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”So caught up was I in my assigned role as ingénue that I was perfectly willing to entertain the possibility that another book on the same subject had come out simultaneously and I’d somehow missed it.
He was already telling me about the very important book–with that smug look I know so well in a man holding forth, eyes fixed on the fuzzy far horizon of his own authority.
One evening over dinner, I began to joke, as I often had before, about writing an essay called “Men Explain Things to Me.” Every writer has a stable of ideas that never make it to the racetrack, and I’d been trotting this pony out recreationally every once in a while.
My houseguest, the brilliant theorist and activist Marina Sitrin, insisted that I had to write it down because people like her younger sister Sam needed to read it.
And then, as if in a nineteenth-century novel, he went ashen.
Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. More extreme versions of our situation exist in, for example, those Middle Eastern countries where women’s testimony has no legal standing; so that a woman can’t testify that she was raped without a male witness to counter the male rapist. 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.He carped, for example, that to aggrandize Muybridge’s standing I left out technological predecessors like Henry R. He’d apparently not read the book all the way to page 202 or checked the index, since Heyl was there (though his contribution was just not very significant).Surely one of these men has died of embarrassment, but not nearly publicly enough.Here, let me just say that my life is well-sprinkled with lovely men, with a long succession of editors who have, since I was young, listened and encouraged and published me, with my infinitely generous younger brother, with splendid friends of whom it could be said–like the Clerk in I still remember from Mr.Pelen’s class on Chaucer–“gladly would he learn and gladly teach.” Still, there are these other men, too. Very Important was going on smugly about this book I should have known when Sallie interrupted him to say, “That’s her book.” Or tried to interrupt him anyway. She had to say, “That’s her book” three or four times before he finally took it in.