Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

  • THE BOOK
    • Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
    • Published May 20, 2014
    • Other works by author include: River of Shadows: Eadweard Myubridge and the Technological Wild West, Hope in the Dark, Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Landscape Wars of the American West, Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, and many more.

  • THE PREMISE
    • A collection of essays on the topic of how women are silenced by men. Women are silenced when men don't hear their thoughts and opinions on one end of the spectrum and murdered on the other end.
    • Her opening anecdote centers on a man who, when he heard she had written a book on Eadweard Muybridge (a pioneering photographer of the 19th Century), started telling her about "a very important" book on the same topic coming out later that year.
      • A friend said, "It's HER book," and it took several repetitions before he actually HEARD her.
      • He hadn't even read the book having only read about it in a magazine.
    • The essays delve into the ways women are silenced today, with echoes of history proving difficult to get past.
      • Here's a passage quoted from Sir William Blackstone, an English judge who lived in the 1700s:
        • "By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs everything...For this reason, a man cannot grant anything to his wife, or enter into covenant with her: for the grant would be to suppose her separate existence.
      • American and British laws, as well as other countries, have changed this over the last century. Mostly.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I did some research on women's rights and found some fun facts:
      • The Expatriation Act of 1907 had a provision whereby an American woman who married an alien man lost her American citizenship while American men who married aliens did not lose theirs.
        • This provision was repealed by the Cable Act of 1922. Unless your husband was Asian, of course. Then you still lost citizenship.
        • Apparently dual citizenship was not a thing in those days?
      • I think I found the best court case name ever! Ready? United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries! (A pessary is a type of diaphragm, a form of birth control.)
        • The Comstock Act of 1873 was a law forbidding the usage of the U.S. Post Office from mailing contraceptives, abortifacients, sex toys, erotica or even personal letters! Did they randomly open letters to see if they had naughty words in them?!
        • A doctor had ordered the devices from Japan --- with Margaret Sanger's help --- and they were held up by U.S. Customs.
        • Oh, and the pessaries won! Go pessaries!
    • None of that has anything to do with this book, sorry for the tangent! It's just that women seem to be the target of so much legislation over the centuries and up until the present day and beyond. A form of control by men? Um, yes. And that IS to do with this book.
    • Okay. My definition of feminism is that women and men are equal in all ways. My definition of feminism does not mean that I want females to be superior to males, just equal.
      • Some opponents argue that women ALREADY have the same rights as men. (For simplicity of writing I am leaving out words and pronouns specific to LGBT persons but people of all gender identities are part of the story too.)
        • Do we?
        • The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution says: (paraphrased and abridged) All persons born or naturalized in the United States...are citizens of the United States. No state shall deny privileges or due process of law, nor deny equal protection of the laws.
        •  The Fifteenth Amendment says: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude."
        • Just reading these two amendments, issued as the Civil War ended and mainly for the benefit of the former slaves, it seems to me that they give women the right to vote too.
          • Because most states had laws preventing a woman from voting a Supreme Court case in 1875 called Minor v. Happersett --- it was unanimous, by the way --- decided the plaintiff (Virginia Minor) was a citizen but that her privileges did not include voting rights (because voting was a restricted privilege even for white men at the time of the country's founding).
          • This is why a separate amendment for a woman's right to vote was needed: to overturn most of Minor v. Happersett.
        • Who knew Kelly's Book Channel would turn into a recounting of Constitutional law?! Fun, fun, fun!
          • Except for the sometimes incomprehensible legalese I think studying this branch of law could be very interesting.
      • When I worked at a credit union in the 1980s I took the accounting clerk position six months after I started working there. It was the original job I wanted but they gave it to a man and offered me a position in the ATM Department instead. Once I was in the accounting department I knew everyone's salaries because I did payroll processing. Mine was not as high as the male employee before me. I was too new to the work force to complain though. 
      • The author also talks about how women, generally from our teen years on, need to learn to deal with the threat of rape by changing our behavior (don't walk alone in dark places, don't dress like a slut, etc...) while on the other side of the coin, men don't share this burden of constant vigilance. Nor are they taught to, oh, I don't know, NOT RAPE.
        • I'm in my 50s and even now I am mindful of my surroundings, even in my own home. 
          • My (rarely attempted) dressing slutty years are far behind me. Now I did have a gray leather miniskirt in college though and I loved wearing it to occasional parties at San Francisco State. (I was NOT a party girl.) It was a fun item, possibly pleather rather than leather, but also not a signal that said "rape me". 
            • I really wish I had a picture of me in that skirt!
      • I liked some of the essays very much but not all of them
      • Anyway, the book is recommended for those who want to read an interesting take on women. It leans heavily feminist but I don't think that's a bad thing when you remember that "feminism = equality for all", not "feminism = superiority over men".
      • ★ ★ ★

1 comment:

  1. Your take on constitutional law could be fun. The cited case never made the Supreme Court, the pessaries won in district court and the Court of Appeals (2nd). I think this judge explained it best:

    Judge Augustus Noble Hand wrote, in his decision 86 F.2d 737 (2d Cir. 1936):
    "While it is true that the policy of Congress has been to forbid the use of contraceptives altogether if the only purpose of using them be to prevent conception in cases where it would not be injurious to the welfare of the patient or her offspring, it is going far beyond such a policy to hold that abortions, which destroy incipient life, may be allowed in proper cases, and yet that no measures may be taken to prevent conception even though a likely result should be to require the termination of pregnancy by means of an operation. It seems unreasonable to suppose that the national scheme of legislation involves such inconsistencies and requires the complete suppression of articles, the use of which in many cases is advocated by such a weight of authority in the medical world."

    I think it is time to review a book about Margaret Sanger.

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