Book Reviews

Kate Manne, Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women, Crown 2020

Entitled is in several ways a sequel to Kate Manne’s Down Girl (2018) and provides us with applications and illustrations of the conceptual tools that were introduced in the earlier work. We are provided with a range of concrete instances in which misogyny is an important factor, and in which men’s privilege is prioritized over women’s well-being. The book, as the name suggests, is structured around things that we might or might not consider to be entitlements. Some are presented as things to which women ought to be entitled but are frequently denied as a result of patriarchal oppression (such as adequate medical care); others are presented as things to which men should not be entitled but are often granted (such as domestic labor)—again, as a result of patriarchal oppression.

The first chapter of the book sets the stage and presents us with a paradigm case of an entitled man: Brett Kavanaugh, then potential appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kavanaugh had been credibly accused by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford of a sexual assault that took place thirty-six years prior. Kavanaugh’s case illustrates many of Manne’s key concepts. He was the recipient of what Manne calls “himpathy,” a phenomenon in which privileged men who victimize women often receive more public sympathy or concern than the women they harm (5). He is also an extremely privileged wealthy white man who was often presented as entitled to a Supreme Court position. Many of the entitlements, or lack thereof, around which Manne structures the book are feminine- or masculine-coded goods. Masculine-coded goods, such as the ones to which Kavanaugh was seen as entitled, include things like power and authority, whereas feminine-coded goods include things such as domestic labour and affection (11).

There is some tension, however, between Manne’s presentation— positioning women as being denied things to which they ought to be entitled, and men as being granted things to which they are not entitled—and her explicit inclusion of the gendered oppression that non-binary people also face. In the analysis, non-binary people are often grouped in with girls and women (10, 85), though it’s unclear why this should be the case, given the huge range of gender expressions and identities. Certainly, non-binary people face gendered oppression, but much of it is likely quite different in character than the kinds of gendered oppression that women face. In general, this is reflective of a problem with Manne’s broader attempts to be more intersectional in this work. To be clear, Manne explicitly centres work by women from various marginalized groups—notably Black women like Tressie McMillan Cottom, and trans women like Talia Mae Bettcher. But although she acknowledges that phenomena like transmisogyny and misogynoir are ways in which oppressions are compounded, the book often reads as though it is treating them additively, rather than in a way that is truly intersectional. After all, it is not obvious that trans women’s oppression is connected to people’s demanding feminine-coded goods like love and affection from them, since they are often seen as deceptive or even predatory when providing such affection (Bettcher 2007).

Chapters Two through Four all deal with men’s entitlement to love and sex from women. These extend Manne’s work from Down Girl, and treat some of the same phenomena, like misogynist violence from incels like the Isla Vista killer, Elliot Rodger. Many such people feel themselves to be deprived of something to which they are entitled, and correspondingly see themselves as victimized—and their expressions of victimhood frequently elicit himpathy. Much of this will be familiar from Manne’s earlier work, as well as other feminist activism opposing gendered violence. One helpful addition here is the acknowledgement in Chapter Four that many women have internalized ways in which they “ought” to respond to men’s advances; Manne frames this in terms of women having internalized men’s sexual entitlement (68), though I wonder whether framing this in terms of social scripts might provide a better explanation that captures a wider range of experiences. The idea that men are entitled to feminine-coded goods seems like a likely source of many of these social scripts; but even in Manne’s described scenarios, the idea that the women were prompted to (in)action because they were automatically accommodating men’s entitlement seems like one plausible explanation among others.

Chapters Five and Six switch the framing—whereas previous chapters had addressed men’s entitlements that many women are implicitly treated as responsible for fulfilling, these chapters consider things to which women ought to be entitled but are frequently denied. Chapter Five draws from authors who write explicitly about ways in which women who are marginalized on the basis of racialization or disability are distinctively failed by healthcare systems. Many such cases involve dismissals of women’s testimony about their own physical pain. Manne rejects a testimonial injustice-style explanation for this, arguing that there is more going on than stereotypes about women’s untrustworthiness or incompetence (89- 90). I agree that these systemic failures are not best understood as cases of testimonial injustice. But it is also the case that an analysis on the basis of denied entitlement, through a gendered lens, can also only be partial. The reason why is precisely because of the intersectional analysis in which Manne sometimes hopes to engage by centring the voices of Black women like Cottom and Jazmine Joyner. After all, as Manne acknowledges, the reason why it is important to understand the distinctiveness of misogynoir (87) is because it is not simply racism and misogyny added together. Rather, it is impossible to pull apart the contributions of anti-Blackness and misogyny when we consider how differently Black women are treated than both Black men and non-Black women (Bailey 2016). A similar problem arises in Chapter Six, in which Manne analyzes transmisogyny as described in Bettcher’s work. Manne identifies many important ways in which trans women face discrimination and violence; but social control over trans women’s bodies often takes very different forms than social control over cis women’s bodies, such as attempts to bar trans women from sharing space with cis women. Moreover, in discussing measures of social control over women’s reproductive capacities, the flip side of anti-abortion measures, when we factor in race and disability, are forced sterilizations (Stote 2015; Hall 2017, 103–5).

