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Subway Reading Club: Men Explain Things to Me

Flora Lange

October 5th, 2017


Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit is an eye opening collection of essays on various experiences regarding “mansplaining” and rape culture in modern society.


The first essay focuses on a personal experience of Rebecca Solnit, who won a National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism and has published upwards of 20 books. She recalls being “mansplained” to about a very important book that the man speaking to her didn’t realize she had written. When hearing that this woman in front of him had written this “very important” book, he stormed off denying her ability to have written it.


The next part of the first essay goes on to speak of how “credibility” is something that is often denied to women in regular life and in court; they are often told that they must have imagined the rape or sexual assault inflicted upon them. The essay argues that it is through this behavior the women are demeaned to feel they have less individual “credibility,” that their voices do not matter. As a result, these women begin to question their own ability to fight for themselves. To support this point, the book sites many high and low profile rape cases in which a male perpetuator was found not guilty, and the female victim was told she just imagined it.


Conversely, Solnit tells some stories of women who were found to be telling the truth about rape and caused men of high power positions and regular men's careers to be ruined, and caused them to receive varying degrees of federal or state punishment


A main focus of one of the last essays is put on Virginia Woolf and how she fought for the institutionalized and intellectual rights of women. Woolf advocated for women’s rights in a time when women were considered completely intellectually inferior to men. She wrote novels and personal essays that spoke of the freeing of women, and showed men and women that women are able to write as well as and even better than men. Solnit focuses on Virginia Woolf’s call for women to be free to do what they please, think what they please, and be who they please, arguing that women’s rights to experience intellectual freedom is decreased and destroyed when they are “mansplained” to.


Solnit also focuses a great deal on rape and the lost victims of rape, listing statistics to explain the harsh profundity of rape culture today: “a woman is being raped every 9 seconds”; “1 in 5 women have been raped.” She also provides shocking statistics about the number of women murdered by husbands, boyfriends, or exes; and explains how the leading cause of death of pregnant women is being murdered by husbands or boyfriends.


This book will open your mind and empower you to fight against “mansplaining” and a culture that pushes aside women with labels like “hysterical” or “delusional.” Solnit will empower you to fight for women’s rights: the right to choose (like abortion), the right to opinion and voice, the right to stray from societal norms, the right to matter.

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