting men explaining things to Solnit that she already knows. In fact, after the introductory essay, there’s no further mention of such behavior.

What follows is what I would call a crash-course in why feminism was so important in the past and also why there’s still a critical need for its existence today.

So prepare yourself before diving into this. Solnit’s knack for dropping bombs is unforgiving and unrelenting. She brings up stats and facts that are going to make a lot of readers uncomfortable. Especially those who are unfamiliar with world news, are new to feminism, or somehow managed to miss just how pervasive violence against women is in nearly every world culture.

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Profile Image for Crumb.
189 reviews526 followers
May 10, 2018
This slim collection of essays, was an effective and accurate representation of feminism and how the female gender still suffers today. It was timely and apropos, when you consider everything that is happening under the Trump administration. There were sections of this book that were dry and hard to get through, however Men Explain Things to Me is feminism lit on steroids. Rebecca Solnit gets down and dirty, climbs into the trenches, illustrating multiple inequities that women of today still suffer. This is one such example:

The online world is full of mostly anonymous rape and death threats for women who stick out - who, for instance, participate in online gaming or speak up on controversial issues

Solnit speaks of the great feminist battle, that at times may have seemed hopeless, but step by step, women are breaking down these barriers. Walls that at one time seemed too great of a hurtle, impossible to climb over.

Here is that road , maybe a thousand miles long, and the woman walking down it isn't at mile one. I don't know how far she has to go, but I know she's not going backward, despite it all - and she's not walking alone.

Although this isn't exciting literature, or a page-turner, it is essential reading material for both men and women alike. It addresses issues of extreme importance and is executed with grace and adroitness. Rebecca Solnit is a powerhouse.

Additional Note: I wasn't going to add a GIF to this.. however.. this one seemed super appropriate. Don't be mad!
Profile Image for Rowena.
500 reviews2,465 followers
March 30, 2015
"Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they're talking about. Some men."

Men explain things to me all the time, whether it be in person, online, in classroom, on dates, and at work. And my female friends tell me the same thing. Of course I have often been left wondering what it is about me that make these particular men believe I know nothing about the subject? It can't just be my gender,surely? It often is but often their actions are often racialized. This book focuses on gendered assumptions of a woman being seen as “some sort of obscene impregnation metaphor, an empty vessel to be filled with their wisdom and knowledge."

My thoughts for the majority of this review come from the titular essay, “Men Explain Things to Me.” Despite the fact that she's an accomplished writer, Solnit experiences “mansplaining” though she doesn’t use that term herself. What was surprising to me was how the essay started off in a light and slightly humorous tone but soon got quite dark, clearly showing us the consequences of silencing women, and those consequences are dire.

There was a lot of depressing data on rape and domestic violence figures. Solnit acknowledges male feminists and men who actually listen to women’s experiences, and she also questions the image of masculinity in society. It reminded me a bit of Anais Nin’s thoughts in her essay “In Favour of the Sensitive Man”:

"What's the matter with manhood? There's something about how masculinity is imagined, about what's praised and encouraged, about the way violence is passed on to boys that needs to be addressed."

After reading all the depressing numbers I can’t help but wonder why there hasn’t been more to address the violence facing women. In fact, it’s quite shocking that this isn’t a priority (especially not for some politicians, as Solnit points out some awful examples of rape culture perpetuated by Republican politicians). But this is not only an American problem, it's pretty much a global issue. As Solnit points out, why hasn't there been a war declared on rape and domestic violence? It is a pandemic although the media prefers to call these incidences isolated incidents.

There are other essays in the collection that are just as good and as informative as the titular one, with Solnit's poetic touch that didn't come through as strongly in this collection as it did in one of my favourites,The Faraway Nearby. One I especially liked was “Worlds Collide in a Luxury Suite,” which was about the IMF and Dominique Strauss-Kahn. In this essay she showed the relationship between power and exploitation, and one can say domestic violence and sexual assault follows a similar pattern:

"Her name was Africa. His name was France. He colonized her, exploited her, silenced her, and even decades after it was supposed to have ended, still acted with a high hand in resolving her affairs in places like Côte d'Ivoire, a name she had been given because of her export products, not her own identity."

I could go on and on about the above paragraph; it’s stated so succinctly but there are so many layers to it.

A quick read with plenty of food for thought.
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.5k followers
March 7, 2020

As an old guy, I came late to the “mansplaining” thing, but now that I know what it is and also realize that I have been doing it for at least forty years (or so my wife tells me), I thought I’d read the essay that started it all, “Men Explain Things to Me”--and the other pieces in this brief collection of essays—and drink (as I like to do) from the source, from the ideational spring.

I am glad I did. I loved the essay, and enjoyed the eight others that followed. Rebecca Solnit is that rarity, an imaginative and incisive thinker who writes with superb style, and I am proud that I have discovered her, (Yes, I know, I know: much of the world discovered her ten—perhaps fifteen, twenty—years ago.)

