Disproportionality

Rebecca Solnit

It’s hard to go past a book entitled Men Explain Things to Me (Rebecca Solnit, Granta, 2014), though it is a short book, padded out with – rather bizarrely for a book rather than a magazine – pull quotes. The book feels more like a nicely produced tract or a pamphlet or a kind of non-fiction novella. Perhaps it is the force of the argument rather than the length that is important, and indeed the essay from which the title is drawn documents Solnit noticing that men tend to explain things to her that she already knows, and continue even when she indicates she already knows. One is tempted to say that not all men are like this, though I feel guilty that in this case I probably am, and that women can tend to do the same at times, and men tend to also explain things to other men, though Solnit cuts off these arguments in a postscript detailing the reaction to this essay by pointing out that the tendency of men to do this to women is disproportionate. In a wider sense this disproportionality is what feminists are pointing to when they accuse men of misogyny, or society of prejudice or whatever, sadly still a valid point. Other essays in the book tackle the issue of violence against women (yes, disproportionate), in which she suggests, interestingly, that ‘violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion or a nationality, but it does have a gender’. It is a sobering read, and it is a shame that what she writes about is pigeon-holed as ‘feminism’ when it should simply be seen as a justice issue.

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