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 great feminist 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.
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.