I have a particular affection for “Men Explain Things to Me” because it was the essay that led me to Solnit, but I think it’s not nearly the best thing in the collection. My two favorites are “Grandmother Spider” in which Solnit uses a painting by Ana Teresa Fernandez (of a woman in high heels outlined—yet almost entirely obscured—by a white sheet hanging from a clothesline) as a metaphor for how, in spite of the continual attempts to erase women from the world, the traces of their presence continually remain, and “Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable”, which explores the blessed uncertainty of the future as hinted at in a quote of Virginia Woolf: “The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think.”

Each of the other essays, though, is worth reading: “The Longest War” (violence against women), “Worlds Collide in a Luxury Suite” (the rape of women and the exploitation of the developing world as exemplified by the case of the IMF’s Dominque Strauss-Kahn and his attack on the hotel maid Naffissatou Diallo), “In Praise of the Threat” (the real meaning of marriage equality), and “Pandora’s Box and the Volunteer Police Force (how rape-culture language is used to intimidate women on-line). For those readers lucky enough to possess the expanded 2015 edition, there are two additional essays: “Cassandra and the Creeps” (how “credibility” is used against women who speak out)—my third favorite essay, particularly noteworthy in the wake of the recent Kavanaugh hearings: "#YesAllWomen: Feminists Rewrite the Story" (motivated by the “incel” hostility that produced the Isla Vista murders).

I will conclude with an edited version of Solnit’s classic “mansplaining” story, an incident which took place at a party at Aspen, where she and her forty-something women friends, who “passed for the occasion’s young ladies" among the gathering's older crowd, were confronted by the host, “an imposing man who’d made a lot of money”:
”So, I hear you’ve written a couple of books?”

I replied, “Several, actually.”

He said, in the way you encourage your friend’s seventeeen-year-old to describe flute practice, “And what are they about?”

. . . I began to speak of only the most recent . . . “River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West,” my book about the annihilation of time and space and the industrialization of everyday life.

He cut me off soon after I mentioned Muybridge. “And have you heard about the very important Muybridge book that came out this year?”

He was already telling me about the very important book—with that smug look I know so well in a man holding forth, eyes fixed on the fuzzy far horizon of his own authority. . . .

So Mr. Very Important was going on smugly about this book I should have known when [my friend] Sallie interrupted him, to say. “That’s her book.”

. . . . And then, as if in a nineteenth-century novel, he went ashen. That I was indeed the author of the very important book it turned out he hadn’t read, just read about in the “New York Times Book Review” a few months earlier, so confused the neat categories into which his world was sorted that he was stunned speechless—for a moment, before he began holding forth again. Being women, we were politely out of earshot before we started laughing, and we’ve never really stopped.
Profile Image for Anna.
102 reviews3,773 followers
July 22, 2020
Życzyłabym sobie, żeby kolejne pokolenia młodych mężczyzn i kobiet obowiązkowo czytały tę książkę.
Profile Image for Leah.
52 reviews82 followers
August 22, 2014
Solnit's popular essay that was floating around the internet for a while was important enough for me to remember some years later when this book of the same name came out. I was hoping that this 124 page volume would be full of embarrassing stories of feet in the mouths of men. I bought this on a day of several of these interactions, hoping it would be an ally and coping mechanism. It starts off with that essay, but then goes into talking about the ways in which women are victims of sexism by way of rape, domestic abuse, etc. A veteran feminist, I wouldn't be likely to pick up a book trying to convince me of this sort of thing, but it is nice to have a collection of more recent events. Still, there were may too many "not all men" excuses and she reveres gay/lesbian couples as egalitarian without gender roles (has Solnit, like, ever met a lesbian couple?) A lot of the ideas are basic, her feminism does not seem to explore intersectionality much and this book ends on some weird esoteric note with a long essay about Woolf and Sontag (why? Because they are women who do not need Things Explained to them? I didn't get this). The title is a misnomer, would recommend to the modern idiot under a rock who thinks feminism is unnecessary in this day and age, but not to anyone worth their salt.
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
839 reviews3,757 followers
February 15, 2021
"Having the right to show up and speak are basic to survival, to dignity, and to liberty."

Well, this is a really interesting analyze of these "little nothings" that imprisons women in straightjackets, unfortunately leaving the way open for physical or mental violence. You may not want to see it, but it's here, it does happen, and vigilance is mandatory in my opinion. As I sometimes ask my friends, what kind of world do you want to live in? Is it okay to let people act that way, to agree tacitly with such behavior? Is " it has always been likewise" an excuse to reckon with? Hell no.

Time for a little anecdote

A few weeks ago, we read in class a short tale about equality between boys and girls and we debated on the subject just after. You can imagine my shock when I realized that some of the boys thought that girls weren't able to succeed in what they called technical jobs. Yes, because they genuinely thought that the ability to understand technical facts and other equations were embedded in their gender.

