Solnit Chapters 6-9 Curation

Its not right for a woman to read! Soon she starts getting "ideas" and  "thinking"... - Misc - quickmeme

Solnit Chapters 6-9 Curation

Emily Hobbs


Prof. Simpson


          The last few chapters of Men Explain Things To Me seem to wrap up Rebecca Solnit’s ideas and raise some serious questions, arguments and observations. She begins in Chapter 6 by reflecting on the writings of Virginia Woolf, and springboards from a journal entry about darkness. “The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think.” As a generally optimistic person, this didn’t sit quite well with me. But as I continued reading, Solnit explains that the past, and the future, is dark, and it is our job to embrace the darkness as a realm of possibility, hope and the freedom that lies in the uncertainty. She explains that darkness is not a bad thing, and goes on to explain the idea of getting lost. Solnit explains how getting physically lost can lead to a wandering of the mind that stirs ideas. She explores the freedom of the mind, and the freedom that comes from roaming “geographically and imaginatively”. On page 96, Solnit references an essay by Woolf called On Being Ill that uses illness as a metaphor for the liberation of understanding what it’s like to be ill and understanding something that healthy people do not. Solnit uses Woolf to describe a type of freedom in feminism that reaches past society and institutions, but towards emotional and intellectual freedoms to explore. An excerpt at the end of the chapter conveys this idea best, “When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless… Beneath it is all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep; but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by. Her horizon seemed to her limitless.” Taking a modern view of the idea of physical and mental wandering and darkness, do you agree with Woolf that the future is dark? Do you think there is meaning and hope within its uncertainty and possibility?

          Solnit moves into Chapter 7 and focuses on the power of credibility. She uses Cassandra of Troy as an example of a “boy who cried wolf” character who wasn’t believed and therefore discredited. Solnit describes years of stories of women who were believed to be delusional, dishonest and manipulative for simply telling their story and truths. She urges us to speak out and claims that the path to overcoming trauma of sexual violence is to be acknowledged. She explains fear women face about speaking up about sexual violence, how they face further abuse and humiliation for doing so and how they are often called liars. Solnit acknowledges that rare cases of false accusations exist, but urges us to make up our own mind about who to believe and why. She urges readers to recognize the pattern of discretization in order to side sweep the credibility conversation whenever a woman speaks out. 

          Chapter 8 talks about the real fear of women about sexual violence; being abused, raped and murdered. Solnit gives the example of the Isla Vista massacre in California that exemplified gender-based violence and started the #YesAllWomen movement. This online movement describes that no, not all men are misogynistic murderers, but yes, all women relate to the feeling of fear towards the ones that are. Following this massacre, definitions and words started appearing like “sexual entitlement” that embodied such gun violence and men’s fury towards women not meeting his needs. We all have seen the news and watched similar massacres. Are they ever by a woman? It’s always an angry man feeling he’s been “owed” something. 

          Solnit wraps up her book in chapter 9, explaining feminism as an age-old endeavor, examining how far we’ve come, and explaining that there is so much road left to travel towards the end of sexist oppression against women. She explains that Pandora’s box can’t be shut, queer people can’t go back in the closet, and the idea that ideas cannot be erased. There is no going back. Do you agree with Solnit? How far do you think we have left until we see real lasting change? I think there will always be oppression as long as imperfection exists in our world. There will always be, as Solnit calls it, the “volunteer police force” that tries to put women back in their place. This makes me think of Gaston in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and his line, “It’s not right for a woman to read, then she starts getting ideas and thinking.” (Video link if you want to see.) Well, Gaston’s fears have come true. We are educated, intelligent, capable, outspoken women who are more than just beautiful “wifey” material. I agree with Solnit, clearly we have come a long way as women, but also, there is so much further to go. Will we ever get there?  What do you think?


  1. Brianna Reyes

    Brianna Reyes
    IDST 398 U
    Response: Solnit Chapters 6-9
    When I think of how women have come because of feminism and women’s rights activists it amazes me. I was about 16 or 17 when I realized how recent many of these feminist movements happened or women’s rights movements, we learned in school occurred. However, with recent events and issues in other countries I believe feminism has a long way to go. Although we personally have come far as a country, some women in other countries are not equal and people in general are not equal.
    In the last few chapters of Rebecca Solnit’s novel like Emily points out, I am too a positive person, or optimistic as she puts it, and when Solnit mentions how the future is dark, that does worry me. In addition, with the recent asynchronous assignment we had really raised red flags about how the Federal government views women’s rights.
    I attached the article in my post for that assignment if you want to know more, but long story short; the Supreme Court made two decisions that raised red flags to women’s rights activists in January.
    Attached is a link to many decisions the Supreme Court has made over the many years in regard to women’s rights. However, it does show some of the progress we made. So, the answer to Emily’s Question, yes. I do believe we have come a long way, but I believe we still have more to go.
    To conclude, I wanted to briefly mention Chapter 7 because it particularly stood out to me. She discusses how when women try and speak up about things that happen like sexual assault, they are faced with questions and doubts whether they should speak up. They are afraid to be criticized and blamed for what has happened to them. Solnit mentions how women who are sexually assaulted are often considered or seen as someone who isn’t telling the truth.
    Unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise me, but it worries me. Why should anyone be afraid to report any kind of assault? Like Emily states, Solnit discusses how women fear the consequences of speaking out about sexual violence. I believe this is still an issue the feminist movement faces today and one issue that needs progress. People who are victims of sexual assault still face these issues, especially women. However, I have recently learned of programs, precautions, and more resources dedicated to this issue in the last few years.
    Although Solnit’s book dives into sensitive topics, it really dives in to issues women face and the fears that women have.

