Down Girl sets out to explore misogyny and feminism in a unique light and find a new approach addressing intersectionality and feminism. The introduction focuses on the terms “rape” and “strangulation”, and how those words have a misogynistic effect in the political sphere. Then the first chapter hones in on the definition of misogyny itself to prove how deeply ingrained it is in our society.
What strikes me the most about this book is how Manne skillfully weaves relevant political cases into her argument. She does not restrict her argument to just be conceptual or just a social commentary. Instead, she embraces both, which strengthens her argument, and makes it easier for the audience to conceptualize and understand how Manne’s ideas are applied in real life settings. Additionally, many of these political situations are familiar to readers. For example, in the introduction to Manne uses several examples from our current presidential administration, including Donald Trump himself. She brings up how 50% of white women voted for Trump when he clearly represented many misogynist perspectives.
Manne defines misogyny as “the system that operates within a patriarchal social order to police and enforce women’s subordination and to uphold male dominance” (p. 33). She noted how misogyny does not target all women but instead selects a unique few to punish. Misogyny serves to punish women that do not fit into the patriarchal norms. This is a criticism of misogyny and sexism as the refusal to see women as human. Manne instead challenges what society is content with accepting to draw attention to a real problem, structures of power and inequality that perpetuate misogyny.
In the first chapter of Down Girl, she discusses the case of Elliot Rodger, a mass murderer that targeted a sorority house, Alpha Phi at the University of California Santa Barbara. Subsequently, people subscribed that Rodger struggled with mental illness and argued whether or not he was truly misogynistic. They list the reasons that his actions and motives were not misogynistic: he was too obsessed with women and overly valued them causing him to act out, he was too obsessed with the men who could get the women that he desired that he acted out to punish women, he was obsessed with only “hot” women so there is no way he was misogynistic because he didn’t act out again ALL women, or maybe he didn’t even hate women on a fundamental level, and instead acted out to psychological distress. All of these reasons pivot the focus away from how violence is enacted against women in a structural manner, and Manne picks apart every little aspect of the case of Elliot Rodgers in order to prove her definition of misogyny.