Do you want to know what bothered me the most? The fact that none of the girls openly disagreed with that statement, even though some of them aren't usually afraid to say their part. I was appalled.

They are ten.

The patronizing behavior of some men? I think most women live it every day, and what maddens me is the fact that I'm often told that's it's NORMAL, both by men and women.

Men explain things to me, still. I teach to ten years old so of course my personal knowledge isn't really above primary school, you know. Never mind that I followed a 5 years curse in college. That's not important. I'm supposed to be sweet, kind, and most important, mute.

No, sorry but not sorry to disagree with this and I never, ever want somebody telling me what to think and what I AM. Note that what I think about women is, in my opinion, as important for men, who are also the victims of these gender stereotypes.

Men explain things to me, but not all men. Of course. I'm feeling silly to feel the need to point this, because it's obvious^^

However, I remain unsatisfied because I wanted more from this book, but if I'm being fair, it's only a compilation of short essays and as it is I can't really ask it to be a full book. In the end, my opinion is positive because if this book - or even the short first essay - can give people the need to read more about these issues, that's already something great.

01/29 : Just a little heads-up to say that this year, my class reacted in the OPPOSITE way, and fuck, I was so proud of them ♥

Oh, before I forget! For French speakers, I watched recently a very interesting documentary about the way women are treated in politics in France (Macho Politico, by Cyrille Eldin). Both interesting and appalling...

For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,653 followers
April 18, 2015
Do not be fooled by the cutesy title — this is a dark and serious book.

Men Explain Things to Me is a collection of essays about feminism, sexism, patriarchy, misogyny, rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, poverty, class warfare and gender inequality around the world. It's a heavy load, my friends.

To say that I was under a misapprehension about this book is an understatement. A friend mentioned how amusing the title essay was, and I assumed the whole book was like that — funny stories about things overbearing men have said to the author. But that's just Solnit's hook to get you reading. Her essays are clarion calls to stop violence against women.

"We have far more than 87,000 rapes in this country every year, but each of them is invariably portrayed as an isolated incident. We have dots so close they're splatters melting into a stain, but hardly anyone connects them, or names that stain. In India they did. They said that this is a civil rights issue, it's a human rights issue, it's everyone's problem, it's not isolated, and it's never going to be acceptable again. It has to change. It's your job to change it, and mine, and ours."

This short book (about 130 pages) is a good primer for those interested in reading about gender inequality. Some of the essays are tied to specific current events, such as the sexual assault case involving Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or the gang rape of an unconscious teenager by members of the Steubenville High School football team. Solnit uses a lot of research, statistics and examples in her essays to make the point that there are so many incidents of sexual assault and so many cases of women who have been abused that there needs to be a conversation about what it means to be a man.

"What's the matter with manhood? There's something about how masculinity is imagined, about what's praised and encouraged, about the way violence is passed on to boys that needs to be addressed."

Some of the essays are a little scattered, but it is still a thoughtful book and I would recommend it. I hope it leads to more reading on the topic (and more social progress).

I mention this in the comments, but it bears repeating. I would not describe this book as anti-men. Solnit repeatedly praises the increasing number of men who consider themselves feminists and who are working toward improving women's rights. The underlying theme is more about the patriarchal society we have, and how women still have to fight to be heard.

Favorite Quote
"Most women fight wars on two fronts, one for whatever the putative topic is and one simply for the right to speak, to have ideas, to be acknowledged to be in possession of facts and truths, to have value, to be a human being. Things have gotten better, but this war won't end in my lifetime. I'm still fighting it, for myself certainly, but also for all those younger women who have something to say, in the hope that they will get to say it."
Profile Image for Lucy.
415 reviews610 followers
December 20, 2019

”Men explain things to me, still. And no man has ever apologised for explaining, wrongly, things that I know and they don’t.”

This was such a hard book for me to review, between reading and writing down all of my thoughts and information that this book gives the reader, it was difficult to contain this all in a review... but I’m going to try.

This was a collection of short essays that Rebecca Solnit has written, mostly exploring the themes of women’s rights and feminism. “Men explain things to me” is the opening essay and I feel it resonates with so many women where some men will “mansplain” something which the recipient will already know much more about.

”It’s the presumption that makes it hard... it trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.”

Solnit analyses how violence is a massive weapon of control over women and how in different scenarios this is used. How, even from a young age, women are taught to be silent and that the world is not there for them. She shows this through many prolific cases and statistics as well as her own experiences. It’s difficult to ignore the power of the patriarchy when facts and cases are staring straight at you from the knowledge in this book.

