3.5 stars, rounding down because when I think back on it (I finished it a few weeks ago), the things that bugged me stick out more than the things that didn’t.
This might’ve been a four star book for me if I’d checked at all on what it actually was. I’d hoped it would be a deeper dive into the title concept, aka “mainsplaining” (although Solnit herself did not coin that term and is not a fan of it). The title essay was fantastic, so I never quite shook the disappointment when I realized it was actually a collection of Solnit’s essays on loosely linked feminist topics. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite come together as a set – to me, they were a little too loosely connected. An essay about Virginia Woolf in particular didn’t seem to fit at all. Solnit also struck me as occasionally a bit full of herself in her constant referencing of her work in other books, e.g. “As I explored in my 2007 book…” I just kept thinking “Oh my God, we get it, you wrote a bunch of books. Let’s just focus on this book for now.”
There’s some really lovely writing, though, such as – “We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.” Also some really excellent discussion of rape culture. All in all I’m definitely glad I read it, but it definitely had some issues.