Rebecca Solnit’s book, published in 2014 has been has been lauded as having “become a touchstone of the feminist movement.” As I find with many collections of essays, some are a hit, while others miss the mark. Most however are strong, well thought out and provoke heated debates.
Her first essay, the titular “Men Explain Things to Me,” is so on point it’s hard to believe that no one had really vocalized this before. Basically Solnit details her experiences with various men who patronize women and “Mansplain” things. In fact this piece is credited with launching the term “mansplaining,” which has found its way into popular vernacular.
Her essays dealing with rape culture and sexual violence as well as the notions of gender equality are no less important, and she carefully balances thought provoking arguments with hard facts in an emotional plea for justice. She reiterates a widely held perception; that we live in a world that teaches don’t get raped instead of don’t rape, something that needs to change. In one of her more nuanced pieces, Solnit challenges opponents to gay marriage stating that such opponents do not want to preserve traditional marriage, but rather traditional gender roles. A same-sex marriage is a union between equals, and that is more threatening to right wing conservatives than simply the idea of “gay” marriage.
Solnit however is hopeful. She writes about the ways in which rape culture is being dismantled on college campuses and does acknowledges that she knows many kind, gentle, and decent men. Still her essays are important for showing us not only how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.