Men Explain Things to Me, hailed as a feminist manifesto, is a collection of essays by Rebecca Solnit.
I find it OK, but not super deep.
- Violence does not have a race, religion or nationality but it has a gender: and it’s the male gender
- But, of course, there are plenty of good men
- We win together
Men Explain Things to Me is a collection of essays. I will not list all the essays but all the the ideas I liked or which I believed were noteworthy.
Murder is Extreme Authoritarianism
The author says that murder is at the extreme end of authoritarianism.
Authoritarianism is the belief that a man has the right to decide what a woman should or should not do.
With murder, he decides whether you live or die.
I don’t fully agree here.
There are different kinds of motives behind murders. Jealousy, fit of rage.. There are different situations and in my opinion authoritarianism is not a major or prominent motive.
The author says that it can happen also if she is obedient, because the desire to control is not assuaged by obedience.
And it’s a form of entitlement mentality: the entitlement to inflict suffering and deaths.
The author goes on to list a few examples of abusive men who assault or killed their spouses -or former spouses- that wanted to leave them.
- Signs of abusive relationship
- Psychological analysis of abusive men
- Is your boyfriend too jealous and controlling?
Women Taught to Defend, Men Not Told Not to Offend
Talking about rape, Rebecca Solnit says that university courses teach women how to prevent and avoid rape, but nobody tells men not to rape.
The author says that’s part of rape culture.
Well, she might have a point indeed, but it still makes no sense to me to say that’s part of “rape culture”. For two reasons:
- It’s so obvious one should not rape that everyone should know. It’s the same reason you don’t tell an adult “don’t kill”, because everyone knows it
- It’s unlikely that rapists would change behavior based on obvious recommendations
It’s like complaining because nobody tells thieves not to steal. They would steal anyway.
We Win Together
I was very pleased to read the author portray feminism as “together” instead of the all too common “women VS men”, which I cannot stand either when it comes from women or from men.
I quote her:
Women’s liberation has often been portrayed as a movement intent on encroaching upon or taking power and privilege away from men, as though in some dismal zero-sum game, only one gender at a time could be free and powerful.
But we are free together or slaves together.
Surely the mindset of those who think they need to win, to dominate, to punish, to reign supreme, must be terrible and far from free. And giving up this unachievable pursuit would be liberatory.
Could not agree more.
Men Harassing Women Are At Large
The author cites a few cases of beating, harassment and stalking in which men are rarely prosecuted and often free soon after the facts.
I have to convene here that stalking is an issue that few legislatures tackle well.
And it’s not easy to tackle at all. How do you prevent stalking for example before a real crime is committed? It’s not easy.
But sure we must try.
Volunteer Police Force
The author refers to “volunteer police force” as to the army of people who, also thanks to Internet, seek to “keep women in their place”.
She says this is part of the larger “rape culture”.
I thought this was a very deep food for thought and indeed there might be an element of fear and/or thirst for control that pushes men to crack down on women.
However, I didn’t see much deep psychological analysis on this phenomenon.
Poor Data and Statistics
The data and statistics in “Men Explain Things to Me” seemed to me more like headline-grabbing style data rather than data stemming from well combed and well put together research.
For example: “a woman is beaten every 9 seconds in this country” says very little to me.
How many men are beaten, how many children, how many people in general?
Good data would compare violence against women to violence in general, but that’s not what was done here.
The statistics thrown out like that is meaningless -also read How to Lie With Statistics-.
The Genies Are Not Going Back… You Sure?
The author says that social conquest and victory are for ever and there is no going back. I very much disagree.
Not only because it’s not written anywhere that one cannot back, but because empirical evidence from history shows the opposite.
Iran went back to the veil, the world plunged back to Middle Age and we are still stupid enough to wage plenty of wars.
No, genies do go back.
And that’s why it’s our duty to make sure they stay out and that we pull out more of them.
Little Original Content
The book spent, in my opinion, way too long on Strauss Khan’s, Virginia Wolfe and anecdotes.
I was expecting some original work and thoughts, but some of the content was more like a commentary or criticism of past events.
At times, I feel there is some victim mentality here. When the author talks about all women knowing the feeling that “this is not their world” to me feels like disempowering, victim mentality.
Most of all I liked of “Men Explain Things to Me” that it’s a pro book. It’s a book about positive change, not a book against men.
Actually, it goes even one step further, saying that we win together. And that, won me over.
I have to admit: I approached “Men Explain Things to Me” thinking I wasn’t going to like it. Well, I don’t think it’s the best book ever for gathering information because of weak data, over-reliance on anecdotes and the usual gleaning over of differences in biology and psychology which lead to obvious differences.
But overall, I actually enjoyed “Men Explain Things to Me”.