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Women Explain Things to Me: In Praise of Rebecca Solnit

Nasri Atallah By Nasri Atallah Published on August 9, 2016
This article was updated on November 14, 2016

Rebecca Solnit is a singularly remarkable human being. Beyond being the author of twenty hugely influential books, she is a tireless activist and a beacon, both human and intellectual.

I first came across her through her 2000 history of walking, Wanderlust. My father had given it to me after I’d made the point that I did my best thinking while walking. He laughed when I somehow implied that I’d made this amazing discovery, as if people hadn’t been walking for 10,000 years. It was the arrogance of youth, I guess.

Then I didn’t really read anything she wrote until I followed her on Facebook a couple of years ago. It’s a privilege to see someone so important while they think about huge issues on a daily basis. So I started going through her bibliography.

I just recently finished “Men Explain Things to Me”, a collection of seven essays that have become a cornerstone of feminism. The essays are moving, incisive, and shocking. Everyone should read this book. Women should read it, certainly, to realize that their experiences are not isolated. And men should read it. Multiple times. To realize that doing nothing is not enough. Being a decent dude is not enough. You must actively fight the forces of patriarchy. Men are the single most dangerous source of violence in the world, especially against women. And solving the problem requires men to mobilize in solidarity with women.

It is an honor to have things explained to me by a woman, especially Rebecca Solnit.


“Women’s liberation has often been portrayed as a movement intent on encroaching upon or taking power and privilege away from men, as though in some some dismal zero-sum game, only one gender at a time could be free and powerful. But we are free together or slaves together. Surely the mindset of those who think they need to win, to dominate, to punish, to reign supreme must be terrible and far from free, and giving up this unachievable pursuit would be liberatory."

“We know less when we erroneously think we know than when we recognize that we don’t. 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.”

British-Lebanese author and media entrepreneur. Author of Our Man in Beirut (2012) and currently working on a crime novel at the acclaimed Faber Academy. My writing has appeared in The ... Show More