Thursday, November 6, 2014

Explanations, wanted and not

My sweetheart and I are in the process of making our Christmas lists.

Each year, we make a list of things we might like to have, and post it to a word document on the desktop of the computer. More recently we talk about what we'd like, and put notes in our 'phones.

Sweetie and I have been watching Bones on Netflix and he now wants crazy socks like Booth wears, so those are on his list. Yesterday, I mentioned I might like Rebecca Solnit's new book.

Had I made a less awesome choice of sweetheart, I might not be in a position to ask for such a present under my tree, but I was very smart in the long-ago, and so I will likely find the badly wrapped book among my collection of presents this year.

Solnit's book is titled, "Men Explain Things to Me." She's a print journalist, the long-form kind, who usually writes books rather than magazine or newspaper stuff. Solnit delves deep into her topics, and her interests vary widely. The idea for this book arrived when she was at a party with a girlfriend and they ended up in a conversation with a fellow guest on a topic about which Solnit had just published a book. The topic is esoteric and foreign and escapes me now, but the conversation between the author and the random guy at the party features him explaining to her the thesis of this book that's just been written on this esoteric and foreign topic. He doesn't stop explaining even after being told at least three times that he's addressing the author of the very work he's citing. Even once he realises, he continues with his explanations for a while.

You probably know where I'm going with this, but just in case you don't, here's my gist: the explaining thing by men to women is not rare. It's very, very common. Men talk about 'hen parties' and chattering women, but you put a man in a room with a woman and it won't be long before it's the man doing all the talking and more often than not, they're opining or explaining. At my curling club, I once got a long explanation about the radio news business, in which I've worked for 20 years. The man who told me all about it was in no way connected to broadcasting or journalism and I don't think had ever even called in to a phone-in radio show, but he sure wasn't shy explaining to me how radio journalism works.

Here's the rest of my gist: The explaining thing is part of a continuum of behaviour, waaaaaay at the far end of the continuum, but nonetheless on the continuum that starts with explaining and ends with women being knocked unconscious in elevators or worse. It's about entitlement.

The Jian Ghomeshi story, as shocking as it is, (and it is...) was more shocking to some men than it is to many women, because it shone a light on the fact that even the toughest woman lives in a very different world than even the nicest man. Women are explained to, interrupted, marginalised, and we know from a young age that we are not safe on our own streets and in our own homes, because some men feel they are entitled to whatever they want, even if what they want is to shout that they'd like to have sex or punch someone when they get excited.

Maybe a man could explain to me what that's like.

1 comment:

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