BOOK REVIEW: Men Explain Things To Me and Other Essays by Rebecca Solnit

Men Explain Things to Me

Nerve Online’s editor-in-chief reviews Granta Books’ new non-fiction title, Men Explain Things to Me and Other Essays by award-winning writer, Rebecca Solnit.

After seeing this book plastered across social media, I was honored to have the opportunity to review this book from Granta Books.

For anyone that knows me personally (or monitored the articles I post for Nerve Online, like my comment article about periods or looking at Emma Watson’s UN gender equality speech), you’d know that I’m a feminist, another reason for my delight to receive this book.

Rebecca Solnit is largely credited for inspiring the creation of the world ‘mansplaining‘ (Urban Dictionary it) after publishing this book’s lead essay online, describing her irritation and concerns when she found men often trying to explain things to her that she clearly understands. You’d never explain to a dog how this animal can be a dog, so why explain in the same principle to a woman? If centuries of gender debate has told us anything, it’s that normally at the heart of gender related problems is that fact women are regarded within culture as having ‘inferior knowledge’. A simple example is when we culturally assume women in the building trade don’t know how to do DIY merely because its considered a “man’s job”.

While this clearly isn’t universal across all male/female relationships, something hit me when I read the title essay, thinking of numerous times when older people, friends – even my housemates – started explaining something I clearly already know  in a condescending way, like I’m five years-old. As Solnit highlights, this isn’t exclusively men, it comes from women too.

However, by assuming this position that women have a lack of credibility in conversation, it enters a deeper understanding where women lose credibility for far more serious problems, like sexual assault and even murder, merely by ingraining this belief that women need explaining to. A recent example of this was on Twitter when writer and blogger, Grace, tweeted an image of two men on the Tube who were racist towards a Muslim women, accusing her of the recent Brussels terrorist attacks.

Instead of accepting this for what it was worth, many people took to Twitter to critique Grace, assuming she was lying to gain publicity. As writer, Louise O’Neill, pointed out on Twitter- the majority of these lying accusations were from male individuals, assuming a female’s tale of abuse was invalid.

It was moments like this that have kept me excited about Solnit’s work in this book. Equally, her writing is mature, powerful and full of energy, dealing with subjects that I’m sure many would find controversial. At just over 100 pages, this little book packs a punch with its well-researched and intelligent essays concerning issues from rape to gender roles.  I promise that at least one of them will have you nodding your head in agreement!

Solnit creates a powerful book that resonates with myself and I’m sure many other men and women’s experiences. Her lead essay, Men Explain Things To Me, illustrates, intelligently and simply, one of the integral inequalities of our society that we must solve in order to move forward.

If you have any interest in gender equality or just want an easy yet clever read, I urge you to read this book!

Men Explain Things To Me and Other Essays is out now from all major retailers. 

Out of 10