Men Explain Things to Me: Review

The title says everything.

In the opening: Solnit catches an older white male professor telling her about an amazing book he’s read about Escher. Solnit’s friend tries valiantly to interrupt and fails - she wants to help the professor out. But our professor has a basic problem with ignoring women, ignoring female ideas, suppressing female intelligence.

Eventually, Solnit gets through - yeah, the book you’re talking about was written by the woman you’re explaining it to.

The professor had never even read the book, he’d only read the review.

And this is everything.

Women are repeatedly ignored and are both aggressively and passive undermined by

Growing up with the privilege of being a white man, learning about the default oppression of women is challenging. I had read about Anita Hill in the past, a woman who was gaslight/unbelieved about her sexual assault when she testified about Clarence Thomas.

Men Explain Things to Me recontextualized that story in the world of female sexual politics. Anita Hill wasn’t believed, but her story did force America to have an uncomfortable conversation about unprofessional male behavior.

Anita’s story was just a background story when I was growing up, just a catalyst for a larger conversation about sexual harassment that, as a 10 year old child, I willfully and completely misunderstood.

At 10 the quantum reality where the media and my life mutually learn together what it means to be a man were forming and there was little direction about how to comprehend the issue of sexual harassment. But in retrospect, looking at only my own life, I can see the scary, raw opportunities to wield male power that you’re offered if you’re willing to lack empathy and compassion for others.

In my own life, the worst offenders have been the white male interrupters and disbelievers. Men who cut women off in the middle of a sentence when they feel like they know where the thought is going or they want to control the conversation - and men who doubt women can tell the truth about their own experiences, because they don’t want have to change their beliefs or ideas about other men.

The hardest part about living in a white man’s body is knowing how few chances you get to listen, because if you don’t show up and clarify how important it is for you to listen to women, then women will never feel comfortable enough to tell you: women won’t trust you unless you listen, ignore women and continue the cycle of ignorance that denies women the full power of their voice.

tl;dr Shut up and Listen to women