Margy Adams

Contributing Writer

Last Wednesday. Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m., The College of Wooster’s philosophy department invited Professor Kate Manne of Cornell University to campus for the 13th Annual Lindner Lecture in Ethics. Lean Lecture Hall was packed with students, faculty and community members awaiting Manne’s wisdom on misogyny and the new term “himpathy” she introduced to the public in her 2017 book, “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny.”

Manne began the lecture by describing the interconnectedness between the two terms after which her talk was titled.

Contrary to popular belief, “misogyny,” she claims, is not the failure to recognize a woman’s humanity and autonomy; rather, it is the policing and enforcement of a patriarchal social order that is upheld through threatening, blaming, punishing and condemning women for violations of patriarchal norms and expectations. Misogyny is about control and keeping from disrupting patriarchal conventions.

As for “himpathy,” Manne defines it as the “exonerating narratives of which comparatively privileged men tend to be the beneficiaries.” Simply put, when it comes to misogyny, the sympathetic attention goes in the wrong direction.

Manne explained that misogynistic behaviors are not simply attitudes; himpathy is engrained in us so that we are antecedently biased toward (privileged) men. She conveyed to the audience the idea of “the golden boy,” who is all too recognizable: a white, cisgender, able-bodied, upper-middle class, heterosexual male, pointing to Brock Turner as the perfect example.

When the golden boy is opposed, Manne asserts that we are prone to show aggression towards and even punish a woman for speaking out against the injustices she has faced, as “her breaking her customary social silence is a … cause of his subsequent pain and humiliation.”

In speaking out, she is somehow taking something away from her oppressor: patriarchal vulnerability.

Manne declares that as a society, we resist treatment that would dismantle our rooting for the golden boy, as being his supporter and defender is so embedded in our conceptual understanding of the world. Thus, Manne ultimately argues that himpathy engenders and masks misogyny.

As an important aside, Manne prefaced her talk by disclosing the misfortune of the misogynistic system: it operates on a gender binary, so her terms in addressing the issues of misogyny are restrained to the rigid idea that there are  only two opposing and disconnected gender forms, the masculine and the feminine.

In the following day’s “Author Meets Critics” session of the philosophy roundtable, it was discussed and made clear from both Professor Manne and Professor Lori Watson from The University of San Diego, one of Manne’s “critics,” that talking about gender outside of the gender binarism is one way, if not the only way, to battle misogyny, as it disrupts conventionality.

Manne’s other critic, Professor Vanessa Wills of George Washington University, astutely noted an adjacent aspect of himpathy that the man has for himself. Wills argued that men feel entitled to use women as emotional labor to make full humans out of them, as men are estranged and alienated from themselves in society, unable to emote healthily and fully.

Throughout the talks on both Wednesday and Thursday, Manne remained humble and recognized the inevitable loss her readers will experience; she is a white, heterosexual, non-disabled, cisgender female, putting her in a position of privilege.

Even so, in addressing her inability to accurately speak to other forms of prejudice and all their interlocked positions, Manne articulated that the underlying structures of oppressions are not individualistic. “There are no moral idiots, only moral failures,” she said

In all, by reintroducing the audience to the conceptual, logicized nature of our flawed societal structures, Manne gave a grounded, complex and ultimately affirming lecture on misogyny.