The Mother of All Questions: Further Feminisms – Rebecca Solnit – Quotes

Brains are individual phenomena producing wildly varying products; uteruses bring forth one kind of creation.

Maybe our obsession with happiness is a way not to ask those other questions, a way to ignore how spacious our lives can be, how effective our work can be, and how far-reaching our love can be.

Masculinity is a great renunciation. The color pink is a small thing, but emotions, expressiveness, receptiveness, a whole array of possibilities get renounced by successful boys and men in everyday life, and often for men who inhabit masculinized realms – sports, the military, the police, all-male workforces in construction or resource extraction – even more must be renounced to belong.

Girl and pussy have long been key insults used against boys and men, along with gay and faggot; a man must not be a woman, must not cry, must not be weak; and the fear of being gay was of being sexual in some way that may not be about domination and penetration, might be about being penetrated, being equal, being open. As if openness were weakness rather than strenght.

Rape is hate and fury taking love’s place between bodies. It’s a vision of the male body as a weapon and the female body (in heterosexual rape) as the enemy. What is it like to weaponize your body?

Discrimination is training in not identifying or empathizing with someone because they are different in some way, in believing the differences mean everything and common humanity nothing.

This was, and still is, a sort of blame-the-victim framework, this insistence that women modify their presence in public space, or just give up and stay in, rather than we transform the public space (or men) so that women have the right to walk down the street unharassed.

It’s like a barn raising for ideas: innumerable people bring their experiences, insights, analysis, new terms, and frameworks. Then these become part of the fabric of everyday life, and when that happens, the world has changed. Then, down the road, what was once a radical idea becomes so woven into everyday life that people imagine that it is self-evident and what everyone always knew. But it’s not; it’s the result of a struggle – of ideas and voices, not of violence.

What matters most in celebrity cases may not be that a few a belatedly held accountable or past crimes. It’s the message that these cases deliver: the age of impunity is over; that in the future it will not be so easy to get away with committing such crimes. In other words, the world has changed enough to change the odds for victims and perpetrators. Women have voices now.

Maybe shame will be returned to its rightful owners.
The North American stories I’m telling here are about a shift in power that is partially a shift in whose story gets told and believed, and who does the telling.

We need to stop telling the story about the woman who stayed at home, passive and dependent, waiting for her man. She wasn’t sitting around waiting. She was busy. She still is.

Who we are and what we do is routinely packaged in dismissive ways. All Jews support Israel. All Muslims are jihadis. All lesbian hate men. You wrap up the world in a tidy package, and thinking can stop.

We don’t even have a word, let alone a conversation, for the most common kind of mass homicide, which could be called familicide, the furious man who takes out children and other family members or sometimes coworkers or bystanders, as well as the woman who’s the main focus of his ire, and sometimes himself. The lack of a category means the lack of terms to describe a common phenomenon and thus to recognize its parameters and their commonness. If categories cage, this is a phenomenon overdue for containment.

Scanning the list, which is full of the manliest books ever, lots of war books, only one book by an out gay man, I was reminded that though it’s hard to be a woman it’s harder in many ways to be a man, that gender that’s supposed to be incessantly defended and demonstrated through acts of manliness.

My review of The Mother of All Questions: Further Feminisms

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska 

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