Whenever I come across an author or a concept that I haven’t heard before I like to read a book about it. Recently, a group of people were talking about “mansplaining” – which I thought was a very funny way of describing what all women have experienced at least once. Mansplaining is a person (usually a man) explaining things to another (usually a woman) in a condescending or patronizing manner. This is the classic, “I had a kidney stone so I know exactly what it is like to be pregnant,” comment. I know, I know. I am way behind (years) on this but I blame my refusal to use Twitter until this year.
Mansplaining lead me to Rebecca Solnit‘s Men Explaining Things to Me. While she is credited with creating the idea of mansplaining she explains in the book that she did not come up with the word. Also, she has doubt about the term and doesn’t use it much herself.
I must back up for a moment and say I never sought out any feminist writing or took a woman’s study class in college. It never occurred to me that people would view me differently simply because I was a woman. I also rarely kept up with national or international news or I would have known that I my experience and mindset was not typical.
Which leads me back to Men Explain Things to Me. I am so glad that I read it now and not when I was under my youthful disillusionment of gender equality or during the misguided years where I thought I had no more or less to fear from the world than my brother. I know that 17 year old me would not have taken this book as seriously as I do now that I have spent time in a world that does not see me as a person but rather as a women.
This short book starts with a very funny anecdote but throughout its 159 pages it marches through deep waters of inequality between men and women. The second of the seven essays, The Longest War, was very difficult for me to read as it centers around the rape crisis in our world. But, things which are difficult to read but are written with a purpose always spurn me into action.
There were two things I really appreciated about this book. First, the author eloquently uses her depth of knowledge on the subject of gender inequality to explain how seeing women as inferior (or men as superior) has created a plethora of problems for our world. I had several mind-blown, eyes-wide-open, aha! moments reading these essays. Second, she frequently acknowledges that not all men and women fit neatly into one category or another. This, I felt, gave her writing as much credibility as her knowledge bank.
I am of the opinion that everyone should read this book. If you find yourself scoffing and dismissing the things presented by the author then I can only wonder – are you part of the problem or just not yet part of the world?
Tell me, please!
Have you read this book or others by Rebecca Solnit?
Do you agree or disagree with her opinions?