Kate Manne, “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny” (Oxford UP, 2017)


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Kate Manne is an assistant professor of philosophy at Cornell University. As a feminist and moral philosopher, Manne examines an idea that has been inadequately addressed in her book Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (Oxford University Press, 2017). She argues that misogyny is on the wane as a working concept and situates her analysis in recent news stories and events. She offers a definition that is not psychological but rather considers it a system of social control. Manne brings a fresh analysis to our understanding of “misogyny” and the related term “sexism.” Misogyny is selective because it targets those who fail to uphold the patriarchal standards of a woman’s place in a masculine world and works as the policing and enforcement branch of the ideology of sexism. Women caught in “asymmetrical moral support” roles are expected to offer respect, deference, admiration, and gratitude to favorably situated men and provide, especially elite men, with comfort, care, and sexual and emotional labor in many different situations. Misogyny shows up in conversation; office politics; and the dispensation of favors flowing from a man’s relative status, wealth, or celebrity. Rewards come to those who comply. In this scenario, women act as human givers rather than full and equal human beings. Manne’s book is one for the moment.

This episode of New Books in American Studies was produced in cooperation with the Society for U.S. Intellectual History.

Lilian Calles Barger, www.lilianbarger.com, is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her current book project is entitled The World Come of Age: An Intellectual History of Liberation Theology forthcoming in 2018 from Oxford University Press.

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