Rebecca Solnit also makes the connections between things I had never even thought about and opened my eyes to new thoughts and cases. For example, how women’s autonomy against violence and rape only came about really in the 1970’s and before that would they even be classed as “human”. How rape occurs so often, isn’t it strange how society does not this a crisis? As someone who left university not too long ago, her analysis on a rape at a university-the fact that women are told to “disappear”- stay in at night, go in groups as to not to be raped- shouldn’t men be told to stay indoors instead to stop them from attacking another woman? The group of young men were shocked at this proposal of being told to disappear yet it is that same message that has been told to me many times throughout my teen years and now into my 20’s.

Overall, this book really opened my eyes and made the connections visible and comprehensible in a way I would not be able to voice. This is not quite a 5***** read as one of the essays I had a hard time grasping the topic matter until the last few pages.
Profile Image for Sofia.
258 reviews6,469 followers
June 8, 2022
Men Explain Things to Me is a collection by Rebecca Solnit that approaches the feminist essay in a frankly unambitious way that left me disappointed and uninspired.

This collection adopts that familiar brand of safe pop feminism that repeats the same statements all of us agree with. These are valuable, yes, and an accessible first step for people who are unfamiliar with the feminist movement. But an essay should go beyond repeating ideas that are already widely acknowledged. Not shy away from nuanced topics such as intersectionality (the idea that different forms of discrimination like sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. can overlap to create the complex individual experience that varies for every person). Not embrace surface level relatability and anecdotes that do nothing to establish a deeper understanding or pattern.

As this article states: "When resonance is treated as an ethos in and of itself, we begin to silence ourselves, and solidarity becomes little more than a new kind of nonexistence." Essentially, it’s a form of performative activism that creates the illusion of gender equality without actually addressing the issue.

Men Explain Things to Me never dives as deeply as it could and prefers to adopt a sort of blind optimism instead of examining the "why" of the issue. I guess that's why it's titled Men Explain Things to Me and not Why Do Men Explain Things to Me? This just doesn't add anything to the discussion. It's more of a compilation of events generally relatable to women that never explores in more depth what we can actually do about it. So we hear women's voices and listen to their stories. Now what? Where's the call to action? What are we supposed to do to actually bring about change? Solnit doesn’t have any answers.

Maybe I shouldn’t ask the author to attempt to address topics like intersectionality, however, because of statements like this: “Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.” This is just outlandish. Gender bigotry isn’t the only motivation for violence. She also made multiple claims that people in same-sex relationships never suffer domestic violence and are basically genderless because they don’t adhere to traditional gender roles. Conclusions like these are ignorant and ridiculous and vastly oversimplify reality.

Additionally, some of the essays in the middle of the collection were less coherent. Some didn’t fit the theme at all. Overall, the book was a lot less articulate and fluid than I had expected, and significantly more anodyne.

Maybe this would be a better read for someone who is unfamiliar with the basic principles of feminism and is looking for an accessible introduction. I am not that person, so I didn't find much meaning in the pages of this book.
Profile Image for Ylenia.
1,055 reviews387 followers
June 19, 2020
3.5 stars

It felt good to reread this one!
I definitely picked up on more things she was writing about out this time.

At the same time, though, I had this feeling she kind of fitted into the stereotypical white feminist trope. Thankfully feminism evolved a bit since these essays were published.
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
916 reviews13.9k followers
August 19, 2017
The first two essays in this book started out sooo strong. I was really enjoying it up until the middle, because then it got into some essays that went off on a tangent about politics and the justice system, which wouldn't be horrible if tied back to feminism, but the language became so dense that it lost my attention. Solnit is great at researching her pieces and matching her words with experience and personal stories, but a lot of times she would be ranting about things that happened in 2003 and I just couldn't relate.

I thought the essays were eloquent, but I also understand the concerns that some people have about this book being non-intersectional, since it discusses the fact that women are more likely to be victims of violence than men, but fails to include the hierarchy within that statistic that explains the differences in white women vs. women of color being victims of hate crimes and domestic violence.

Overall I wouldn't really recommend this as a feminist read, but I will keep it on my shelf because it did have some nice quotes that made me think, such as a woman's power comes hand-in-hand with her credibility, which I never really thought about before. It was fascinating and infuriating.
Author 5 books588 followers
May 23, 2015
I didn't know this book was a collection of essays when I first sat down with it. I thought it was an expansion on the title essay. I would have enjoyed this book more if I'd known what to expect, so in case you didn't know, either: this book is a collection of feminist essays.

Some of the writing here makes for some pretty brutal reading. Much of it had me jumping up and down, shouting, "YES! FINALLY, SOMEONE ELSE IS SAYING THIS! IT'S NOT JUST ME! THIS IS TRUE!"

Passages like this one:

It's not that I want to pick on men. I just think that if we noticed that women are, on the whole, radically less violent, we might be able to theorize where violence comes from and what we can do about it a lot more productively. Clearly the ready availability of guns is a huge problem for the United States, but despite this availability to everyone, murder is still a crime committed by men 90 percent of the time.

