Down Girl -- The Logic of Misogyny (2018)
Your reviewer has read several books categorised as feminism, which may be something to do with being born into an 80% female household. This one reads like a feature length academic paper whereas many are more polemical. Kate Manne is a moral philosopher at Ivy League Cornell University and advertises her text as the first to deal with misogyny using philosophical analysis.
It is a self-masking problem, she says, which has the effect that drawing attention to the phenomenon will work to bring out more of it (or at least, not get rid of it). And the definition of misogyny according to consensus wisdom tends to chase its own tail and disappear under most attempts to identify and point out manifestations. That is why it is still a thing, and Ms Manne would not seem to be personally optimistic of any change. She has produced a fairly forensic account of it though.
A standard moral criticism of misogyny says that it is a property of people (misogynists) who hate women, universally or very generally. This makes it rather easy to cite evidence that anyone accused of it is accused falsely. Another aspect which perhaps tries to get behind the hating part is that a misogynist does not adequately recognise female humanity. This characterisation tends to exclude women themselves from the classification. Ms Manne thinks that neither of these defining thoughts are true and nor do they help the targets of misogyny, or those accused of it who are innocent. Moreover it renders the phenomenon marginal to the point of nonexistence.
Ms Manne’s definition is that misogyny is a social enforcement and policing mechanism whose objective is to uphold, preserve and sustain patriarchal norms and expectations. This is carried out via carrots and sticks of positive and negative reinforcement of actions and behaviour. And the code that this enforcement branch of patriarchy upholds is a normative state where women should create and supply “feminine encoded goods” and men should be entitled to, and take “masculine encoded” ones. She should also cede masculine encoded goods to him and not attempt to take them herself. He should not indulge in any such reversal either by the way, or else misogyny will act to correct that too. Another way of framing this is that misogyny certainly does acknowledge the humanity of women, but it sees females as “human givers” not human beings.
What these coded goods comprise is likely obvious. Feminine-coded goods and services are attention, admiration, sympathy, sex, children, and various types of nurture. The perks and privileges that are masculine-coded are power, prestige, reputation, money and status. Neither women that supply nor men that demand the relevant things will face any negative enforcement action from misogynists—rather, they will be rewarded by the system. He who seizes what she is supposed to give, even if she doesn’t, will be exonerated (Ms Manne calls this “himpathy”). She who doesn’t supply feminine-encoded things, or who takes masculine coded things away from dominant men, will be punished (“herasure”).
The case that misogyny does not have a humanist basis would seem congruent with the observation that women can and do practice it too. Whereas as an enforcement system for a social order, willing participation from both sexes is to be expected. Similarly, men who wish to rebel against the system should be expected to be diminished because of the threat they become. There are several case studies in the text that are used to exemplify Ms Manne’s treatment. As an Australian now living in the United States, she makes quite a few examples of the dynamic between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and between Julia Gillard and her political adversaries. She also fits the case of Elliot Rodger, who murdered six and injured fourteen women in a hatred-driven rampage in California in 2014, into her framework. There is an informative section on “family annihilators”; men who have killed the females in their household, and then usually themselves, because they have let their women down, and (the important bit) the latter have withdrawn respect. There are many more examples and accounts in her text, and a few apparent counter examples (proper theories should be falsifiable)
Ms Manne does not offer any theory for how patriarchy/misogyny arose in the first place. Evolutionary biologists might perhaps argue that it was an emergent phenomenon that, in some outworking of the division of labour, conferred some survival superiority on societies that incorporated it, but although this type of theorising is often plausible, it is not usually falsifiable, and Kate Manne seems (laudably) less interested in these types of conjectures. It may be for the same reason that she does not expect practices and arrangements to materially change (she has modest hopes, but she also points out that hope isn’t falsifiable either). Her outline of the logic of misogyny can probably be assailed, but restricted as it is to dry analysis, it is rather good.