“Men explaining things to me had been happening my whole life”: The author behind “mansplaining” on the origin of her famous term

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/05/20/men_explain_things_to_me_the_author_behind_mansplaining_on_the_origin_of_her_famous_coinage/

Salon spoke to Rebecca Solnit about her new book, gender-based violence, and why “rape culture” is a useful phrase

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rebecca Solnit is a decorated author and activist, but she may be best-known for the word she added to our lexicon: “mansplaining.” Mansplaining was born from a 2008 blog post in which Solnit wrote: “Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about.” Since then, “mansplaining” has taken the culturesphere by storm, getting named one of the New York Times’ “words of the year” and inspiring countless think pieces. Solnit has been writing elegant, sharp essays and books for more than two decades — her latest book, also called “Men Explain Things to Me,” released today, is a collection of seven essays about this particular facet of the modern gender wars. On the whole her work spans a broad spectrum of subjects ranging from literature, art, philosophy, anti-militarism and the environment. It is feminist, frequently funny, unflinchingly honest and often scathing in its conclusions. In 2010, the Utne Reader named Solnit, who is the recipient of several literary awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Lannan literary fellowship, one of 25 Visionaries Who are Changing Your World.

Tell me about writing that first essay from which the name of the book is taken, “Men Explain Things to Me.” As you mention in the book, it is a piece that continues, years after publication, to be shared and discussed.

I’d been joking about writing it for years. Men explaining things to me had been happening my whole life. The infamous incident I described — in which a man talked over me to explain a Very Important Book he thought I should read that it turns out I wrote — happened five years earlier in 2003.

The term “mansplaining” has resonated with so many women.  It shifted the cultural universe ever so slightly (in a good way). Did you expect this response?  

You know, I had a wonderful conversation about a month ago with a young Ph.D. candidate at U.C. Berkeley. I’ve been a little bit squeamish about the word “mansplaining,” because it can seem to imply that men are inherently flawed, rather than that some guys are a little over-privileged, arrogant and clueless. This young academic said to me, “No, you don’t understand! You need to recognize that until we had the word ‘mainsplained,’ so many women had this awful experience and we didn’t even have a language for it. Until we can name something, we can’t share the experience, we can’t describe it, we can’t respond to it. I think that word has been extraordinarily valuable in helping women and men describe something that goes on all the time.” She really changed my opinion. It’s really useful. I’ve always been interested in how much our problems come from not having the language, not having the framework to think and talk about and address the phenomenon around us.

Your work has always focused on sexualized and gender-based violence. The second essay in your book, “The Longest War,” is based on one you wrote in the wake of the Delhi and Steubenville rapes. What are your thoughts on mainstream media narratives regarding rape and domestic violence? Do you think we are at an inflection point globally in public discourse surrounding these subjects?

Yes, I really do. Remember when Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered, more than 20 years ago? That started a conversation about domestic violence and how often it becomes lethal and how horrific and oppressive and terrifying and discriminatory it is. Then O.J. Simpson lawyered up, in the way that incredibly rich men that do awful things to women do, like Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or the recent case of the billionaire Gurbaksh Chahal, who recently got off on probation after allegedly hitting his girlfriend 117 times on camera. There are just so many times when other kinds of hate crimes get the attention they deserve, and I never feel that we shouldn’t pay attention to other kinds of hate crimes, but I’ve just waited and waited and waited for violence against women to be treated as a hate crime.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/05/20/men_explain_things_to_me_the_author_behind_mansplaining_on_the_origin_of_her_famous_coinage/

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Water depletion in California ‘may be increasing chance of earthquakes’

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/14/water-depletion-in-california-may-be-increasing-chance-of-earthquakes

Groundwater loss from demand for farming in the Central Valley is putting pressure on San Andreas fault, Nature paper says

theguardian.com, Wednesday 14 May 2014

The water use that helped produce California’s agricultural bounty may be increasing the chances of earthquakes along the San Andreas fault, researchers said on Wednesday.

A new study, published in Nature on Wednesday, said groundwater depletion in California’s Central Valley – the heart of its agricultural industry – is putting additional pressures on the fault, and promoting the chances of an earthquake.

The study did not predict how and when that earthquake might occur.

The paper is among the first to attribute a human component to earthquakes along the San Andreas fault. Other researchers have established a connection between small earthquakes in Ohio and underground disposal of waste water from fracking.

