Men Explain Things to Me

In this collection of essays, activist and Lannan Literary Award winner Rebecca Solnit says of feminism, "some battles are won, some are engaged, and some women are doing really well while others suffer. And things continue to change in interesting and even auspicious ways." Tonally, that sentiment reflects the collection as a whole in all its multifaceted glory. Depending on the piece (and the subject) at hand, Solnit is alternately grim, hopeful, humorous, scientific or personal, discussing everything from commonplace cultural phenomena to specific passages of Virginia Woolf with the dexterity of a writer at the peak of her abilities.

Though these pieces dance between the personal and the global, their common thread is Solnit's thorough and thoughtful analysis of modern culture. In "Pandora's Box and the Volunteer Police Force," which deals with feminism's historical progress, she considers the intersection of the civil and gay rights movements alongside the fight for women's rights, noting that the Supreme Court justices cited the anti-slavery 14th Amendment as part of their decision to allow a woman control over her body. In "Worlds Collide in a Luxury Suite," she considers the larger global symbolism of French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn's sexual assault of an African maid at a New York hotel.

Where opponents would argue that feminism is humorless and superfluous, Men Explain Things to Me is a compelling argument for the movement's necessary presence in contemporary society. It approaches the subject with candor and openness, furthering the conversation and opening a new Pandora's box that's apt to change the way we talk about women's rights. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer and bookseller at Flyleaf Books

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