Men Explain Things to Me Uncategorized

Laura González Palacios
27 Jan 2023

This letter is difficult to write, but since I am aware that my silence will not protect me it is important that I write it. A few days ago I was part of a conversation with a man and two other women. At one point, the man asked if I knew the Sutton Barcelona nightclub. I don’t think I have ever been there, but I was trying to remember because I have heard it mentioned. That’s when the man began to relate his “newspaper version” of the rape of a 17-year-old girl by a well-known soccer player there recently, surprised that I didn’t know the news. Despite the fact that I said more than once, twice and three times that I did not want to know about it, the man continued talking and giving details of what happened there: he locked her in the bathroom, for 17 minutes… The only thing I would have wanted to know at that moment is what the girl’s name was, although I would not dare to pronounce her name, and how she was now, if she would have company and access to professional help to face the trauma. I don’t know anything.

In the conversation, despite the fact that another of the women called the man’s attention to me: “But, aren’t you hearing that she doesn’t want to talk about it?” He replied: “Well, if she doesn’t need to talk.” No, of course she doesn’t need to speak, he was already saying everything he had to say, even though I had made my non-consent to listen explicit. “How could you not have heard if nothing else is being talked about in all the media?” The answer is very easy, I had long ago voluntarily decided not to keep myself informed of “current affairs”, or to do so in a very selective way, because with my years I already know that my level of sensitivity cannot withstand certain atrocities and because it takes me a long time to repair the horrifying damage of information.

Maybe the man who talked and talked did not know that I have not been raped by a soccer player in the bathroom of a discotheque, nor that at 19 years old a guy masturbated next to me on a bus on my way home. Few times have I wished so hard to have the superpower to disappear, or to go through glass, but fear and disgust paralyzed me and I could not raise my voice or my body to get out of the situation and avoid the scene, which 23 years later is still a vivid memory in my mind.

Perhaps this man also does not know that every other day I had to avoid an exhibitionist every time I returned to the student residence the first year of college living in Madrid, or that years later, in another Barcelona nightclub, more than once and twice and three times, some man touched me from the front and from behind without my consent, making me doubt if I was the one who provoked the offenses. That’s when I got up the courage to ask the people in charge of the Apolo to put the signs against sexual harassment in the men’s toilets as well as in the women’s toilets. As I never told him either, this man will not know that when I lived in Ibiza, a friend of a friend, to whom I offered half of my bed so that he would not have to spend the night outdoors, he thought that the other half of the bed, which I occupied, was also available for him, with the consequent self-expulsion from my own space and the corresponding anguish of finding myself in situations like that again. I could go on, but I think that’s enough.

Just a few days before the incident of the conversation, I had rescued Rebecca Solnit‘s book of essays Men Explain Things to Me from my library, and had left it on my bedside table to reread. With my body and mind filled with disgust I began to read again and thanked Rebecca for her forcefulness in exposing the persistent inequality between men and women and gender-based violence. Despite the harshness, I heartily appreciated witnessing her personal experience and so many other real examples of how men display an authority they have not deserved, while we women have been raised to accept that reality without question. Thank you for your crystal clarity, Rebecca, thank you for putting on record that “some men explain things they shouldn’t and they don’t listen to things they should”.

Below is Rebecca’s dedication that opens her book, for us, and some other things related to what will happen next in this room.

For the grandmothers, the levelers, the dreamers, the men who get it, the young women who keep going, the older ones who opened the way, the conversations that don’t end, and a world that will let Ella Nachimovitz (born January 2014) bloom to her fullest.