“Kate Manne is a thrilling and provocative feminist thinker. Her work is indispensable.”—Rebecca Traister
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE ATLANTIC
In this bold and stylish critique, Cornell philosopher Kate Manne offers a radical new framework for understanding misogyny. Ranging widely across the culture, from Harvey Weinstein and the Brett Kavanaugh hearings to “Cat Person” and the political misfortunes of Elizabeth Warren, Manne’s book shows how privileged men’s sense of entitlement—to sex, yes, but more insidiously to admiration, care, bodily autonomy, knowledge, and power—is a pervasive social problem with often devastating consequences.
In clear, lucid prose, Manne argues that male entitlement can explain a wide array of phenomena, from mansplaining and the undertreatment of women’s pain to mass shootings by incels and the seemingly intractable notion that women are “unelectable.” Moreover, Manne implicates each of us in toxic masculinity: It’s not just a product of a few bad actors; it’s something we all perpetuate, conditioned as we are by the social and cultural mores of our time. The only way to combat it, she says, is to expose the flaws in our default modes of thought while enabling women to take up space, say their piece, and muster resistance to the entitled attitudes of the men around them.
With wit and intellectual fierceness, Manne sheds new light on gender and power and offers a vision of a world in which women are just as entitled as men to our collective care and concern.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Indelible—On the Entitlement of Privileged Men
He was a picture of entitlement. Brett Kavanaugh, fifty-three, was red-faced, petulant, and shouted most of his answers. Clearly, he thought the proceedings were beneath him, a travesty. It was September 2018, and Kavanaugh was being questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding allegations that he had sexually assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, fifty-one, when they were both in high school. At stake was not only Kavanaugh’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court; this was, more importantly, a tribunal on sexual assault, male privilege, and the workings of misogyny.
America did not pass the test. Despite highly credible evidence that Kavanaugh had indeed sexually assaulted a fifteen-year-old Ford some thirty-six years prior, Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court was confirmed by a slim majority.
Ford testified that she had been attacked by Kavanaugh, who, together with his friend Mark Judge, had “corralled” her into a bedroom at a party in Maryland. Ford alleged that Kavanaugh had pinned her to the bed, groped her, and ground his crotch against her. She said he tried to remove her clothes and covered her mouth to prevent her from screaming. Ford said she was afraid that Kavanaugh would accidentally smother and kill her. She said that she managed to escape when Judge jumped on the bed, knocking the two of them over.
“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter,” said Ford—a professor of psychology—in describing the incident and its traumatic aftermath. But even for many of those who professed to believe her, Ford’s experience just did not matter enough to be worth depriving a man like Kavanaugh of his perceived due, given his background and reputation. And, of course, there were also people who refused to believe her, saying she was either lying or mistaken.
By the time the Kavanaugh hearings were front-page news, I had been thinking for quite some time about male privilege and the toll it takes on girls and women. The case seemed to encapsulate many of the social dynamics I’d been studying. It perfectly captured the concept of entitlement: the widespread perception that a privileged man is owed something even as exalted as a position on the U.S. Supreme Court. This is a perception that Kavanaugh himself shared, judging by his aggrieved, belligerent, and, at times, borderline unhinged conduct during the hearings. In contrast with Dr. Ford’s calm, tempered demeanor, and her poignant attempts to be “helpful” to the senators in responding to their queries, Kavanaugh was furious about being questioned. Especially, it might appear, when the questioner was a woman. Senator Amy Klobuchar asked him, in a now notorious exchange: “You’re saying there’s never been a case when you drank so much that you didn’t remember what happened the night before, or part of what happened?” “You’re asking about a blackout. I don’t know, have you?” Kavanaugh replied, in a tone both contemptuous and whiney.
The case also highlighted the phenomenon of himpathy: the way powerful and privileged boys and men who commit acts of sexual violence or engage in other misogynistic behavior often receive sympathy and concern over their female victims. Senator Lindsey Graham, fuming, epitomized such a himpathetic attitude:
Graham: [To Democrats] What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020. . . . [To Kavanaugh] You’ve got nothing to apologize for. When you see Sotomayor and Kagan, tell them that Lindsey said “hello,” because I voted for them. [To Democrats] I would never do to them what you’ve done to this guy. . . . [To Kavanaugh] Are you a gang rapist?
