Solnit was the perfect writer to tackle the subject: Her prose style is so clear and cool that surely no one can have caricatured her as a shrieking harpy? ... There are only seven essays in this book, but the subjects range from the metaphors of Virginia Woolf to the sexual harassment suffered by female protesters in the Arab spring; perhaps the most disturbing is a piece mirroring Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s approach to his hotel maids with the IMF’s treatment of developing countries. I finished this book and immediately wanted to buy all the author’s other works. In [the] future, I would like Rebecca Solnit to Explain Things to Me.
The seven essays in Solnit’s book consist of politic-bending criticisms...that expose the inner workings of patriarchy in areas of life where it dominates most, and where meaning and happiness are most often derived: relationships and family, work and the economy, and domestic and public safety ... Solnit extrapolates...with wit to reveal how women’s credibility is often questioned. She uses language in a confident, assured manner, and even when she applies humor, her writing offers something profound[.]
At 124 pages, this collection is both an easy read and a difficult one. Easy because Solnit’s writing is so eloquently full of both grace and fury—not something many writers can pull off; difficult because of the storm of appalling facts. However it is definitely a book for both genders. As she points out, acts of silencing and sexual assault shouldn’t be framed as just a problem for women, but one that should be recognized and addressed by all.
We might not expect [a] funny [about 'mansplaining'] anecdote about arrogance and privilege to go where the essay (and, now, book) ultimately goes—namely, misogyny-motivated mass killings, gang rapes, spousal abuse and femicide. All part of the same problem, Solnit argues, since they are in the same (albeit, extremely wide) spectrum of silencing, isolating and disappearing (used as a verb) women. Solnit makes a crystal clear argument for treating all these disparate issues as one civil rights matter.
Each essay deals with a particular subject: knowledge and authority; violence against women; equal marriage. But through each runs the understanding that these issues are all connected, a point too often overlooked: 'We would understand misogyny… better if we looked at the abuse of power as a whole rather than treating domestic violence separately from rape and murder and harassment and intimidation,' she writes. The book is overshadowed by its title essay—an exceptional piece of writing to which some of the others struggle to match up. Nevertheless...this collection marks Solnit out as among the most thoughtful of the many energetic writers leading it.
For Solnit, it's more than conversation that falters—it's the entire spectrum of male-assumed agency, from morality mongers and traditional marriage dynamics to violence against women and rape culture. Women too often doubt themselves, and it is that misplaced humility that cedes ground to mansplainers of all stripes. This is a powerful, spare work, yet laced with the saving grace of humor.
Solnit's thought-provoking essays illuminate the discrepancies in modern society, a society in which female students are told to stay indoors after dark due to the fact that one man is a rapist, as opposed to an alternate world in which male students are told not to attack females in the first place. Same-sex marriage, Virginia Woolf, the patrilineal offspring of the Bible and los desaparecidos of Argentina are artfully woven into the author’s underlying message that women have come a long way on the road to equality but have further to go.
Sharp narratives that illuminate and challenge the status quo of women's roles in the world. Slim in scope, but yet another good book by Solnit.