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Men Explain Things To Me and Other Essays by Rebecca Solnit

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RATING: 5/5

BLURB: “In her iconic essay ‘Men Explain Things to me’, Rebecca Solnit investigates the conversations of men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t. This famous and influential essay is included here along with the best of Solnit’s feminist writings. From rape culture to grandmothers, from French sex scandals to marriage and the nuclear family, and from Virginia Woolf to colonialism, these essays are a fierce and incisive exploration of the issues that a patriarchal culture will not neccessarily acknowledge as ‘issues’ at all.”

REVIEW: I have considered myself a feminist from the moment I was old enough to understand what the term meant, and have recently decided to read more feminist texts in order to increase my understanding and awareness of the issues we face on the road to achieving equality between men and women. Solnit’s collection of essays is both fascinating and horrifying; it is also worrying how many of her examples I recognised through either witnessing similar scenarios or being involved on them. Her title essay, ‘Men Explain Things to Me’, describes an experience Solnit had in which a man decided to lecture her on the topic of a book she had recently read, using her own book as the basis of his knowledge without imagining that she could possibly have been the author. I am sure many women have also had an experience of ‘mainsplaining’ – it happened to me in a university seminar only a couple of months ago, where I was lectured by a tutor who possessed a very patriarchal view of Mary Shelley and her novel ‘Frankenstein’, without realising that I had not only studied both author and work in detail, but am also an avid fan. Her essay ‘The Longest War’, which talks about the statistical rates and experiences of rape, sexual violence and domestic abuse across the world, was particularly striking and terrifying, and one that hit close to home as I have a close friend who as a result of a rape that took place forty years ago has never been able to live a normal life. Solnit’s essay on marriage equality was another one that really stood out for me. This collection of essays is wonderfully written, engaging and definitely enough to light a fire even in those who may not yet identify with the idea of feminism. I would highly recommend it.

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We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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RATING: 5/5

BLURB: “In this personal, eloquently argued essay – adapted from her much-admired TEDx talk of the same name – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now – an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists”

REVIEW: Everyone should read this book. It won’t take you any longer than ten or fifteen minutes and it truly amazes me that Adichie can so eloquently and movingly describe the state of modern feminism in such a short piece of writing. Addressing many of the misconceptions surrounding modern feminism, Adichie uses many of her own experiences growing up in Africa to address the problems that still face women – and men – today. What truly pleased me about this work is that it dispells the popular belief that feminists are men haters, by pointing out that, by definition, feminism aims to achieve equality for both sexes in terms of politics, society and culture. Adichie even addresses some of the problems that surround the cultural expectations that are put upon men, as well as the more frequently talked about problems faced by women. By interweaving the social problems faced by both sexes and discussing how these have been inbuilt into cultures across the world, Adichie makes the reader think and reflect about these issues and how we could address them – even if, like myself, the reader was already a feminist. I wish books like this were compulsory reading in schools across the world; perhaps then we could some day hope to achieve the goal of redefining our expectations of both men and women.