Solnit Chapters 6-9 Curation
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.) https://youtu.be/z23tQiua2S0 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?