Published by Haymarket Books on May 20th 2014
Genres/Lists: Gender-Based Books, Non-Fiction
Read synopsis on Goodreads
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It’s a sad state of affairs when a book titled Men Explain Things to Me is a title that makes sense. As a woman who has had men explain things to her, I was both looking forward to and dreading this book because I knew I would find both solace and frustration in our shared experiences. Thankfully, some of Solnit’s experiences haven’t happened to me yet, but because I was once patted on the head by a boss while he was telling me I did a good job and have had men assume I don’t certain things about, say, politics, I knew where she was coming from. Depressing as the subject matter is, Solnit manages to inject some humor and optimism into her tale of when and why men have explained things to her.
Solnit starts the book out by detailing her experience with a man that was shocked – shocked! – that she wrote a successful book he had read and it only gets worse from there. Though she makes a point of championing the men in her life who have helped her on her way, her stories of men explaining things to her because she needed to be explained to were an all too familiar story. She goes on to discuss the reasons for why this happens and points out the various and, at times, less obvious ways that men use their self-made advantage to disenfranchise others.
This includes right-wing economics that uses privatization to keep the poor poor, the way the International Monetary Fund responds to sex scandals, and the fact that men actually go on television to talk about how a woman’s body will shut down in the case of legitimate rape. She even goes so far as to say that the problem with the term “marriage equality” runs deeper than the opposition to gay marriage, rather it’s that a traditional marriage between a man and a woman places the woman a step below men (they were considered property, after all) and that today’s conservatives want to stick to traditional gender roles without actually saying it.
Men Explain Things to Me is a good, short read but it wasn’t at all what I expected. I was expecting a book about her experiences and what she did to overcome challenges, but it’s primarily about the overall issues facing women when it comes to men. This is an important subject, of course, but I’ve recently read a few other gender-based books and found it to be fairly repetitive. It’s a good book but I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t as personal as I had expected. That said, I don’t hold this against the author because I downloaded the title based on its popularity and buzz on social media and didn’t actually read the full description….
Recommended for: Men who think they are enlightened but know deep down they probably aren’t and women who have had things explained to them.