Thursday, April 24, 2008


Twice in the past few days I have come across a link to this piece, Rebecca Solnit, writing in the L.A. Times, about how (some) men love to explain things they know nothing about to women, and how this oppresses the women. Indeed, she goes on to compare her experience with having to give an overconfident ass in a Raulph Lauren Aspen lodge the smackdown with the plight of women in Islamic nations who are not allowed to testify at their rape trials, or Maria Lauterbach being butchered by her rapist.

What? ... What!?

These people, the explainers, the talk-down-upon-ers, are blowhards. They like explaining things they know nothing about to everyone, not just to women. OK, sorry. I shouldn't be declarative like that. I risk being accused of explaining something, and of arrogance, asshattery, blowhardedness, and general male-dominated hegemonic discourse.

Still, please, hasn't everyone, female or not, met someone like this? Hasn't everyone had to sit through their bluster and arrogance and contempt? It's not like only men can act that way, either. Have you never experienced a woman's whithering contempt? Her certainty in the face of all reason?

Not all women, to be sure, and not all the time. Just some women, or rather some people, some of the time. It doesn't look like a male thing from where I'm standing. She doesn't even seem to realize that linking maleness to arrogance the way she does is exactly the kind of contemptuous stereotyping that she protests later, when applied to herself:

Several years ago, I objected to the behavior of a couple of men, only to be told on both occasions that the incidents hadn't happened at all as I said they had, that I was subjective, delusional, overwrought, dishonest -- in a nutshell, female.

Or, rather, when she perceives it applied to her. I doubt either of her accusers actually came out and said she was "subjective" or "dishonest" because she was female. (Though I'll admit the stereotype may have crossed their minds, because people are bad like that.) Indeed, I've seen this kind of behavior, too, and again from both sexes. People always, always remember the "facts" to their own advantage. Men do, and so do women, and so, I have no doubt, does Ms. Solnit. But heaven forbid the incidents in question not be perfectly preserved in the objective crystal clarity of her memory. There is no possibility that she might be subjective in the least, even if every other human being on earth is.

Of course, it never works to talk to anyone about that, because nobody will admit they do it themselves. "Everyone else is subjective, but not me! I know what I saw." Except when they show you the video later and point out the man in the gorilla suit.

No doubt the men in question were in the wrong, and Ms. Solnit was in the right, but to become incensed at the oppressiveness of these men questioning her version of events? Incensed to the point of making these people who had the temerity to disagree with her the poster-men of all male oppression? That seems strangely... arrogant. Isn't Ms. Solnit, now, doing the explaining? Perhaps it is people who explain things, to people, and let's just call them blowhards, whatever their sex.

1 comment:

Marshdrifter said...

Clearly, you're just saying that to maintain your oppressive authority.