Philosopher Kate Manne made her name in 2017 with Down Girl, which traced a distinction between sexism and misogyny. Sexism, she argues, is a set of beliefs about gender roles, while misogyny is the “law enforcement” arm that punishes women for deviating from their assigned role.
In this more accessible follow-up, Manne explores how male entitlement in relation to certain “male- and female-coded goods” underpins everything from unfair housework sharing (male entitlement to women’s domestic labour), to rape (male entitlement to sex) and leadership (male entitlement to power).
Denial of such entitlements sparks a backlash: “When a woman fails to give a man what he’s supposedly owed, she will often face punishment and reprisal,” she writes. By contrast, women are expected to give rather than receive, and often have difficulty claiming even female-coded goods.
While some of the analysis is razor-sharp—dissecting US Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate hearing and the viral short story “Cat Person”—elsewhere the insights feel less fresh and the argument stretched.
In the chapter on self-styled “incels”—involuntary celibates—more time could have been dedicated to exploring how their extreme behaviour exists on a spectrum. On other topics it isn’t always clear what the entitlement lens offers, for example, the challenges facing female political candidates or transphobia, unconvincingly rendered here as “entitlement to bodily control.”
Having written the book while pregnant with a girl, Manne expounds on what she hopes to teach her daughter about what she is—and isn’t—entitled to. Her daughter may not always be able to claim her legitimate entitlements—“that’s part of what misogyny polices”—but understanding what they are is a start.
Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women by Kate Manne (Allen Lane, £20)