The good news is you only have to wait until Tuesday 8/11 to read Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women from author Kate Manne. There is absolutely no better time to get the run down on male privilege, since it’s loud and proud all over social media and the news. Manne compiles a group of related charges and proves each beyond a reasonable doubt. (Not that I’m a lawyer or a doubter, mind you.)
First, she explains the basic concepts of male privilege, including mansplaining and himpathy. The people impacted by these behaviors and systemic inequities are intersectional—women of color, white, gay, straight, trans. Anyone presenting as a woman. But the men in this position of privilege are overwhelmingly white, cis gender, and straight.
Sex and the patriarchy
As you can imagine, the next two chapters cover sexual aspects of this privilege. Using the involuntarily celibate or “incel” movement as her entry point, Manne discusses cases where men harm and even kill women who didn’t pay them attention they believe they deserve. From there she moves to cases of rape and domestic sexual abuse. Here she also includes the way cases like are treated by police and courts—in a word, himpathy.
But let’s say it’s not a violent episode, what happens when women would prefer not to consent to sex, even within a committed relationship? And yet, due to a variety of factors, we do. Again, the male ego often determines women’s actions. As with all her chapters, Manne illustrates her point with cases you’ve heard of and some less well known.
Trusting women to understand their bodies
As a woman living with chronic illness and pain, this topic always hits me in the gut. Manne uses sociologist Tressie Cottom McMillan’s essay, “Dying to be Competent” here. I read it earlier this year, so was familiar with the story. And there are so many more. Women are not considered equal partners in their own medical care, especially if they are women of color or LGBTQIA+.
And, to be crystal clear, these systemic beliefs come from female health care providers as well as male ones. That’s because the entire system lacks trust in women’s own understanding of their bodies.
And from here Manne moves to the recent anti-choice, anti-abortion laws put in place by the conservative right. Again, men with power believe they should limit a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. Rather than repeating other work on the topic, Manne refers us back to entitlement and male privilege as the reason behind this trend.
What women know and what we do after work
I recently watched an ad for a window cleaning products that illustrates this point perfectly. In the ad, all the climbing on ladders and lugging heavy buckets around is done by a woman. Then she finds this much easier product, attaches it to her garden hose, and presto, her windows are clean. The only two men in the ad are the sales guy—mansplaining about how windows are tough to clean. And the man who cleans one single window and smiles like he built the whole damn house.
This is my long story to say that in this chapter Manne makes it clear that women do the bulk of the domestic duties. When they and their male partner both work outside the home, women do an even larger percentage. And men in that situation still feel entitled to “time off” to exercise, hang out with friends, or whatever. Women generally don’t have the same feelings of entitlement. But I bet if you’re female, you already know this.
Speaking of mansplaining, Manne reminds us that women are regularly questioned for knowing things. They’re doubted, talked down to, and treated with arrogance from men around them. But what I found most meaningful here was her extended and detailed explanation of gas lighting. Although I’m familiar with the term, I didn’t know everything about its origins. Now I’m clearer on it.
Power and the power to change
You knew that somewhere in this book would be the discussion of political power for women, right? Manne makes a strong case for male entitlement and how it damages women. So strong that she could almost have left the political implications out. But we can’t ignore this. As nations around the world elect women leaders, the United States still has old, white men at the top of the ticket. And our political races are more divisive than ever.
In this chapter, Manne discusses female candidates and the concept of “communality.” This term implies that women are expected to be socially sensitive and demonstrate concern for others. Yet, this isn’t the standard for male candidates. So, we expect female candidates to be both tough politicians and still demonstrate communality. We judge the way they treat staff, even though we laud men who behave badly with theirs. And so on. The electability standards for women are substantially higher because of this double bind.
But, Manne ends her book with a hopeful and poignant chapter about become the mother of a daughter. She admits that after writing two books about the patriarchy holding women down, it was hard to feel positive about her daughter’s future. But she finds that hope and shares it with her readers. It’s the perfect end to a troubling but fantastic book.
It feels like women are swimming in an ocean of male privilege without a life raft. Entitled is that life raft. It is one woman, and all the people who buy the book and read it, saying to women everywhere, “I see you” and “You matter.” As hard as it is to read nine chapters of how women are hurt, Entitled also offers hope. Shining a light on the way women live daily with small and large damages from male privilege is an important step in changing the world. We can teach our daughters and granddaughters better, and make their world a better place to be a woman. Thank you, Kate Manne.
Many thanks to NetGalley, Crown Publishing, and the author for the opportunity to read a digital ARC in exchange for this honest review.