affect / feminism / writing

Solnit and ‘splaining

Rebecca Solnit is the kind of writer I want to be in lifetimes to come. Her article, The Problem with Men who Explain Things, called something out of me.

In her words:

“Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.”

About three years ago I experienced something online that seared my subjectivity to the extent that it still regularly announces itself when I sit down to write something. It generated an insecurity powerful enough that I have blocked myself from websites and muted hashtags in order to proceed with some clarity and perspective on the thinking I want to do about urban change, the role of creativity, ‘do-it-yourself’ renewal efforts, abjected urban experience such as homelessness and begging, and gentrification.

I thought I could ignore this moment online, this blip on the spirals of my thinking and the mostly wonderfully frutiful conversations they have led to. I told myself I was better than this, that I ought not to have been so provocative and was probably just reaping what I had sowed; and that, anyway, I am a “reliable witness to my own life”, in Solnit’s words. However, clearly none of this is fully realised: the expository, mendacious take-down of myself, my work and my ideas has taken its toll. As Solnit’s piece reminded me, to be a woman with something to say means you start from a position of underconfidence – which can be dragged to the depths of self-silencing in the blink of a godseye.

Cross-posted at All the single ladies.

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3 thoughts on “Solnit and ‘splaining

  1. I´ve been following your blogs ever since I came across something you wrote about homelessness. I greatly enjoy the sharp critical insights in them, your ability to surprise and combine unexpected things together. Every blog seems to pose an intellectual challenge whether I agree or disagree with your views (to say nothing about some excellent literary hints).
    As a young student while preparing a thesis I once wrote a letter to Doris Lessing (it was pre-email-time) asking her about her literary work etc. I also posed a rather naive question: Do you consider yourself a feminist? She kindly replied by sending her essay book A small personal voice and answered to my question by saying: “Life isn´t so neatly compartmentalized”. That sentence has followed me ever since.
    Juha from Finland

    • Juha, thankyou SO much for your comment, and your story, and for reading this far! I’m so pleased to hear that you’ve found my posts enjoyable and challenging, that’s a great compliment (and always a relief to hear).

      I hope you’ll keep reading … and now I have a literary recommendation from you!

  2. Pingback: 53rd Down Under Feminist Carnival

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