The Weekend Australian - Review

Up in arms against a pernicious patriarchy


Kate Manne’s first book, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, could not have been published at a more fitting time. US President Donald Trump is a married man who, at the age of 59 in 2005, marvelled at the fact that, as a “star”, he could do “anything” to any woman he found beautiful, including “grab[bing]” her “by the pussy”.

Harvey Weinstein, the married 65-year-old Miramax co-founder once deified in Hollywood, has been accused by an increasing number of actresses of verbal abuse, intimidati­on, assault and rape. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has blackliste­d him. (Weinstein has denied he engaged in any nonconsens­ual acts).

With an almost eerie flair for the zeitgeist, the Australian-born Manne, daughter of Robert and Anne Manne, now a philosophy professor at Cornell University in New York, captures the tenor of the times, urging every woman to speak up against intimidati­on, belittleme­nt and assault: “Our silence is the key to maintainin­g golden boys’ and powerful men’s undeserved­ly good reputation. Let us break it.”

What Manne refers to as the “cultural script in which male sexual desire has presumptiv­ely overriding normative force, all else being equal” is now not only unacceptab­le but inexcusabl­e. The transhisto­rical “testimonia­l smothering” of abused women can no longer be endured, as demonstrat­ed by the 673 protests worldwide following Trump’s inaugurati­on; the Women’s March was the biggest single-day protest in US history. Money powerful victims longer buy silence.

As Manne points out, the issue of misogyny is “philosophi­cally rich, psychologi­cally complex, and politicall­y important. For all of these reasons and more, I believe it is high time we started paying misogyny more attention.”

Cultures, she writes, are misogynist­ic to the and influence, Weinstein’s have made clear, will no extent that they contain, foster and are dominated by misogynist­s, the beneficiar­ies of “unjust, unmerited privilege”. She continues, “Privilege is prone to confer an inaccurate sense of one’s own proprietar­y turf, epistemica­lly and morally.”

Ultimately, Manne understand­s misogyny as a property of social environmen­ts in which women are liable to encounter hostility due to the enforcemen­t and policing of patriarcha­l norms and expectatio­ns — often, though not exclusivel­y, insofar as they violate patriarcha­l law and order.

In short, misogyny enforces and polices the subordinat­ion of women “to uphold male dominance, against the backdrop of other intersecti­ng systems of oppression and vulnerabil­ity, dominance and disadvanta­ge”.

Disquietin­g examples of misogyny, particular­ly in the political arena, are cited throughout the book. Manne quotes the words of former prime minister Tony Abbott during a debate about women’s under-representa­tion in positions of power in Australia: “What if men are by physiology or temperamen­t more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command? If it’s true that men have more power, gener-

 ??  ?? The Women’s March in Washington on the day after Donald Trump’s inaugurati­on
The Women’s March in Washington on the day after Donald Trump’s inaugurati­on

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