Ugh, the stifling air we’ve been breathing for thousands of years. The noxious fumes of patriarchy, which to this day upholds male privilege and deeply embedded entitlement for some.
I strongly recommend this read: a comprehensive examination of the current manifestation of patriarchy and its offspring, misogyny and sexism. Through definitions, backstories, and very recent examples, we better understand what we’re up against, why we’re up against it, and can perhaps crack the window a bit more, let in some fresh air of a fair system that values, respects, and treats every single person well.
Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women author Kate Manne, professor of philosophy at Cornell University, underscores
“the obligation all of us share, regardless of our gender, to make this world one in which structural injustices are actively being rectified”(191).
Manne does an effective job defining and differentiating between known terms such as misogyny and sexism, and introduces newer ones, such as himpathy, which she coined in her earlier book Down Girl.
Manne’s expanded definition in Entitled reads:
“Himpathy imaginatively transforms presumptively brutal murders into understandable acts of passion or, alternatively, warranted desperation. And it imaginatively turns other crimes, such as rape, into mere misunderstandings and alcohol-fueled mishaps”(41).
Everything Manne discusses in this book she backs up with solid research and legitimate examples. The comprehensiveness of her work is impressive and empowering from the standpoint of, again, knowing what we are up against, we being those who consistently work in a number of ways to chip away at the injustices in our system.
The other night my husband and I had our grown son to dinner. After he departed, my husband went into the living room and took a comfy seat, phone in hand. I had just read chapter 7 in Entitled, “Insupportable – On the Entitlement to Domestic Labor.” This behavior wasn’t going to fly. I was going to crack the window, now.
I approached him and asked him to clean up with me. He was dismayed and reluctant but came back into the kitchen. I then told him what he could do to help. He did it and no more. He exited and I finished cleaning up. I had planned the meal, prepared the meal, except for chopping the garlic which I had asked him to do, and now I was doing the bulk of the clean up too. This is the way it is and has been for 25 years of marriage.
And even now, writing this, I’m feeling a twang of himpathy for calling him out. He’s such a good guy (he really is) and he too has been raised in this world of male entitlement (he really has). He doesn’t know any different, any better. Except he does. He knows all of this. He recognizes it and sees how it’s not fair.
But still, he isn’t harmed by it. I am. Women are, and in more ways than are readily apparent. Manne is thorough and outlines all the ways in which domestic labor heaped on women is harmful and unfair, from the emotional to the financial.
But this is not the chapter I’m going to focus on.
Due to the shocking momentum in the anti-abortion movement over the past couple of years, I decided to highlight some of Chapter 6 in Entitled: “Unruly – On the Entitlement to Bodily Control.”
“On May 14, 2019, twenty-five white Republicans – all men – voted to pass the most restrictive abortion bill the United States had seen in decades, in the state of Alabama. The bill was signed into law the following day by a white woman, Kay Ivey, Alabama’s Republican governor”(97).
A lot has and is happening on this front since spring of 2019. According to the Guttmacher Institute:
“So far this year , 2,025 total provisions related to sexual and reproductive health and rights have been introduced across 46 states and the District of Columbia. This includes both restrictions and proactive measures.
Abortion restrictions introduced: 541 restrictions in 42 states
Abortion restrictions passed at least one chamber: 38 in 11 sates
Abortion restrictions enacted: 42 in 11 states – Arizona (2), Florida (1), Idaho (1), Indiana (2), Kansas (1), Kentucky (19), Oklahoma (4), South Dakota (7), Tennessee (3), West Virginia (1) and Wyoming (1)”( https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2022/03/2022-state-legislative-sessions-abortion-bans-and-restrictions-medication-abortion?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI7MmCvrul-AIViZWzCh2nqg6lEAAYAiAAEgJ2dPD_BwE)
Read more about Manne here.
Manne reiterates some of the arguments in support of reproductive rights we see regularly, such as if you don’t agree on abortion, don’t have one:
“So, by all means, don’t have an abortion, if you’re personally opposed to them. But the state policing of pregnant bodies is a form of misogynistic control, one whose effects will be most deeply felt by the most vulnerable girls and women. And this, in my book, is simply indefensible”(100).
