There are certain things about women that men will never understand, in part because they have no interest in understanding them. They will never know how deeply we care about our houses—what a large role they play in our dreams for ourselves, how unhappy their shortcomings make us. Men think they understand the way our physical beauty—or lack of it, or assaults on it from age or extra weight—preys on our minds, but they don’t fully grasp the significance these things have for us. Nor can they understand the way physical comforts or simple luxuries—the fresh towel or the fat new cake of soap—can lift our spirits. And they will never know how much our lives are shaped around the fear of bad men and the harm they can bring us if we’re not careful, if we’re not banded together, if we’re not telling each other what to watch out for, what we’ve learned. We need each other’s counsel, and oftentimes it comes when we’re talking about other things, when we seem not to have much important on our minds at all.Just about every statement in that paragraph is untrue. I'll grant that men are not held to the same standards as women are in terms of appearance and, consequently, a lot of men probably never grasp the impact aging and gaining weight have on women. That said, there is no reason a man who set out to understand the impact that or fear of violence from men has on women they know. No human experience is sealed off from other human beings willing to make the effort to understand.
The deeper problem, though, is not what Flanagan has to say about men but what she so easily says of other women. Consider, for example, "Nor can they understand the way physical comforts or simple luxuries—the fresh towel or the fat new cake of soap—can lift our spirits." Well, of course we can. Like all emotional responses, it's a matter of habit. You develop and deepen these feelings through regular practice. Or you don't and some women don't.
Flanagan consistently mars some very fine writing that way.