Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit

Book cover

I checked this out because I was in the hold queue for “The Mother of All Questions” and didn’t want to wait to read some of Solnit, who is up there on my list of favorite authors. Most people by now will have heard of the titular essay and be familiar with the concept of “mansplaining.” This alone would be enough contribution for a book of essays, but there is a lot of other good stuff in here as well. “In Praise of The Threat” makes a strong argument that gay marriage is perceived as a threat to so-called “traditional marriage” not so much by virtue of the sexes of the participants as such, but rather by virtue of the fact that it doesn’t come packaged with a built-in power dynamic due to gender roles, and therefore makes manifest the idea of a marriage with real equality between the partners. I also especially enjoyed the essay “Woolf’s Darkness,” a meditation on the freeing aspects of uncertainty about the future–a good reminder for all of us who feel pressure to meticulously plan and control the courses of our lives.

It’s sometimes difficult or unpleasant to read because of Solnit’s forthrightness in communicating some very dark facts about rape and other kinds of sexual violence, but of course it’s meant to be so.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars