Friday, November 15, 2019

Emma Watson interviews Rebecca Solnit possibly for Our Shared Shelf [November 13, 2019]

[Gallery] [Fashion] [Beauty] [Version française]

I deleted the photos as I didn't have the authorization (or whatever the word is. It's 1.30am here) to post them.

The day after moderating Stephen Chbosky's Q&A, Emma was back at a library, still in California, this time to interview author Rebecca Solnit. Yesterday, she posted a long message on the Our Shared Shelf's GoodReads' page (see below) to announce the new picks Whose Story Is This? and Cinderella Liberator and suggesting to also check out Men Explain Things To Me, all written or co-written by Rebecca Solnit.

Her message:

"Dear OSS Members:

In Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Letter From a Birmingham Jail’, he contemplates the use of the word “extremist”. Almost certainly in the context in which it was used to label him, it was meant derogatorily. Ultimately, he decides to embrace these labels and suggests that perhaps the world is in need of “creative extremists”. In spite of the fear of being seen as non-conformist, of creating disorder and tension when people so often value the contrary, King suggests that non-violent, direct action and creative extremism should be considered an important civic duty in the face of injustice.

It was my own fear of creating tension that made me hesitant to recommend Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit, even though it is one of my favourite books. The title, I felt, was immediately ‘confrontational’. A close friend and activist explained to me recently that they don’t use the word feminist because it “just gets people’s backs up and that isn’t useful for getting anything done”. But if the purpose of good art is to “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comforted”, I would argue the word feminism fits this task rather well. For those who have accepted into their hearts and minds the notion that society should function equally well for people of all genders and are uncomfortable with a status quo that doesn’t uphold that belief, the word has no rub. For those questioning, or for those who are uncomfortable with the necessary struggle it takes to move social justice movements forward, perhaps, yes it’s rather uncomfortable. For those who place ease or order (to go back to MLK’s letter) as most important in the hierarchy of things, I can understand why the word might be contrary to their goals and objectives.

Rebecca Solnit, author of 20 feminist books, so far, including her latest, Whose Story is This? Old Conflicts, New Chapters, strikes me as someone who has made total peace with her role of what some might call being ‘antagonising’ in order to do the very important work of telling the truth or getting as close as we can to it, with all the possible bias and participation mystique. In her essay from her new book, “They Think They Can Bully the Truth”, she demonstrates, in our increasingly authoritarian society, how dangerous our flippancy with the truth really is. “Lies are aggressions”, she says. “Gaslighting”, she further explains, is “a collective cultural phenomenon”, not just a concept that applies to individuals. Men’s outrage when women choose to speak their truth says so much about how, as a culture, even when women have been done wrong, their silence is implicit and expected. Silence in the face of wrongdoing has become a perverse and expected kind of loyalty. Commitment to accuracy even in your personal connections, is “resistance that matters”, Rebecca reminds us.

I have been curious to listen and watch as many commentators, even after less than a year or two, started to suggest that TIME’S UP and #MeToo had gone “too far” - despite the acknowledgment that sexual harassment among girls and women was at epidemic proportions and that it was affecting their work lives. At the end of 2019, known perpetrators have not gone to jail and many still enjoy flourishing careers. But it’s all still…too far…which boggles my mind slightly.

I think a crucial part that many commentators missed was how significant it was in and of itself that women were speaking up. If you have never been part of a majority that has been silent for thousands of years, this act might not register as revelatory, but to the women who have suffered, that is indeed what it was and is. Rebecca puts it so beautifully when she says: “The feminine has just crawled out of the water, it hasn’t stood up”. To come out and comment on a woman speaking her truth as being a disproportionate response, when the woman speaking that truth has no say in what the punishment for the abuse uncovered actually is, but was asserting a long overdue, nerve-wracking but important human right, did seem at best misguided and at worst offensive.

I would not be doing Rebecca justice simply to call her an adept disrupter and seeker of ‘truth’. Her craft is also beautiful. At the beginning of the chapter titled “Long Distance”, she says, “The present is by common definition, the instant between the not yet and the already, a moment as narrow as a tightrope”. Sentences like this are so taut, rich and elegant... You all of a sudden find yourself at spiritual epiphany when you thought you were absorbing information about current affairs.

Her writing is also generously personal. In “On Women’s Work and the Myth of the Art Monster”, she argues that “good creative work” is feminine, IS nurture. She makes a stand on behalf of her own life choices in a way that is truly moving (and enlightening). Rebecca just thinks about things in a different and liberating way. In “The Problem with Sex is Capitalism” (one of the all-time great essay titles) shots are fired. I won’t ruin it for you, but the mix of the rousing, the spiritual, the political, the personal and the humorous all together is completely exhilarating.

This is, after all, a book club, and perhaps my favourite Rebecca moment from the book is her discussion on knowledge. “It is an old truism,” she says, “that knowledge is power. The inverse and opposite possibility - that power is ignorance - is rarely aired. The powerful swathe themselves in obliviousness in order to avoid the pain of others and their own relationship to that pain. It is they from whom much is hidden, and they who are removed from the arenas of the poor and powerless. The more you are the less you know.” Her book and all of her books give us the chance to “know” more and that we should want to know more. I am grateful to Rebecca for her work as ‘creative extremist’, ‘nurturer’ and ‘truth seeker’. I feel better able to see, feel and express myself because of her. We all have many different types of mothers - intellectual, creative, political - Rebecca Solnit is one of mine... and I don’t care if it antagonises anyone to say so. I hope you enjoy these Our Shared Shelf picks for November/December: Whose Story Is This? and Cinderella Liberator. Do look back at Men Explain Things To Me as well, if you have time.

All my love,

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Anonymous said...

Wow wonderful news :-)

Anonymous said...

why? thought she was an 'actress'


Anonymous said...

She's an activist as well...

Thaïs said...

I loved reading that text. I never tried any of the books because... Life and time, but I'll definitely think about it.

Anonymous said...

I am excited with this news !! I love Emma's interviews

Anonymous said...

I guess they didn't have the authorization either as they've deleted the post from Facebook. Did the ask you to remove the photos, Eden??

Anonymous said...

"She's an activist as well..."

That's not even a job. It's just a way to get free publicity. What ever happened to heforshe and gender free eh?

Anonymous said...

Your right activism isnt considered a job, its considered a career. And HeforShe was a feminist campaign to get men to realize that they can also be a feminist.

Anonymous said...

lol career.

you don't need to be a feminist to believe in equality. labels labels labels.

if her acting career was a success all of this activism would have never happened.

Anonymous said...

All you have to do is google whether or not activism is a career and see for yourself. And she's always done something on the side since "Harry Potter"...

Anonymous said...

what she has done since potter is disappoint. she is just lazy. activism is the easy route. just waiting for the big pay day when hp comes back.

Anonymous said...

Anónimo 2:10am Si Emma no te agrada no se que haces aca pero date cuenta que aburres, no te cansas de quejarte? esto es un sitio de fans, deberias buscar un sitio de odiadores para que puedas sentire al menos útil desfogando tus odios y rencores.

Anonymous said...

"Anónimo 2:10am Si Emma no te agrada no se que haces aca pero date cuenta que aburres, no te cansas de quejarte? esto es un sitio de fans, deberias buscar un sitio de odiadores para que puedas sentire al menos útil desfogando tus odios y rencores."

Agree 100%