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Down Girl
The Logic of Misogyny
Kate Manne
read on January 15, 2020

Manne is a trained philosopher and professor of philosophy, and the "logic" in this title is no joke. While I would consider this book "approachable" in terms of formal philosophic texts, it is quite dense and dry compared to something like Traister.

Manne's central thesis here is that misogyny is incorrectly often thought of as the action or quality of a specific individual who hates all (or even most) women. She argues that this is way too narrow and naive a view, and that this view in fact would be almost impossible to find real examples of. Rather, she argues that misogyny is not individual behavior, nor is it “a plight spread by a few bad apples”, but rather an emergent property of a society that was built around male dominance, and that misogyny is expressed as any action participants (male or female) take that serves to control/police those who would challenge said dominance. 

For example, if women hold subservient roles (caring wife, good waitress, etc) men will love women. We need a definition of misogyny that identifies this. In such a purely misogynistic society, where women ‘know their place’ as it were, there would be few indicators of the naive conception of misogyny. That is, men would love those women, domestic violence would be zero (either because violence itself wouldn't occur, since women are playing their role -- or because violence against women wouldn't even be thought of as violence) , and Pinker would likely write a book about how we’ve made progress!

Another example she briefly brings up, but that I hadn't thought about as clearly as she put it, is how homophobia is misogynist in that it is an attack on masculine norms vs feminine ones. By enforcing what a man is, it’s clear about what a women is allowed to be. 

On the difference between misogyny and sexism: "sexism wears a lab coat, where misogyny goes on witch hunts." Which is to say, sexism tries to point out a difference between men and women (accurate or not), but misogyny is concerned with identifying good women vs bad ones. They are obviously related, but this framing put things in a way I hadn't thought of before.

Anyway, this was a great book, but I didn't have the endurance to get through it - particularly as an audiobook. The subject matter is obviously quite heavy, but Manne's very formal approach here is hard to muster. I knew it was time to turn it off when she starting talking about "quasi contra-positive morale psychological claims".

Author Bio:

Kate Manne is an associate professor of philosophy at Cornell University, and a leading thinker in feminist philosophy.