‘Mansplaining’ is one of those terms that has rapidly become known, used and accepted into language – largely because everyone instantly understands what it is and how often it happens. Apparently the first essay in this book by Rebecca Solnit was partly responsible for the term coming about – detailing as it does an episode in which a man tries to explain to her the gist of a book that she herself wrote, even though she and her friend had told him more than once. In doing so, he managed to combine both sexism (assuming a woman couldn’t have written this important book), arrogance (these women will want me to explain this to them, because they won’t know about it) and a profound inability to listen / hear women’s voices (literally and metaphorically).
[NB – I managed a minor version myself talking to my wife Katie about the book, until I realised I was effectively mansplaining about…er…mansplaining]
If anything though, the other essays are better – the one using Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s alleged sexual assault of a maid as a metaphor for what the IMF does to other countries is extremely powerful, while the essay on Virginia Woolf is both personal and illuminating. For people whose experience of Woolf is limited to being forced to read To The Lighthouse for GCSE English, the latter is a revelation, and Solnit is an excellently informed and insightful guide. She’s also funny and sharp as well as intelligent; in places, razor-sharp.
There is, simply, much to learn here, much to be angered by, and much to take away. Which, for a short book that is quick to read, is a pretty good return.
BUY IT HERE! Men Explain Things to Me: And Other Essays