Graham: I cannot imagine what you and your family have gone through. [To Democrats] Boy, you all want power. God, I hope you never get it. I hope the American people can see through this sham. . . . You had no intention of protecting Dr. Ford—none. [To Kavanaugh] She’s as much of a victim as you are. God, I hate to say it, because these have been my friends. But let me tell you, when it comes to this, you’re looking for a fair process? You came to the wrong town at the wrong time, my friend. Do you consider this a job interview?
Kavanaugh: If the advice and consent role is like a job interview.
Graham: Do you consider that you’ve been through a job interview?
Kavanaugh: I’ve been through a process of advice and consent under the Constitution, which—
Graham: Would you say you’ve been through hell?
Kavanaugh: I—I’ve been through hell and then some.
Graham: This is not a job interview.
Graham: This is hell.
According to Graham, it was unconscionably hellish—and, beyond that, ridiculous—for a man in Kavanaugh’s position to have to respond to serious, credible accusations of sexual assault, and undergo a truncated FBI investigation, in order to ascend to one of the highest positions of moral authority in America. And Kavanaugh clearly shared, and was further emboldened by, Graham’s views here—not wasting the opportunity to indulge in self-pity. No comparable outpouring of feeling for Ford and her family was forthcoming from Graham, despite his giving lip service to the idea that she was “as much of a victim” as Kavanaugh in this process (referring to the supposed attempt on the part of Democrats to discredit Kavanaugh for political gain). “Miss Ford has got a problem, and destroying Judge Kavanaugh’s life won’t fix her problem,” Graham fulminated on Fox News, later.
Himpathy made Kavanaugh seem to Graham to be the real victim in all of this. And not confirming a man like Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court became tantamount to ruining his life, not just withholding an opportunity. It wasn’t only men like Lindsey Graham spouting this kind of rhetoric and casting such aspersions on Christine Blasey Ford, either; many of the naysayers were women, and included other senators, journalists, and laypeople.
Finally, the Kavanaugh case highlighted several aspects of misogyny’s nature and function. In my previous book, Down Girl, I argued that misogyny should not be understood as a monolithic, deep-seated psychological hatred of girls and women. Instead, it’s best conceptualized as the “law enforcement” branch of patriarchy—a system that functions to police and enforce gendered norms and expectations, and involves girls and women facing disproportionately or distinctively hostile treatment because of their gender, among other factors. The sexual assault of Christine Blasey Ford (about which, for the record, I believe her) would certainly fit this description, since girls and women are significantly likelier to be subject to assaults of this kind than are their male counterparts. In addition to this, misogyny is typically (though not invariably) a response to a woman’s violations of gendered “law and order.” The fact that Ford received abusive messages and death threats for speaking out about a powerful man’s mistreatment of her exemplifies such punishment.
In general, I think of misogyny as being a bit like the shock collar worn by a dog to keep them behind one of those invisible fences that proliferate in suburbia. Misogyny is capable of causing pain, to be sure, and it often does so. But even when it isn’t actively hurting anyone, it tends to discourage girls and women from venturing out of bounds. If we stray, or err, we know what we are in for. All the more reason, then, why Ford’s testimony was so courageous.
In contrast to misogyny, I take sexism to be the theoretical and ideological branch of patriarchy: the beliefs, ideas, and assumptions that serve to rationalize and naturalize patriarchal norms and expectations—including a gendered division of labor, and men’s dominance over women in areas of traditionally male power and authority. Though this book focuses more on misogyny than sexism, it’s important to recognize that the two typically work in concert.
Table of Contents
1 Indelible-On the Entitlement of Privileged Men 3
2 Involuntary-On the Entitlement to Admiration 14
3 Unexceptional-On the Entitlement to Sex 33
4 Unwanted-On the Entitlement to Consent 56
5 Incompetent-On the Entitlement to Medical Care 75
6 Unruly-On the Entitlement to Bodily Control 97
7 Insupportable-On the Entitlement to Domestic Labor 120
8 Unassuming-On the Entitlement to Knowledge 138
9 Unelectable-On the Entitlement to Power 160
10 Undespairing-On the Entitlement of Girls 184
Reading Group Guide
1. In the opening of Entitled, author Kate Manne describes misogyny as “the shock collar worn by a dog to keep them behind [an invisible fence],” while she describes sexism as “the beliefs, ideas, and assumptions that rationalize and naturalize patriarchal norms and expectations.” What do you make of this distinction? What do you see to be the main differentiating factors between misogyny and sexism?
2. Manne repeatedly returns to her definition of misogyny, described plainly as: “the hostility girls and women face, due to patriarchal forces, rather than the hostility men feel, deep down in their hearts.” Why do you think women feel this hostility so acutely despite the fact that many men don’t intentionally or consciously harbor it? Given that misogyny is so often exerted via amorphous patriarchal forces, rather than by individual actors, how can individuals make a difference?
