Givers and takers

A Reading Note

In her analysis of misogyny, Kate Manne explores the ways in which women are defined as givers while men are expected to be takers. In particular, there are feminine-coded goods and services which are hers to give, including

attention, affection, admiration, sympathy, sex, and children (i.e., social, domestic, reproductive, and emotional labor); also mixed goods such as safe haven, nurture, security, soothing, and comfort.

Manne, Down Girl, page 130

Versus “masculine-coded perks and privileges” which are his for the taking:

power, prestige, public recognition, rank, reputation, honor, “face,” respect, money and other forms of wealth, hierarchical status, upward mobility, and the status conferred by having a high-ranking woman’s loyalty, love, devotion, etc.

Manne, Down Girl, page 130

This gives rise to certain norms and expectations governing the dealing of these goods. First—

She is obligated to give feminine-coded services to someone or other, preferably one man who is her social equal or better (by the lights of racist, classist, as well as heteronormative values, in many contexts), at least so far as he wants such goods and services from her.

Manne, Down Girl, page 130

And then:

She is prohibited from having or taking masculine-coded goods away from dominant men (at a minimum, and perhaps from others as well), insofar as he wants or aspires to receive or retain them.

Manne, Down Girl, page 130

This illuminates so many experiences (both personal and observed) that I’m gobsmacked I haven’t seen it elicidated in this way before. I am reminded of Kathy Sierra’s Kool-Aid point—the point at which a woman is seen to be respected and followed—as the moment when she comes to experience the most violent and dangerous attacks. In Manne’s formulation, that’s the point when the woman has publicly violated the prohibition against taking power and prestige; the misogyny that arises in response serves to punish and demean her, to return her to her subordinate role. But there are so many other more mundane examples: of women told to be more nurturing, of men taking offense when women speak with a minimum of authority. Manne’s analysis helps to understand the logic of those reactions—but it doesn’t make them any less infuriating.

Related books

Down Girl

Kate Manne

Kate Manne’s core premise is this: sexism is a set of beliefs that positions women as inferior to men, while misogyny is the system that enforces and polices women’s subordination.