And this one:

No female bus riders in India have ganged up to sexually assault a man so badly he dies of his injuries, nor are marauding packs of women terrorizing men in Cairo's Tahrir Square, and there's just no maternal equivalent of the 11 percent of rapes that are by fathers or stepfathers. Of the people in prison in the United States, 93.5 percent are not women, and though quite a lot of the prisoners should not be there in the first place, maybe some of them should because of violence, until we think of a better way to deal with it, and them.

And so many more. I could quote this book all day. (Ask my friends.)

Solnit points out, correctly, that South Africa is the rape capital of the world. I already knew this, and have been known to point out (again, check with my immediate circle) that we all cared a lot about the horrible things going on in South Africa when those horrible things were racist. Now that it's women who are being brutally mistreated – gosh, look at the time. And anyway, that's not the same thing as apartheid, is it? It's not the government raping women. So, you know.

Excuse me while I punch a wall.

Solnit's chapter "Who has the right to kill you?" has never been more timely. It addresses the idea some men have that they have a right to control women's behavior, and to mete out punishment for "misbehavior." (Misbehavior being behavior such men don't approve of, such as women not basing their actions on what such men want.)

A few days ago, I was listening to a news report about one of the rapists who's facing the death penalty for his murderous assault on a medical student in New Delhi. This rapist was interviewed about his crime, and I was expecting to hear him sound utterly cowed, utterly chastened. He was facing possible execution, after all, for a crime that had prompted outrage around the world. I expected this to be hard to listen to, because I rarely enjoy hearing people cringe no matter how hard they've worked to earn the privilege of doing so.

Instead, he doubled down. He had the right, he said, to teach a lesson to a girl who was out late with a boy she wasn't married or related to. And anyway, he wouldn't have hurt her so much if she hadn't fought back.

Well, I was right about it being hard to listen to.

I want to point out one small fault in this book, because it's a misuse of statistics I've run into before and it drives me nuts and I need it to stop. We can do better, and when it comes to a cause as important and beleaguered as feminism, we need to do the best work possible.

Here's a passage from Men Explain Things to Me that didn't have the intended effect on me:

About three women a day are murdered by spouses or ex-spouses in this country. It's one of the main causes of death for pregnant women in the United States.

The first sentence made me blindingly furious. I wanted to run outside and do something. Shout from the rooftops. Donate to my local shelter. Something. Anything.

The second sentence made me think, "That's true – we've really made a lot of medical advances. Women aren't dying in childbirth, or from pre-eclampsia, or from the side effects of hyperemesis gravidarum, nearly as often as we used to. And that's not what you meant, is it?"

I know I sound like a heartless jerk, but I can't STAND it when people use what I call the Popularity Contest of Doom to make a point that makes itself without any help.

I remember hearing something on the radio years ago about suicide among the very young. Really, you barely need statistics at all if you're going to agitate against that. If one single solitary child is taking her own life, that's one child too many. Take my wallet. Take my chocolate. Do whatever you need to, but make it stop.

This report or ad or whatever it was couldn't stop there. Instead, a woman's voice intoned, "Suicide is the leading cause of death among children aged 9 to 14 in this country."

And I'm sorry, but yes – as a rigorous critical thinker, my first thought was, "Well, YEAH. We've hit the medical causes so hard that suicide has had the chance to catch up."

Solnit said something about how "this is the number one cause of death for women" a few times in this book, and it drove me quietly out of my mind every time. Because what does that mean? Why phrase it that way? If the leading cause of death among pregnant women in America is murder, and then German measles makes a horrific comeback and pregnant women start dying more of that even though the murder statistics didn't change any, are you saying I shouldn't worry anymore about pregnant women being murdered by their spouses and ex-spouses because who cares about the second-place winner in this race from hell?

If you don't mean that, why bring it up at all?

If you have meaningful figures and statistics, give me those. If three American women a day really are murdered by spouses or exes, that's what I care about. That's enough. More than enough. I don't care who else wanted to be queen of the evil prom.

This is a tiny quibble about a book that turned me into the reader everyone dreads – the one who looks up from her page and says, "Let me just tell you this one part" and then makes you late for work by reading aloud for ten minutes straight, pausing only long enough to say, "Isn't that amazing?" before starting in on yet another part that you really have to hear.

Brace yourself to read this book, but read it.
Profile Image for Jilly.
1,838 reviews6,163 followers
October 6, 2016
Not a funny collection of mansplaining, but a serious look at why feminism is still important in today's society.

Women's liberation has often been portrayed as a movement intent on encroaching upon or taking power and privilege away from men, as though in some dismal zero-sum game, only one gender at a time could be free and powerful.
But, we are free together or slaves together.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,007 reviews36k followers
January 7, 2020
Audiobook... read by Luci Christian Bell

This was my first time experiencing Rebecca Solnit.
She’s a great writer, and ‘Bell’ was an easy-to-be-with-narrator.

