Monday, August 17, 2020
Book Review, Kate Manne: "Entitled" Takes a Scalpel to What Men Feel they are Automatically Deserve
“This book shows that an illegitimate sense of male entitlement gives rise to a wide range of misogynistic behavior,” she writes in “Entitled.” “When a woman fails to give a man what he’s supposedly owed, she will often face punishment and reprisal.”***
The book goes on to parse the various “goods” that men, in Manne’s reckoning, have been conditioned to feel entitled to — admiration, sex and consent; a home where someone else uncomplainingly does most of the child care and housekeeping. Some of these things are “feminine-coded,” she writes; others, like power and knowledge, are typically reserved as a masculine prerogative.
Some forms of discrimination are subtle, operating below the level of our conscious thoughts, but they still exert meaningful effects, Manne says. The reflexive distaste or suspicion that greets any woman who asserts her ambition is in some ways just as indicative of how the social order gets preserved as the violence meted out by the most vicious misogynists.***
One of the qualities that makes Manne’s writing bracing and even thrilling to read is her refusal to ingratiate herself by softening the edges of her resolve. She was trained as a logician, and in “Down Girl” she systematically laid out her premises and evidence to show how misogyny operated according to its own peculiar logic.
“Entitled” doesn’t feel as surprising or as tightly coiled as that book. In “Down Girl,” she offered a brilliantly original understanding of misogyny, a term that can sound too extreme to use, by showing the routine and banal forms that its hostility often took. The concepts of entitlement and privilege aren’t nearly as rare or mysterious; swaths of this new book are clarifying but also familiar.
Still, the subject of “Entitled” is trickier in many ways than the subject of “Down Girl.” Feelings of entitlement may be essential to misogyny — but Manne argues that they’re essential to defeating misogyny, too. She ends by writing about her newborn daughter, and the things that she wants her daughter to feel she deserves, which are necessarily connected to a set of moral obligations. This more reciprocal understanding of entitlement encourages us to think hard about what we owe, not just to ourselves but to one another.