Men Explain Things To Me

This was the first book I’ve read by Solnit, and I had high hopes after reading her stellar essay about the #YesAllWomen response to the Isla Vista shootings. While the content of her work is tip top, tackling slippery-to-grasp gender issues, I confess to not being a fan of her style. The other problem I had with the book was its use of extensive pull-quotes. I find it unnecessary to writ large what I’ve already (or am about to) read. On the plus side, I appreciated her lack of thanking or dedicating the book to any named men, while she does recognize that we need men to partner in this fight, she thankfully left their omnipresent names out of this tome.
Men Explain Things To Me is a collection of essays dancing around and occasionally punching patriarchy in the face. I definitely enjoyed the essay the collection is named after; Solnit is at a party where a condescending male host asks what she’s written, and when she mentions her latest book on Muybridge, proceeds to talk over her about a Very Important Book that just came out about the topic, going into detail he picked up from a book review, talking over her protests that yes, that was HER book he was trying to explain back to her. He finally heard her, “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… so confused the neat categories into which his wold was sorted that he was stunned speechless – for a moment, before he began holding forth again.” Solnit says, “I like incidents of that sort, when forces that are usually so sneaky and hard to point out slither out of the grass and are as obvious as, say, an anaconda that’s eaten a cow or an elephant turd on the carpet.” I love the detail of the man being only momentarily thrown, and then back to pontificating. It’s such a reality, the overconfidence of men and the need for women to be 100% confident of something before she speaks.
The essay I liked the least was Woolf’s Darkness; while I’m a VW fan, I just didn’t appreciate the way Solnit seemed to brag about how Virginia Woolf is present in five of her books, then gave us a catalog of their titles so we could scurry off and purchase them. And a final beef to mention, her excessive quoting of others (Graeber, Sontag, Laurence Gonzalez), but I’m also guilty of excessive quoting on this site, so I shouldn’t toss pebbles. Overall, a worthwhile collection to read, raising key questions like why aren’t we focused on what’s wrong with men if they’re responsible for 90% of gun violence, huge majority of all other violence. That’s the main point I take away from this work– we need to shift the conversation to let men be in the spotlight. #FixMen might be wrongly construed for a neuter campaign?