Rebecca knows her topics - exploring issues from many sides.
Her essays show how far we’ve come from domestic violence, rape, and suppression of women...but that we still have more to go.
She offers unique perspectives on feminism - (mansplaining was not her purpose)....
and that studying past revolutions is being helpful in creating new ideas....giving tips of better ways to go about new contemporary modern revolutions.

She talked about the ways conversations have evolved - historically - when speaking about rape.

Overall ....these essays were a mixed bag. I loved the one about ‘grandmother’ hanging her laundry in her heels 👠...

Not all essays kept me interested - and I couldn’t tell if it was the narrator ( but her voice was pleasant - yet maybe not enough intonations in her speaking)... or if Rebecca’s writing was at times just too dry to ‘stay’ interested.

Next time I pick a book though by Rebecca Solnit... it won’t be audio.
This was only 2 hours long as an audiobook- which by the end was long enough.

Definitely positives - just not ‘super-duper’, either.

3 stars

Profile Image for Debbie "DJ".
352 reviews398 followers
February 1, 2015
When I bought "Men Explain Things to Me," I thought I would be learning about men's thoughts on gender roles/issues. Wrong. The title refers to how men have a confrontational confidence that no matter what the subject they are right. Solnit explains how this has silenced many young women in the same way as being harassed on the street. I found myself thinking of a male friend of mine. We've had many discussions, as he is Republican, and I, Democrat. There were so many times when he would "explain things to me," and I would feel intimidated. He was so sure, I was so sure, but it was me who felt this intimidation, questioning myself. And, as Solnit goes on to say, "no man has ever apologized for explaining, wrongly, things that I know and they don't." I also, have never received an apology. Honestly, some of these conversations with my male friend felt violent, and as Solnit also explains, violence is used to control women. This is really a gender issue, and what is it that causes males to become so violent.

I will just list a few of the facts Solnit discusses: A woman is beaten every 9 seconds. Women worldwide ages 15 - 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war, and traffic accidents COMBINED. Three women a day are murdered by spouses or ex-spouses. It is the main cause of death for pregnant women in the U.S. In the U.S. a rape is reported every 6.2 minutes, unreported, the estimate is 5 times as high. In most Middle Eastern countries a woman has no legal standing whatsoever. Enough huh?

The good news is that more and more men are "getting it." Many think it is their issue too and are standing up for us, and with us. Amen brother!

I think Solnit should have ended there, with hope. Instead she continues with the writings of Virginia Wolff, Susan Sontag, and mentions many of her own previous books. Huh?

Profile Image for Thomas.
1,459 reviews8,561 followers
December 8, 2014
Chords, nerves: the thing is still circulating as I write. The point of the essay was never to suggest that I think I am notably oppressed. It was to take these conversations as the narrow end of the wedge that opens up space for men and closes it off for women, space to speak, to be heard, to have rights, to participate, to be respected, to be a full and free human being.

If you come across an ignorant person who pretends that sexism does not exist or that feminism has no merits, please direct them to this book. In her collection of essays Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit articulates the problems that arise within the discourse of men and women. She uses brutal, saddening statistics to cement her arguments, but she always composes herself enough so that a wide range of readers will still appreciate her writing. This passage showcases her even-handedness:

Though virtually all the perpetrators of such crimes are men, that doesn't mean all men are violent. Most are not. In addition, men obviously also suffer violence, largely at the hands of other men, and every violent death, every assault is terrible. Women can and do engage in intimate partner violence, but recent studies state that these acts don't often result in significant injury, let alone death; on the other hand, men murdered by their partners are often killed in self-defense, and intimate violence sends a lot of women to the hospital and the grave. But the subject here is the pandemic of violence by men against women, both intimate violence and stranger violence.

This collection of essays does suffer just a little bit from a lack of a unifying theme; Solnit wrote these pieces as individual arguments, so her effort to join them feels disjointed at times. However, she compensates for this slight scramble by writing about a wide variety of topics and how they relate to the conversations between men and women. She analyzes the effects of marriage equality on the patriarchal standards within heterosexual marriages, she pays homage to Virginia Woolf by commenting on her essays, and much more. Solnit's fire for feminism and equality simmers through the pages of this collection, and several individual passages burn as exemplars of original, meaningful thought. Recommended for everyone interested or disinterested in feminism, as this would make a nice companion to Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist. I will end my review with a final paragraph that stuck out to me:

We have more than eighty-seven thousand rapes in this country every year, but each of them is invariably portrayed as an isolated incident. We have dots so close they're splatters melting into a stain, but hardly anyone connects them, or names that stain. In India they did. They said that this is a civil rights issue, it's a human rights issue, it's everyone problem, it's not isolated, and it's never going to be acceptable again. it has to change. It's your job to change it, and mine, and ours.
Profile Image for Caroline .
418 reviews573 followers
November 2, 2021

