You may think Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit’s short collection of essays (including the one that helped spawn the term “man-splaining”), is necessary reading for women, and you’d be right. But it’s also a great read for all creative types.
When I first started reading these essays, I felt angry. That’s okay; I’m used to feeling angry. What I liked about this collection is that she goes beyond anger, which can lead all too easily to feelings of despair and hopelessness, and provides hope for a brighter future, as well as an impetus that we all keep doing our small part because everyone’s work toward equality is important. “Woolf’s Darkness” was the essay I most highlighted, because it talks about how creative work gets done and ties that into the limitations placed on women, and also because it introduces the idea that the future is dark. We cannot know what will happen in the future or how our actions now might make a difference. We are all spinners in a web, and how those threads come together, we just don’t know, but those threads are all necessary, so we cannot stop our work, whatever it may be. We all make a difference.
Solnit says in this essay:
“To me, the grounds for hope are simply that we don’t know what will happen next, and that the unlikely and the unimaginable transpire quite regularly. And that the unofficial history of the world shows that dedicated individuals and popular movements can shape history and have, though how and when we might win and how long it takes is not predictable.”
“Despair is a form of certainty, certainty that the future will be a lot like the present or will decline from it; despair is a confident memory of the future, in Gonzalez’s resonant phrase. Optimism is similarly confident about what will happen. Both are grounds for not acting. Hope can be the knowledge that we don’t have that memory and that reality doesn’t necessarily match our plans…”
While this essay spoke volumes to me, my favorite essay was “Grandmother Spider,” which begins by showing how women have been erased from family lines and thus from history, and ends by honoring the work of women, all of it, and how it taken together weaves an intricate and beautiful web:
“Every woman who appears wrestles with the forces that would have her disappear. She struggles with the forces that would tell her story for her, or write her out of the story, the genealogy, the rights of man, the rule of law. The ability to tell your own story, in words or images, is already a victory, already a revolt.”
An inspiring collection for all people really.