Up in arms against a per­ni­cious pa­tri­archy

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

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

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