Men Explain Things to Me, more baldly stated, could be Men Belittle Me. This is a book about sexism; however--and this is a crucial point--despite that provocative title, the book is not anti-men. Solnit stresses the idea a few times throughout, starting on page two:
Here, let me just say that my life is well sprinkled with lovely men, with a long succession of editors who have, since I was young, listened to and encouraged and published me, with my infinitely generous younger brother, with splendid friends of whom it could be said--like the Clerk in The Canterbury Tales I still remember from Mr. Pelen’s class on Chaucer--"gladly would he learn and gladly teach."
Solnit is respected as a feminist writer, and Men Explain Things to Me is a compilation of her essays, some previously published elsewhere, exploring various feminist issues. The book is a highly intelligent and serious work. (The “hilarious” descriptor in the summary is inaccurate.) One of her most enjoyable essays is the one she opens with, an anecdote that underscores well men’s too-frequent condescending behavior toward women.

Not all the essays in this collection go together; some are more relevant and more engrossing. An essay on Virginia Woolf doesn’t connect with the others. On the other hand, an essay on the power of language to describe and reshape feminism really does. Solnit did her research--statistics are plentiful--and beyond that, she’s a cerebral woman, a critical thinker who’s clearly spent time pondering sexism on a deep level.

With that said, the book feels incomplete because she never examined how men and women are treated differently (in the workplace and media, the "pink tax," and so on); in their day-to-day life experiences; and why sexism even still exists in 2017. Also, the most glaring unexplored point: Why do men "explain" to women?

Instead, Solnit's essays veer a tad into the abstract, while her writing is wordy and convoluted at times. The first essay is the strongest because it’s the most concrete, opening as it does with a personal story involving her and a female friend being "mansplained" to at a party.

Without explaining why, Solnit says she doesn't care for the term "mansplaining." I feel the opposite. I love how this single word perfectly encapsulates an all-too-common sexist behavior. It's hard to find a woman who hasn't been mansplained to at least once in her life. Ask most mansplainers what they think they're doing, and they'll claim they're "only trying to help"--and yet, they'd never dream of telling another man how to do such-and-such, unsolicited. The behavior is only stunningly condescending, betraying a subconscious--or in some cases, conscious--deeply ingrained belief that women generally don't know as much as men do, nor will they ever, and require instruction.

Men Explain Things to Me needed more of the "realness" that's in the opening essay--essays that confront the everyday aggressions and micro-aggressions. Books on sexism need to reach as many readers as possible, but abstract writing feels too removed and deters the average reader. Analysis that's grounded in reality, however, holds attention because it's so relatable.

Solnit definitely is an expert in her topic, though, presenting a logical perspective that’s fresh and enlightening. Additionally, as a bonus, despite being packed with information, Men Explain Things to Me reads fast. Most of all, it’s important--for women and men alike.

Update, March 10, 2020: "Mansplaining: New solutions to a tiresome old problem" https://theconversation.com/mansplain... Slight correction to the article: Solnit didn't invent the term "mansplain."
Profile Image for Malia.
Author 6 books550 followers
October 28, 2020
This is definitely worth reading though, somewhat tragically, little that Solnit discusses comes as a surprise. I felt the beginning and end of the collection had the best essays and in the middle, some felt a bit repetitive, though in certain ways, that may be the point. It's a quick read, and one I would recommend to men especially. Solnit is not hostile towards men in general, frequently commenting that many, if not most are decent and allies to women, yet the fact that enough are not is worthy of deeper consideration. The violence women have faced and still face, often in silence for fear of being disbelieved or injured further, the indignities, the physical and mental abuse, the everyday harassment, the alterations to our behavior not to "make ourselves" victims, the fact that male power is often used to keep women in their place, to diminish and subjugate, and I could go on... All of these points and more are valid and true and not facts that most men have to spend much time contemplating. Even those who claim to be feminists, who see women as equals, who go to Women's Marches, who follow Roxane Gay on Twitter, cannot understand what the world can be like for women. Rich women and poor women, women of any race or ethnicity. We walk into a garage holding our keys in case we'll be assaulted. We don't listen to music too loudly on a run so we don't miss someone coming up behind us. We try not to engage with cat-callers not to provoke them further. We are called honey and baby by strangers and if we're not grateful, we quickly turn into bitches and sluts. We have to think about what we wear, about where we go, about when we will be there, during daytime, when it gets dark, whether there will be other people around, whether we will be safe. We are told not to shower if we are raped, because it gets rid of the evidence (which is so often not used against perpetrators). We endure mansplaining and manspreading (and frequently manchildren).
Has this turned into a scary feminist rant? Oops...No, not oops, because that's the whole point, isn't it? Women do not have to be silent.
November 3, 2017

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I recently discussed third-wave feminism with someone who was trying to argue that it was an unnecessary and redundant movement. I basically said, "It's not all about Tumblr. This is the last bastion of feminism. Women are still under-represented in STEM, are still hyper-sexualized, are still blamed for their own rapes, are still told that their own bodies legally shouldn't be under their own control, are still treated like they don't have the faintest idea of what they're talking about solely because they are women." I know many critics of feminism like to say that "feminism" itself is a sexist name and should be called equalism. You know what the problem with that is? It nulls out the group that the movement is supposed to be calling attention to and makes it far too easy to say, "Why are you focusing on women's issues? We're supposed to be equal. Let's focus on things that benefit both genders" and shut down crucial dialogues about many unequal  aspects plaguing society.