And the fact that most people in favor of banning abortion as a pro-life measure do not support life in other critical ways:
“The vast majority of those who support such anti-abortion legislation have done nothing to address the shockingly high maternal mortality rates in the United States (particularly for Black, Native American, and Alaska Native women); they show little to no interest in securing additional child support for children born into poverty; they appear unconcerned that poor-quality food and water (including, notoriously in Flint, Michigan) cause many Americans serious health problems; they actively work against the expansion of affordable healthcare; and they tend to be supremely indifferent to the police violence and state-sanctioned executions to which the Black Lives Matter movement has drawn urgent attention”(106).
But other points Manne makes we don’t hear often enough, and when we do, they are readily dismissed as ridiculous and certainly not taken seriously.
“As Michelle Oberman and W. David Ball have recently pointed out, men have been almost entirely exempt from the wrath of anti-abortion activists, despite the fact that nine out of ten unwanted pregnancies happen within heterosexual relationships, and most patients who have abortions say that their partners agreed with their decision. Yet attempts to criminalize men’s participation in such choices – still less than their ill-considered ejaculations – are thin on the ground. As Oberman and Ball put it:
‘The novelty of prosecuting men for abortion – despite the sound legal footing of such charges – tells us something important about the way we have, until now, framed the debate. Boys will be boys, but women who get pregnant have behaved irresponsibly. We are so comfortable with regulating women’s sexual behavior, but we’re shocked by the idea of doing it to men. Though it might seem strange to talk about men and abortion, it’s stranger not to, since women don’t have unwanted pregnancies without them’”(109).
The mention of holding men accountable for their role in abortions, therefore policing their sexual behavior, is usually met with snickering and swift dismissal, but as the lawyers above say, it is “sound legal footing.”
And this statement Manne makes, because we know it is true, makes my blood boil:
“For many powerful Republican men, the most important exception to an abortion ban would be for a so-called mistress who got pregnant with a child who was, for him, unwanted”(110).
Manne also provides an interesting backstory about how the issue of abortion was included in the 1968 presidential campaign (prior to Roe v. Wade’s passing in 1973) as part of a deliberate strategy to get more people, especially conservative ‘Middle America,’ to vote Republican. The strategists framed abortion as one of the threats to, as Manne quotes: ‘traditional forms of authority…a breakdown of traditional roles that required…women to save themselves for marriage and devote themselves to motherhood'(109).
This illuminative backstory is thoroughly researched and addressed in the 2012 book Before Roe V. Wade: Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling by legal scholars Linda Greenhouse and Reva B. Siegel. It’s on my reading list.
Manne wraps the chapter by emphasizing how hypocritical those men in support of anti-abortion legislation are:
“There is a prevalent sense of entitlement on the part of privileged men to regulate, control, and rule over the bodies of girls and women – cisgender and trans alike. And as the direct result of this, those subject to such misogyny policing are often impugned as moral monsters, even though they’re the ones being made to suffer horribly”(119).
This read hurts. Learning more about the inner-workings of the ‘incels’ (involuntary celibates) made me feel sick, but understanding where they’re coming from is important. Learning more about the dismissive and sometimes deadly ways Black women are often treated in the health care system breaks my heart, but knowing the prevalence of it and why it continues is critical. Manne covers the multitude of ways that male privilege continues to harm women; again, the book’s comprehensiveness is refreshingly enlightening.
Reading Entitled has provided me with a much better understanding of what women and all feminists are dealing with. Although it feels overwhelming, I agree with Manne:
“Instead, we can – and I increasingly believe, must – take our cues from the daily acts of courage, creativity, and political resistance being undertaken, individually and collectively, in response to such injustices. I do not know, by any means, that this will be enough to bring about the right outcomes. But this I know: it is important and worthwhile to fight”(13).
Kate Manne is a courageous and much-needed Nasty Women Writer.
© Maria Dintino 2022
Manne, Kate. Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women. New York: Crown Trade Paperback Edition, 2021.