A review by a psychotherapist of “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny” by the philosopher Kate Manne. Excerpts below slightly re-arranged for fluency:
There is nothing deep inside us, Richard Rorty once remarked, that we haven’t put there ourselves. So even though, at least for some people, psychoanalysis, and psychology more generally, have interesting things to say about misogyny, they also run the risk of naturalising it (misogyny is deep inside us because our mothers are)
Misogynists, of course, are radical essentialists when it comes to women. They know exactly what they are like, and we should not, Manne intimates, be fighting one essentialism with another.
Once misogyny is essentialised – once it is treated as in some way integral to our nature, or just a part of how we live – it all too easily becomes one of Manne’s exonerating narratives. If there is little justice for women, what is there? If there is no cure for misogyny, what is there? The question then is how to co-exist with it.
Her book is clarifying about misogyny, but it is equally interesting for what it has to say about the issue that has dogged the social sciences virtually since their inception: the relationship of the individual to the systems and structures that seemingly comprise him or her.
Late post because I lost an early draft from two weeks ago. I also initially had a bullet-point on David Wallace-Wells’ climate change book here but it morphed into its own post. Read More
When I first watched “Roma”, I wrote here: “reading the responses… revealed a homogeneity in the backgrounds of the cultural intelligentsia. In the face of an obviously intimate film in a very specific setting and depicting a complex familial dynamic, they seem to use technical observations as a crutch for their unfamiliarity—I don’t think that’s good enough.” I then linked to this collection of Latino critical responses.
But this review stands apart and is a prime example of why diversity matters. It’s not enough to make note of the hierarchy or power dynamics of the society depicted. A movie this compassionate calls for more: “Cuarón is not interested in portraying Cleo anthropologically: he wants to show us what she was to him, and to tell the story of Mexico City and what happened to Cleo the year that his own family shattered.” With the attention bestowed upon it by a Best Picture nomination, this film is too rare, important, and (above all) good to not be talked about with the specificity and insight Guillermoprieto provides.
I once interviewed a couple of dozen domestic servants about their work. It was hard to get young empleadas to talk to me, particularly if they were from the countryside… But the older women had plenty to say. A surprising number stated that they were happy with their families… But what I heard most frequently was the rage they felt at previous employers who had fired them with no warning or thought for their feelings. What about the children? they would ask. They fire us, we have to abandon them, and then you have to learn to love a new set of children, and you’re always afraid you’re going to be fired all over again and lose them. One woman cried as she explained this. “They never think about the fact that we love the children,” she said.
…That the women I interviewed could love the children they cared for—and love them, in fact, to the point of heartbreak—was to me nothing short of miraculous."
…So much happens in “Roma”. It is so bursting with life, Mexican life!… When I saw the movie in New York, the entire audience sat in silence as the credits rolled over a long, meditative shot of the staircase and the sky, until the screen blacked out over the title, and they sighed, and moved on.