Perpetuating the patriarchy: misogyny and (post-)feminist backlash
How are patriarchal regimes perpetuated and reproduced? Kate Manne’s recent work on misogyny aims to provide an answer to this central question. According to her, misogyny is a property of social environments where women perceived as violating patriarchal norms are ‘kept down’ through hostile reactions coming from men, other women and social structures. In this paper, I argue that Manne’s approach is problematically incomplete. I do so by examining a recent puzzling social phenomenon which I call (post-)feminist backlash: the rise of women-led movements reinstating patriarchal practices in the name of feminism. I focus on the example of ‘raunch feminist’ CAKE parties and argue that their pro-patriarchal dimension cannot be adequately explained by misogyny. I propose instead a different story that emphasizes the continued centrality of gender distinctions in our social normative life, even as gendered social meanings become increasingly contested. This triggers meaning vertigo, a distinct form of social anxiety and the reactionary impulse at the heart of (post)-feminist backlash. Meaning vertigo both complicates the answer to Manne’s main question—“why is misogyny still a thing?”—and suggests the need and opportunity for a different kind of feminist political intervention.
KeywordsFeminism Misogyny Gender Kate Manne Raunch Backlash Patriarchy
A special thanks to Ishani Maitra, Sydney Keough and Johann Hariman for extensive comments and discussion on the early drafts of this paper. Thank you to Mercy Corredor, Eduardo Martinez and Eli Lichtenstein for helpful feedback and suggestions. Finally, thanks to an anonymous referee and to the audiences at Michigan, Claremont McKenna, Syracuse, Temple, at the 2017 Critical Social Ontology Workshop and the Feminist Utopias Conference at the University of Iceland.
- Alcoff, L. M. (2005). Visible identities: Race, gender and the self. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Anderson, K. J. (2015). Modern misogyny. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Baumgardner, J. (2011). F ‘em!: Goo goo, gaga, and some thoughts on balls. Berkeley: Seal Press.Google Scholar
- Bright, S. (1995). Sexwise. Pittsburgh: Cleis Press.Google Scholar
- Butler, J. (1987). Variations on sex and gender: Beauvoir, Wittig and Foucault. In S. Benhabib & D. Cornell (Eds.), Feminism as critique (pp. 128–142). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
- CAKE. (2018). http://www.cakenyc.com/. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Califia, P. (2000). Public sex: The culture of radical sex. San Francisco: Cleis Press.Google Scholar
- Cornell, D. (2000). Pornography’s temptation. In D. Cornell (Ed.), Feminism and pornography (pp. 551–568). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Cudd, A. (2002). Analyzing backlash to progressive social movements. In A. M. Superson & A. E. Cudd (Eds.), Theorizing backlash: Philosophical reflections on the resistance to feminism (pp. 3–16). Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
- de Beauvoir, S. (2011). The second sex, C. Borde & S. Malovany-Chevallier (Trans.). New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
- Deschamps, T. (2015). Toronto students organize ‘Crop Top Day’ to protest dress codes. Toronto Star, May 26. https://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2015/05/26/toronto-students-organize-crop-top-day-to-protest-dress-codes.html. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Duggan, L., Hunter, N. D., & Vance, C. V. (1995). False promises: Feminist antipornography legislation. In L. Duggan & N. D. Hunter (Eds.), Sex wars: Sexual dissent and political culture (pp. 43–63). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Dunham, L. & Alanna L. G. (2017). How sex-positive instagrammers are changing the internet. Glamour, June 12. https://www.glamour.com/story/sex-positive-instagrammers-are-changing-the-internet. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Faludi, S. (2006). Backlash: The undeclared war against American women — The 15th anniversary edition. New York: Three Rivers Press.Google Scholar
- Friedman, A. (2015). Why women fell for James Deen. New York Magazine, December 1. http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/12/james-deen-stoya-proves-we-need-real-male-feminists.html. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Globerman, S. (2001). Marketing. New York Magazine, August 27. http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/media/features/5111/. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Grigoriadis, V. (2015). The passion of Nicki Minaj. The New York Times Magazine, October 7. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/11/magazine/the-passion-of-nicki-minaj.html. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Hackman, R. (2015). Paying while dating: meet the men who pick up the check (and those who don’t). The Guardian, August 27. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/aug/27/dating-men-paying-bill-gender-equality. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Haslanger, S. (2013). Social meaning and philosophical method. Proceedings and Addresses of the APA, 88, 16–37.Google Scholar