So, while in general I agree with Manne that misogyny certainly contributes to various measures of social control and medical discrimination, I think there is a potential issue with grouping together these sometimes very different phenomena under the same heading. Given that the book is intended to be a consideration of how men’s privilege is damaging to women, it risks treating anti-Blackness, transphobia, ableism, and other kinds of oppressions as simply factors that make misogyny worse, instead of understanding them as interactive. For instance, transphobic discrimination is able to disguise itself as feminist in ways that other kinds of misogyny cannot (Lewis 2019). And stories like Cottom and Joyner’s are not just stories of misogyny exacerbated by racism. They are stories of how people who share in more than one marginalized identity face discrimination that is not reducible to any single factor. While Manne is not claiming that misogyny is the only factor at play, telling these stories as clear instances of misogyny allows us to downplay the extent to which (for instance) white cis non-disabled women participate in white supremacy, ableism, and transphobia. For example, Joyce Eshaquan, an Indigenous woman who died after being admitted to a hospital in Joliette, Quebec, documented her racist treatment by (it seems) female hospital staff (Shingler 2020). She died because she was an Indigenous woman in a society shaped by colonialism, racism, and misogyny, and these are inextricable when we consider the circumstances of her mistreatment and death (“Reclaiming Power and Place” 2019). Manne’s book acknowledges that women who are not white or cis face misogyny that is distinctively shaped by their Black or trans identities. But an analysis that has men’s entitlement at its core hampers the extent to which we can recognize the ways in which white supremacy and transphobia (things that also oppress many men) contribute to the situations described.

Chapter Seven is a much clearer case of the kind of phenomenon Manne wants to explain, in which inequality with respect to domestic labour remains an ongoing problem; and Chapter Eight seems to be a specific instance of a more general phenomenon of epistemic domination. To that end, Manne introduces the helpful concept of “epistemic entitlement” in which a person with more social privilege assumes a greater authority to speak and shape the common narrative (140). But the flip side of this is the extent to which many people, often women, from other marginalized groups, are expected to produce their own “authentic” group knowledge upon request (Narayan 1997, chap. 4; Tuck and Yang 2014). The final substantive chapter revisits several elements of Down Girl, in which Manne outlines ways in which women who aspire to or hold positions of power are held to unreasonable standards, and are invalidated and criticized in ways that their male counterparts are not.

Entitled ends on a hopeful note, however, in which Manne considers the entitlements that she wishes for her own daughter, and the ways in which she hopes her daughter will be able to resist the misogynist entitlements of others. My final concern with this overall project, though, is the direction in which it might point us in seeking a more just world, in which we abolish the policing of misogyny. My worry, as someone who takes an anti-carceral stance to justice, is that a focus on excessive sympathy for undeserving men can easily end up scapegoating and imprisoning the kinds of men who are already overrepresented in our prison systems. Nominal protection for (white) women has long been used to prop up state-sanctioned racist and colonial violence (Alcoff 2018, 229–30). Manne explicitly disavows a carceral stance (49), and even goes so far as to express some sympathies with prison abolition (214n), but these commitments do not line up neatly with the tools that this book provides. What this book gives us is important, but as with any single person’s contribution, it is limited.

Entitled does a very good job at showcasing the ways in which relatively privileged men typically have their needs and wants met by society; and, when those are not met, they frequently receive more sympathy than others with less social privilege would in their situation. What we are left with is a situation in which it is clear that some people are receiving more care—himpathy, after all, is an excess of sympathy. And if this is an excess, then the obvious solution is that we would be better off according less sympathy to the Brett Kavanaughs of this world. In these obvious cases, this solution seems fair. But many situations are much less obvious, and many men who are most in danger of incarceration are not, by and large, having their needs met by society in the first place. Those men are not Manne’s intended targets, but by looking at discrimination primarily through a gendered lens, and by considering men’s gendered entitlements writ large, I think that the men for whom sympathy most risks being withdrawn are the ones for whom there was no excess in the first place. To be clear, I do not consider this a conceptual problem with Manne’s account, but a tactical one. I don’t think that Manne’s analysis is trying to tell us, or even directly implies that what we ought to do, is put more Black, Indigenous, disabled, or otherwise marginalized men in prisons. But if resisting men’s entitlement is a central component of reducing the harms of misogyny, then much more nuance around issues like race, class, and disability would be required to prevent this from becoming a further excuse to incarcerate more marginalized men.

Audrey Yap
University of Victoria

Victoria, B.C.

References

Alcoff, Linda Martín. 2018. Rape and Resistance. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Bailey, Moya. 2016. “Misogynoir in Medical Media: On Caster Semenya and R. Kelly.” Catalyst : Feminism, Theory, Technoscience 2 (2). http://dx.doi.org. ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/10.28968/cftt.v2i2.28800.

Bettcher, Talia Mae. 2007. “Evil Deceivers and Make-Believers: On Transphobic Violence and the Politics of Illusion.” Hypatia 22 (3): 43–65.

Hall, Melinda C. 2017. The Bioethics of Enhancement: Transhumanism, Disability, and Biopolitics. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Lewis, Sophie. 2019. “How British Feminism Became Anti-Trans.” The New York Times, February 7, 2019, sec. Opinion. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/07/ opinion/terf-trans-women-britain.html.

Narayan, Uma. 1997. Dislocating Cultures: Identities, Traditions, and Third World Feminism. New York: Routledge.

“Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.” 2019. https://www. mmiwg-ffada.ca/final-report/.

Shingler, Benjamin. 2020. “Investigations Launched after Atikamekw Woman Records Quebec Hospital Staff Uttering Slurs before Her Death.” CBC News. September 29, 2020. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebecatikamekw-joliette-1.5743449.

Stote, Karen. 2015. An Act of Genocide: Colonialism and the Sterilization of Aboriginal Women. Fernwood Publishing.

Tuck, Eve, and K. Wayne Yang. 2014. “Unbecoming Claims: Pedagogies of Refusal in Qualitative Research.” Qualitative Inquiry 20 (6): 811–818.

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