I bought this book because it went on sale recently and I loved the title, MEN EXPLAIN THINGS TO ME. That's a title that grabs attention and stirs up controversy before you even crack open the cover. Speaking as a woman on the internet, I've had men explain things to me more times than I can count. It's called mansplaining, and while there are different terms for this phenomenon, depending on who is doing it to whom, the most common dynamic I've seen is man reexplaining point to woman. Given the title, I thought this was going to be a humorous series of anecdotes. Basically Mainsplain: The Book. I could not have been more wrong.

The first essay lived up to my expectations, in which the author herself describes an incident in which a (male) acquaintance begins explaining her own book to her, not knowing that she wrote it. From there, however, MEN EXPLAIN THINGS TO ME takes a serious nosedive, discussing the many other ways women are "silenced," particularly with regard to rape and victim-blaming. An important topic, but none that doesn't really relate back to the title or the expectations set by the Goodreads blurb, and one that was handled far better in Jody Raphael's RAPE IS RAPE.

There are some great points made in here, but she also frequently resorts to hyperbole, which does not really help with her arguments. She also meanders from topic to topic, with some of them, like a rant about how awesome Virginia Woolf is, seemingly out of place. I don't like Virginia Woolf, so this essay did not impress me. It's a shame. I was hoping to like it much more than I did.

2.5 stars
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953 reviews126k followers
December 22, 2016
Everyone on Book Riot has been saying how amazing this book is and I am finally getting around to reading it. Amazing doesn’t cover it. Thought provoking, sure. Rage inducing, definitely. Necessary reading, absolutely.

-Kristen McQuinn

from The Best Books We Read In November 2016: http://bookriot.com/2016/12/01/the-be...
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3,598 reviews191 followers
December 1, 2016
Men Explain Things to Me is a collection of essays about the experiences of women in America. There are nine essays in this collection, with the first giving this book its name. I cannot write about this book without saying that even though none of the concepts, sentiments or facts are new to me, I still found myself getting emotional while reading. I was reminded of a number of my experiences over the years, from my childhood onwards, that made this a slow and, at times, difficult read.
Note: The complications of being a woman of colour are not addressed in detail as that is not the author's experience.

The essays:

-Men Explain Things to Me: This is altogether too familiar an experience. No matter how well-read, how educated, how accomplished you are, there is always some ninny who believes that because you have girl parts that you can't possibly know anything, and that you must listen, ad nauseum, to this guy tell you how incredibly, overwhelmingly smart he is about something he knows nothing about. That subject incidentally, is in an area you've spent over 10 years studying and working in. But you know, girl parts.

-The Longest War: Oh yes, the rape essay. The essay that had my shaking with anger and fear, reliving personal experiences with former boyfriends. Though the stats listed in the essay were specific to the U.S., this is a sickening recitation of the realities of being female.

-Worlds Collide in a Luxury Suite: Some Thoughts on the IMF, Global Injustice, and a Stranger on a Train: How people in power, usually men, get to get away with foul behaviour, and how, ever so slowly, this is changing.

-In Praise of the Threat: What Marriage Equality Really Means: My early experience with marriage, my parents', didn't appear to be one between equals. In fact, none of the ones I saw growing up were pleasant to look at. I saw many examples of power imbalances, abuse, neglect, and lack of respect. This became the "traditional" definition of marriage to me. The author discusses how people are redefining what marriage can be and how this is terrifying for those who want us all to be traditional.

-Grandmother Spider: The erasure of women over the years, using examples of genealogy, of women's last names, and women's legal standing (we've only recently, historically speaking, become people to the legal system) over the years.

-Woolf's Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable: This one's about the uncertainty of the future.

-Cassandra Among the Creeps: Another essay about women not being taken seriously, and how they are often described as hysterical when making points that differ from a conventional belief. Rape returns to this essay.

-#YesAllWomen Feminists Rewrite the Story: When a women says something contradictory, or no, some men feel it's okay to do any or all of the following: call her names, threaten to assault her, assault her, kill her. This essay discussed the power of #YesAllWomen.

-Pandora's Box and the Volunteer Police Force: The essay about the 'one step forward, four steps back' efforts for women to be treated as people in the U.S.

There was some repetition in the essays, as they were written across several years in response to various incidents. The essays reminded me yet again that humans have far to go for both halves of the species to be valued. But I have hope that eventually that will happen.
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