The researchers, led by Colin Amos of Western Washington University, used data from GPS networks to analyse the tiny movements in the Central Valley and the surrounding mountains.

Scientists have known for years that the floor of the valley has been dropping as the groundwater is pumped out for irrigation.

An estimated 160 km3 of ground water in the Central Valley has been lost through pumping, irrigation and evaporation over the past 150 years.

The rate of that depletion is accelerating, because of expanding population, increased demands for agriculture and recurring drought – which means that the groundwater can not be readily replaced.

Meanwhile, the mountains surrounding the valley have also been undergoing tiny shifts each summer and autumn, moving upward as the seasonal snowpack melts.

Those competing pressures have brought the San Andreas fault closer to failure, the researchers said.

“The human effect is becoming the dominant effect,” said Paul Lundgren of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The more you deplete that groundwater, the more you keep promoting that fault towards failure.”

He said the human influence was fairly significant – around the order of the knock-on effect from other large earthquakes of relatively close faults. Growing demand for groundwater – because of drought – would put the fault under more pressure.

But it was impossible to say at this point when the next big earthquake might occur.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/14/water-depletion-in-california-may-be-increasing-chance-of-earthquakes

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‘Brainwashed by propaganda’ – Vivienne Westwood on Climate Revolution, austerity and government

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Look Out, Wall Street, the New Populism is Coming

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/05/14-2

by Richard Eskow

Even as the Campaign for America’s Future prepares for its May conference on the New Populism, attacks on populism keep coming from all directions. One of the latest salvos to be publicized comes in the form of an anecdote about Bill Clinton. As Tim Geithner told Andrew Ross Sorkin, Clinton sarcastically told the Wall Street-friendly Treasury Secretary how to “pursue a more populist strategy”:

“You could take Lloyd Blankfein into a dark alley,” Clinton said, “and slit his throat, and it would satisfy them for about two days. Then the blood lust would rise again.”

Clinton was always effective at belittling people with whom he disagrees – even when, as in this case, his own position is morally indefensible. The president and his economic team deregulated Wall Street to disastrous effect, then became very wealthy there after leaving office.

The “them” in Clinton’s quote is us. And the only people who confuse a cry for justice with “blood lust” are those who have become too close to the unjust.

It is precisely this sort of sneering insider indifference to public opinion – not to mention good governance and fair play – which has given rise to today’s populist mood. And make no mistake about it: the public’s mood, despite years of attempts by most Republicans and many Democrats to placate them, is distinctly populist. And much of that populist sentiment is directed toward the financial institutions which have so badly damaged our economy.

The fear triggered in some circles by a figure like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (who is the keynote speaker at the New Populism) conference is based, not on concerns about “blood lust,” but on an understanding of the politics involved. Washington insiders can protect Wall Street – and themselves – only so long as nobody represents the majority on the political stage. Once a populist alternative appears, like that represented by Sen. Warren and like-minded politicians, this “bipartisan” tilt toward bankers becomes much harder to maintain.

Why? Because these populist leaders aren’t just proposing the right policies toward Wall Street. They’re also offering very popular policies, policies with much deeper and broader support than those of the Clinton, Bush, or Obama administrations. Polling results compiled in CAF’s PopulistMajority.org website show, for example, that

  • More than half of those polled last month think the problems with banks which led to the 2008 financial crisis haven’t been fixed (to a large extent, they’re right);
  • Two-thirds of those polled believe that Wall Street financial institutions make it harder to find good jobs in the United States than was true in the past (again, there’s a lot of truth to that, given the increasing share of national profits being captured by the nonproductive financial sector);
  • Two-thirds believe there should be more government oversight of financial institutions such as banks and credit card companies;
  • More than nine out of 10 people polled believe it is important to regulate financial services in order to ensure fairness toward customers;
  • 80 percent of those polled supported the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) after learning about Wall Street’s role in the economic crisis of 2008;
  • 83 percent believe that new rules should be implemented for Wall Street, and that bankers should be held accountable for the actions which caused the financial crisis.

Most Americans are equally disturbed by the Wall Street- and billionaire-friendly economy which government policies have forged. Nearly 8 out of 10 Americans polled last month, for example, believe inequality is a problem – and more than half think it’s a major problem. Two-thirds of those polled in March believe it’s important for the government to implement policies that reduce inequality. 71 percent think the government believes it’s more important to help major corporations than to help the poor.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/05/14-2

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