Kate Manne is the first early-career researcher interviewed over at the APA Blog. I found it an especially fascinating interview because her views on misogyny are so interesting. I have always, in an inchoate way, felt uncomfortable with the term and generally avoided using it. I think she puts her finger on the source of discomfort by pointing out a problem with how it’s generally understood.
I was so frustrated with what commentators were saying about misogyny—that it had to be hatred directed at women as a class, harbored deep in the heart of an individual misogynist. But that makes no sense of misogyny as a political phenomenon.
My first basic thought was, what would we expect misogyny to be, understood as the most hostile and toxic manifestation of patriarchal ideology? Not a uniform hatred of women, surely. Patriarchal social structures, in conjunction with the ideology that governs them, work to make women into men’s deferential, attentive social subordinates, and to mask many of the forms of dominance and power which men have over women. Patriarchal social relations are designed to look as amicable and seamless as possible, in other words. So why would even the least enlightened of men within a patriarchal culture be hostile towards women across the board, or as a social class in its entirety? We might expect him to have a low opinion of women’s capacities in masculine-coded arenas, say (which I think of as being sexist). But having a low opinion of someone is one thing; being hostile toward them, quite another. Women will often be far too pleasant and convenient to have around to be an object of his hatred, at least when things are going smoothly.
I’m really looking forward to her book laying out an alternative theory.
There’s also a nice discussion of uncertainty about one’s own views.
So…I wonder and question myself a lot about this. Maybe it doesn’t matter though. Sometimes I find myself thinking—look, I’m probably wrong to believe p, given all the amazingly smart people who disagree with me. But, in the unlikely event I am right that p, it’s not completely absurd to think that I might be among the group of people who would have the hunch that p. So it might be better to throw caution to the wind, make the argument that p holds as best I can, and then let other people correct my probable mistakes. Being willing to stand corrected is such a big part of good intellectual character, I think. But it can be hard to cultivate that skill when you are also trying as hard as you can to be honest and self-critical in your thinking. I wonder how many other people might have some version of this “I’m probably wrong, but, just maybe…” thought when they find themselves with some weird view, especially early on in their careers.
I, personally, tend to spend a lot of time telling myself that being wrong in a clear and interesting way is actually useful, and advances the debate. Which allows me enough calm to get the work done and send the paper off. I’ve long ago given up on the goal of arriving at a settled view that I’m confident of.