3. In chapter 5, the author explains how women—most significantly, women of color—often receive substandard healthcare because they aren’t believed when describing their pain to their doctors. Do you know anyone who has experienced this? Has this ever happened to you? Do you agree with the author’s argument that this injustice occurs because society views women as “entitled to provide care, but far less entitled to ask for and receive it”?
4. Consider Tressie McMillan Cottom’s harrowing ordeal, outlined in chapter 5, when she went into premature labor with her daughter. What did you find most striking about the discrimination that women of color or non-cis women face when seeking medical care? Do you see any solutions?
5. When discussing the inequitable division of child-rearing and housekeeping labor in typical heterosexual relationships, the author argues that while a large portion of this inequity is due to men’s negligence and entitlement to female labor, it is partly due to women’s socialization, too: “Some women may not feel entitled to equitable domestic arrangements and leisure time for themselves, on par with that of their husbands. Or they may feel entitled to this in theory, but unable to insist in reality, given the social forces around them that tell them not to insist, and to 'take one for the team' in perpetuity.” Do you agree? Why or why not? How have the women in your life been socialized to act?
6. In chapter 4, Manne raises several questions: “Why, and how, do we regard many men’s potentially hurt feelings as so important, so sacrosanct? And, relatedly, why do we regard women as so responsible for protecting and ministering to them?” Discuss how you might answer these questions. Do you feel there is an answer?
7. The author discusses many high-profile instances of sexual coercion and sexual violence in chapters 3 and 4. A few key examples include the viral “Cat Person” short story published in The New Yorker in 2017, the accusation against comedian Aziz Ansari, and the many rape allegations against former Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. What are the similarities and differences between these examples? Consider the public reaction to each. Why do you think public sentiment was so disparate?
8. How do juvenile offenders—who, the author argues, often do not understand the implications of their actions—complicate the issue of sexual violence and coercion?
9. Manne writes that when women are seeking positions of power, they are liable to be considered “conniving, pushy, selfish, abrasive, manipulative, and untrustworthy.” Why do you think power-seeking women are described in this coded way but not men? Do you think these words have a different implication when used for women? What words would you use to describe a man acting in the same way? Which words are similar and which are different?
10. “Mansplainers,” according to the author, are men who feel entitled to be “the one who dispenses information, offers corrections, and authoritatively issues explanations.” In other words, they expound their views over another’s (often a woman’s) cogent and sometimes expert. The author, as a philosopher, and her female colleagues must experience this frequently in academic settings. Where outside of academia do you see mansplaining occur? Have you or someone you know ever encountered this? How did you react?
11. The author describes how anti-abortion regulation and anti-trans bathroom bills are wielded in similar ways, both with the end goal of controlling cis- and transgender women’s bodies. “There is a prevalent sense of entitlement on the part of privileged men to regulate, control, and rule over the bodies of girls and women—cisgender and trans alike. And, as the direct result of this, those subject to such misogynistic policing are often impugned as moral monsters, even though they’re the ones being made to suffer horribly.” How do you see these two seemingly disparate political issues as similar? What do you consider to be the source of this entitlement to the regulation of female bodies?
12. While many anti-abortion advocates are white men, some of the most vehement supporters are white women. Why do you think that is? How are women of color impacted by these regulations compared to white women? What is at stake with the many “heartbeat bills” that have been passed by state legislatures in the United States in recent years?
13. The author wrote much of Entitled while pregnant with her first child. When she and her husband learned they were having a girl, she wrote that it was “difficult to reconcile the desires we naturally have for our child with a sober acknowledgement of the realities of misogyny and the male entitlement that often gives rise to it.” Alongside this fear of raising a girl, she expresses relief that she isn’t having a boy: “The prospect of raising a boy to be confident and joyful, yet appropriately mindful of his own privilege, seemed like a particularly daunting moral challenge.” What do you make of the author’s raw reactions? Discuss the challenges related to both scenarios. How would you navigate these difficulties?
14. Of the eight entitlements Manne outlines in the book, which was the most compelling to you? The most surprising? Were there any you disagreed with? Why?
15. Despite the frustrating nature of the topics discussed in Entitled, the author ends on a brighter note. She says that while she is “still far from hopeful,” she is “not so despairing anymore.” Do you share this hope (or at least this diminishing despair)? Why or why not?