  2. Madison Dean

    Hi Emily!

    Thank you for your post on these chapters, it really gave a good rundown to what 6-9 were all about. I especially liked when you brought in the Disney character, Gaston, as a way to show how men in real life, and in cartoon form, have seen women as nothing more than a “wife” for a very long time. To answer your question on whether or not I think we will ever get “there”, my answer is no. Unless there was a way that women were able to get in and re-write the gender system completely, I do not think that we will ever get to the point where all women will be equal with men. I like to see myself as a very optimistic person and someone who looks for the best in things, so the fact that I don’t think all women will ever be on the same playing field as men says something… I do think that one day we will be stronger and have more opportunities and rights than ever before. Though it has taken us a very long time to get to where we are today, we still got there, and I believe that we will continue to achieve even more as women over the coming years.


  3. Christina Farmer

    Thank you, Emily, for posting these notes.

    I agree with you that a “dark future” sounds so scary. I believe most humans want some kind of control over the future (I am taking this class to get that degree so I can get my dream job). But control is an illusion. Most people had no idea a pandemic would take over the world for more than a year and upend our way of life so completely. On page 88 I kept re-reading “despair is a form of certainty”. That’s negative but still so true. I believe the future is dark-by which I mean we do not know what is going to happen. There is both hope and fear in the unknowing which is what I think Solnit is pointing out.

    Emily summed up Chapter 7 perfectly. If a woman speaks about her situation then she is immediately questioned and discounted. Victim-shaming is a real thing. I believe it keeps people from coming forward. I know there are things in my past that I do not want on

    I find it interesting when Dylan Farrow’s claim of her adoptive father, Woody Allen, molesting her is called into question as he married his ex-partner’s (Mia Farrow) daughter (Soon-Yi Previn). Previn is 35 years younger than Allen. This proves Allen wants to be with a woman considerably younger. He is not concerned with incest. He was having an affair with Previn while still involved with Mia Farrow so he is not an honest person.

    I did not remember the Isla Vista murders so I looked it up.

    I do not know that the world will ever be equal. I agree with Solnit that feminism has come far and still has a ways to go. I do think it is moving in the right direction so I’m hopeful.

  4. Gina Flanagan

    In response to your curation of Solnit’s chapters 6-9, I appreciate your comments about being an optimist. I am also an optimist but at the same time, a realist. In order to embrace the darkness as a realm of possibility as Solnit says, we must also embrace the, “unknowability.” We are essentially powerless as to what will come, this unknown, but that does not mean we do not care. As you said, we still have hope. This “unknown” can cause us to worry about tomorrow and the next day, and the future. A writer that my grandmother used to love, Erma Bombeck, once said, “Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but never gets you anywhere.” There is also the wonder of “unknowability” in the wondering and traveling of new places. What a wonderful world we live in that as women, we can travel almost anywhere freely. Almost anywhere.
    I found Solnit’s reference to “essential mysteries” in thinking about the unknown and how we can be uncomfortable with our attitudes toward truth. She says, “Sometimes I think these pretenses at authoritative knowledge are failures of language: the language of bold assertion is simpler, less taxing, than the language of nuance and ambiguity and speculation.” Solnit reminds us there is “value” in the darkness. To answer your question Emily, I do agree with Woolf that the future is dark and impossible to understand, but as Dr. King once said, “We must never lose infinite hope.”
    I am in agreement with your thoughts on Chapter 7 and how must continue to speak up and speak the truths about our experiences. I have been discredited before only to be dismissed by someone saying that I was too emotional or that it must be my “time of the month.” If men only knew, and I think many do, how infuriating it is to hear that. False accusations do occur unfortunately and it only serves to undermine the actual the truth tellers. We should educate ourselves, as Solnit says, on why we believe what we do and be able to verbalize that belief.
    To answer the question posed by Solnit, we cannot go back but we can enter the future with hope followed by actions. There is so far to go and honestly, I do not know if we can ever balance the scales.

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