Solnit says we need to look at our culture to understand our actions; and that America is violent. She discusses in this chapter incidents of female-oriented male violence and the allowance for in our culture. For instance, in the Isla Vista massacre which while both men and women were killed the target was a group of sorority girls who Elliot Rodgers, the murderer, believed to be offensive as they were not sexually available to him. As a result of the Isla Vista massacre, a woman with the screen name Kaye started #YesAllWomen. #YesAllWomen was a reaction to the idea of “not all men” or in other words men saying “I am not the problem” when we see that it is a cultural allowance for men, not one individual that has this continual violent behavior.
She continues in chapter 8 to discuss the power of words. There was no change able to happen until there were words put to the feminist movement. In 1963 when Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique the terms “Women’s Lib” and “Feminism” got their names. When “Sexual Harassment” was coined in 1970 it became a thing that could be discussed, and when it was used in the legal system for the first time in the 1980’s it became something discussed that was also illegal. The discussion about, (minimal) protection from, and (minimal) punishment for sexual assault could not happen without the term existing.
“The term ‘rape culture’ lets us begin to address the roots of the problem in the culture as a whole.”(81) Just like terms are needed to begin a conversation, conversations are needed for the investigation. With this investigation, we have been able to find some of the roots of this epidemic of violence. For instance, the rape and murder of Catherine (or Kitty) Genovese which took place in Queens was witnessed by people from their homes. But no one interfered because even though the man was a stranger, they assumed it was a man “exercising his right over his women.” Through discussion about such violent events, we have found that there is an inherent idea that men have the right to take from women, specifically in the sexual arena.
Solnit Began her essay with an example of being patronized by a man and naturally found her way to violence, assault, rape, and murder. This is concerning but also eye-opening for the investigation of the dangers of toxic male entitlement in the culture we have found ourselves in today.
Solnit reminds us in Pandora’s Box and the Volunteer Police Force (chapter 9 of Men Explain Things to Me) that change is not linear. She tells us that just because we may fail in day-to-day life this does not mean feminism has failed. Even if the Supreme Court abolishes Roe v Wade, they cannot abolish the ideas women have about what their rights to their bodies should be. She says Revolutions are made by ideas and that even though change takes time and it may feel like complete change will never come we must see how far we have come in the small things. In 2014 while she was writing this essay a young gay couple in New York was voted the cutest couple and a young lesbian couple in Southern California was elected prom court. Solnit goes on to say, “Finding ways to appreciate advances without embracing complacency is a delicate task.” We must recognize the small wins in life as to not feed disparaged, but complacency is not how we got here and is not how we are going to go any further.
Solnit says the current status quo is a lose-lose situation for women. Either one pushes against it and gets judged for it or one does not push against it and has to live a life within its bounds. The Volunteer Police Force references a group of people trying to keep women in their place. This “police force” reinforces their status quo through “casual sexism” such as Female Careerism (where men have careers women have debated lifestyle splits between motherhood and work), and body image stereotypes (especially when it comes to female celebrities). Solnit reinforced again that we are not losing our war for equality simply it is taking time.
In 2011 a police officer gave a safety talk at a university and told its female students to not “dress like sluts.” In reaction to this woman began “Slutwalks” where they would dress “sexily” and “take back public spaces.” Women are told to “box them sleeves in” (not go out at night, dress “appositely”) instead of telling people to “NOT RAPE.”
How can we find ways to appreciate advances without embracing complacency?
Why is violence so prominent and glorified in our culture?
What alternative conclusions and concepts have you found while reading this essay that maybe Solnit has not spoken to (about male entitlement or cultural development)?
In Chapter 8, #YesAllWomen Feminists rewrite the story, Solnit speaks on the acts of hatred of men against women. The massacre was a hate crime that disgustingly target a group of sorority girls. I think the response to this incident is something that we can relate to as a society today. They began to tweet and spread the hashtag #yesallwomen to describe the terror and fear that women have to simply be a woman. I think it opened the conversation of male violence and to stress the idea that not all men are women hating, however all women are fearful of those misogynists that do exist. This hashtag is so simple yet is deafening loud in expressing the idea that women are afraid to fight for their rights and too scared to go up against men due to history. Social media has taken a big role in the feminist movement by allowing women to use words as their weapons as Solnit says and have power to the powerless. The question that you posed regarding why violence is so prominent and glorified in our cultures, raised a lot of questions for me. Violence helps the dominant maintain power and I think it is so prominent because it is the harsh reality. Violence is everywhere not just within men and is present everywhere. Therefore the glorification of violence allows for the differentiation of reality and fantasy.
How can we find ways to appreciate advances without embracing complacency?
I think that as Solnit said in chapter 9, progress isn’t linear and there will always be people trying to tear down the advancements we have made in feminism. However, I think it is important to acknowledge the past and how far we have come while simultaneously continuing to push for more freedoms. The issues of misogyny, homophobia, and hate still exist today, however they are less evident. While I agree with Solnit that much progress had been made, it makes me wonder how much has really changed, as opposed to merely changing forms. I think this is very visible in racism, as it becomes less visible, but still just as deadly, as seen in police brutality, mass incarceration, and redlining. For example, women may have gained the right to choose what to do with their own bodies, but lawmakers in states such as South Carolina have worked to find loopholes and take that agency away. Another example is looking at the comments on the popular media outlet Barstool Sports, where men make negative and degrading comments on any content that has to do with women, with hateful and violent undertones. Violence is such a large part of our culture, glorified through television, video games, and heteronormative values. Violence represents power, something that is valued highly in American society, and the ability to exert power over another individual is the strongest form of dominance.
I found your writing analysis of the chapters to be extremely thorough and your inclusion of specific details brings about a certain perspective on Solnit’s work. In the critique of the idea of “not all men,” highlights one of the primary issues within in our culture. To respond to your first question, I see a primary point to appreciate advances without embracing complacency by shifting our culture from individualism to a respect for the collective. The isolated perspective of individualism allows for “coincidences” to occur as people either unknowingly or actively refuse to link events to one another thus allowing many incidents to not go addressed. Through a shift to a more collective perspective of our society, these events can be viewed in their full complexity thus not allowing for the one-and-done solutions. Solnit acknowledges this idea though mostly centered regarding men. I believe that this same idea can be applied in all different spaces from considering the prison system to understanding the disparities within reproductive health. This cultural development does not discourage individual identity but rather it expands awareness to understand the extent of which everyone is interconnected. In the stubborn nature associated with American culture, I see this expansion of empathy to be quite difficult as it cannot be forced (that would easily fail and cause more dissent) and instead develop through willingness. Due to this trait, it can only serve as a long-term goal with many of short-term goals to slowly shift the country into an atmosphere where this collective identity would be welcomed.