Philosopher of Mansplaining and Gaslighting


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Philosopher of Mansplaining and Gaslighting

Philosopher of Mansplaining and Gaslighting

Philosopher of Mansplaining and Gaslighting

Kate manne

Dr. Kate A. Manne, is an associate professor of philosophy at Cornell University who researches misogyny and gender bias. Her latest book is Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women. (Not a spoiler: It hurts people too. It hurts everyone.)

Manne reports on the problem of “second shift” in heterosexual relationships, the differences between how we view women in power and how we view men in power, racism in medical care, and the urge to appease men. “We are trained that it is our job, our responsibility, even our moral duty to take care of men’s feelings, not to hurt or humiliate them,” Manne says. “Keep the peace, and then make peace if there is a conflict.”

Questions and answers with Dr. Kate Manne

P
In your research, how do you see male rights manifesting?
A

Men are believed to have a right to things like sex, the most obvious but even more insidious things like love, care, power and the demand for knowledge. And women and girls are punished if they do not give men what privileged men are considered entitled to.


P
In the case of sexual assault, how does male law affect how the victim and the perpetrator are viewed?
A

It is important to say that male right is not just a feeling. It is a set of social structures. Men are not only entitled to unwanted sex with women; they are actually considered to have a right to it in society. One example of this in my book is the example of Rae Florek and Randy Vannet in Minnesota, where he was her boyfriend who reappeared and again raped her by having sex with her while she was unconscious. She found out about it because he bragged about it to her. She felt very hurt and took the matter to the police.

Not only did the police not take it seriously, but the prosecutor did not even file an indictment after Vannet admitted this crime. Vannet was willing to admit that he raped her by having sex with her while she was unconscious. But since he was someone who had a previous relationship with her, it was considered that he had the right to have her. The matter has never gone further in the criminal justice system, and that is an incredibly common outcome.


P
In Right, you write about unverified rape sets and inappropriately resolved cases that also arise from this right.
A

Yes, this is a big problem that has arisen thanks to great investigative journalism. In many jurisdictions, police have been shown to shed light on rape cases with so-called exceptional approval. The classification is intended for cases in which for some reason they cannot arrest the perpetrator, such as he has passed away or is already imprisoned. But in these cases we see that the police solve cases without good reason even when the perpetrator is known to the police and if they have a probable reason for arrest. They successfully shrug their shoulders about rape cases in many U.S. jurisdictions.

There is also a perhaps more well-known problem of unverified rape kits, where victims, mostly girls and women, as well as some non-binary people, do not check their kits for years and years, despite the fact that the kits are evidence that could be used to search for in some cases prosecutes serial rapists.

It is clear that these cases are not taken seriously in the system that currently exists. Women of color and trans women have been shown to be particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and a lack of interest from the police and prosecutors in many cases.


P
What do you mean when you talk about the male right to physical control of women?
A

I have in mind the way in which the reproductive autonomy of women cis is attacked and limited, especially given the current attacks on reproductive rights. I’m thinking about the anti-abortion movement. I also think about the ways in which trans women have a controlled body, such as restricting access to restrooms, and the moral panic about what it means for trans women to be in women’s spaces or play women’s sports, all of which are unwarranted by empirical evidence.


P
What do you think Todd Akin meant when he said, “A woman’s body has a way of trying to close the whole thing”?
A

I think he was one person in a long line of politicians who agreed to false beliefs and open myths about the female reproductive system. He commented on what he called “legitimate rape,” holding that pregnancy would not result in rape because a woman’s body would in some way sense that it was an act of rape so she would not get pregnant, which is not only false, of course, but ridiculous. He was therefore trying to prove that there is no real need to exempt rape from the anti-abortion law because women simply will not get pregnant. Just some kind of magical thinking about the uterus.


P
Do most men still feel entitled to women doing more housework and raising children?
A

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. We saw this during the pandemic, but it should come as no surprise because for twenty years what sociologist Arlie Hochschild calls the “second shift” problem has not improved. The problem with the second shift is that women in a heterosexual relationship effectively work the second shift after a paid job, where they come home and work more in parenting and domestic work than their male partners.

We still have a problem that hasn’t moved, women doing twice as much domestic and educational work as their male partners when they’re in a heterosexual relationship with children.

The only context in which, on average, male-female couples will approach equality in terms of domestic work and child-rearing work is when she is working full time and he is unemployed. But he will still do something less than her, even in those contexts. And some research is even more pessimistic than that, and they think that if there is a danger that he will feel exhausted because he has a much more successful career than him, it will actually end up taking more effort at home with his sense of inadequacy.


P
How does this lead to lighting?
A

That sense of right to be satisfied, to be served, is a big part of the care that privileged men are entitled to and that women are falsely considered obligated to provide. We are trained that it is our job, our responsibility, even our moral duty to satisfy men’s feelings, not to hurt or humiliate them. Preserve peace and then make peace if conflict arises.

This makes women common targets for gaslighting where gaslighting can be understood as an attempt to remove the possibility of conflict by dominating someone so that they feel in danger of being portrayed as crazy or a bitch if they challenge a particular story. The feeling that women must be peacemakers has a big impact on everyone. [Editor’s note: Manne explains the origin of the term “gaslighting” in Entitled.]


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P
Why do men stand up for men and what are the consequences of women’s right to knowledge for women?
A

I think often menplaling stems from a person’s feeling that he has the right to be positioned as an authority and a person giving information, instead of being in a more vulnerable position to be a student or a listener. This has a huge impact on women, and not just in the sense that it is very irritating because it has to be explained to you when you are an expert on a topic. It can also undermine a woman’s self-confidence and sense of self, her sense of her right to be treated as an expert or authority.


P
Can you talk about the differences between how we look at women in power and men in power and how it maintains the status quo?
A

In that part of my paper, I rely on some interesting studies by Madeline Heilman of NYU and her associates who showed that if you give people identical files that you tag either James or Andrea, alternating them for every other participant, 86 percent of people will rate James more competent than Andrea.

The researchers then found that if you tell participants that both Andrea and James are highly skilled leaders in their field, 83 percent of people rate James more likeable than Andrea. This suggests that men find reasons why they prefer a man over a woman. In this case, it was a leading position in the male-coded domain in the aeronautics industry.

People will find reasons to prefer a man even though there are no good reasons. People received, on average, identical data on these two employees. I think that translates to a plausible story of female power. Women seeking power in positions coded by men are often considered incompetent, or if their competence is clear, they are considered incompetent. Or, as we have recently seen, we find other reasons to reject them, such as the fact that they cannot be chosen, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is something that is attributed to a woman as if it is her essential trait, not the fact that people have sexist and misogynistic prejudices towards her as a woman.


P
What are the consequences of a man’s right to medical care?
A

We see incredibly harmful ways in which women, especially colored women, are rejected and treated as hysterical or abusive instead of as people who are ill or have real complaints that need to be taken seriously. And that has devastating consequences. The maternal mortality rate for black women in the U.S. is three to four times higher than the rate for white women. The most sensitive and discriminated women face a tremendous bias to have their pain and suffering perceived as serious, genuine, and something that deserves empathy and care, not something that is a reason for dismissal.


P
When is the acquisition of rights useful or appropriate?
A

“Right” is not a dirty word. But some people also consider themselves too right to certain goods, and here I am primarily thinking of whites. Other people who are entitled to certain goods, such as medical care, are denied what they are really entitled to. For example, black women are often denied debt in terms of the appropriate empathy and care we just talked about. Part of the book’s goal is to expose this asymmetric gender and racial system of unequal rights in the hope that girls and women, especially girls and women of color, will be more supported by general social structures in claiming what they are actually entitled to and often reject in ways which are deeply unjust.


Kate A. Manne is an Associate Professor at the Sage School of Philosophy at Cornell University. She holds a PhD in Philosophy from MIT and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. Manne’s research focuses on moral philosophy, feminist philosophy, and social philosophy. She is the author of the book Down Girl: The logic of misogyny i Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women. Manne has given numerous articles and essays on misogyny and gender bias to a wide audience.


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