- Herself. (2018). http://herself.com/. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Hobson, J. (2016). Feminists debate Beyoncé. In A. Trier-Bieniek (Ed.), The Beyoncé effect: Essays on sexuality, race and feminism (pp. 11–26). Jefferson: McFarland & Company.Google Scholar
- hooks, b. (1984). Feminist theory: From margin to center. Boston: South End Press.Google Scholar
- hooks, b. (2014). Are you still a slave? Liberating the black female body|Eugene Lang College. The New School. Video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJk0hNROvzs. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Huang, P. (2004). Having yours. Forbes, April 10. http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2004/1004/068.html. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Jessela, K. (2005). Female chauvinist pigs. Alternet, October 3. https://www.alternet.org/story/26351/female_chauvinist_pigs. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Johnson, A. R. (2015). Willow Smith, 14, wears a crop top with the names of four feminists on it after announcing she will perform at the SXSW festival. The Daily Mail, March 9. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2986438/Willow-Smith-14-wears-crop-names-four-feminists-announcing-perform-SXSW-festival.html. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Kipnis, L. (1998). Bound and gagged: Pornography and the politics of fantasy in America. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
- Krum, S. (2006). No more faking. The Guardian, May 15. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/may/15/gender.features11. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Lankston, C. (2015). Real women are transformed into glamorous pinups for feminist photo series which aims to prove that ‘everyone can be a bombshell’. The Daily Mail, January 21. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2920268/Real-women-transformed-glamorous-pinups-feminist-photo-series-aims-prove-bombshell.html#ixzz4FZIDtQMl. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Lehrer, A. (2017). Artist Leah Schrager on sex-positive selfies, instagram fame, and naked therapy. Forbes, April 25. https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamlehrer/2017/04/25/artist-leah-schrager-proliferates-sex-positive-feminist-selfies-through-social-media/#4bb973ee425f. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Lerum, K. (2011). Feminist burlesque, in theory and practice. Ms. Magazine, June 24. http://msmagazine.com/blog/2011/06/24/feminist-burlesque-in-theory-and-practice/. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Levy, A. (2005). Feminist chauvinist pigs. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- MacKinnon, C. A. (1989). Towards a feminist theory of the state. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Manne, K. (2016). The logic of misogyny. The Boston Review, July 11. https://bostonreview.net/forum/kate-manne-logic-misogyny. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Marie, J. (2015). 9 Reasons to do a pinup photoshoot because the whole process is actually about empowerment. Bustle, June 29. http://www.bustle.com/articles/92321-9-reasons-to-do-a-pinup-shoot-because-the-whole-process-is-actually-about-empowerment. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Matson, E. (2014). My pinup photo shoot (I Still Get to Be a Feminist). Erin to the Max, December 9. https://erintothemax.com/2014/12/09/my-pinup-photo-shoot-i-still-get-to-be-a-feminist/. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- McGregor, L. (2004). Pleasure-seeking Princetonians Visit CAKE Party in NYC. The Daily Princetonian, March 4. http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2004/03/pleasure-seeking-princetonians-visit-cake-partyin-nyc. Accessed 7 July 2018.
- McNay, L. (2000). Gender and agency. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- McRobbie, A. (2009). The aftermath of feminism: Gender, culture and social change. London: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
- Miñoza, C. (2017). Vanessa Hudgens Pairs Gucci ‘Blind for Love’ Tote with ‘Feminist’ Shirt. Your Next Handbag, July 1. http://handbag.yournextshoes.com/vanessa-hudgens-gucci-blind-for-love/. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Murphy, M. (2011). Burlesque: They tell me it’s just for fun…Except I’m not having any. Feminist Current, February 4. http://www.feministcurrent.com/2011/02/04/burlesque-they-tell-me-its-just-for-fun-except-im-not-having-any/. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Murphy, M. (2013). Responding to critiques of burlesque cheat sheet (crazy-making edition). Feminist Current, September 23. http://www.feministcurrent.com/2013/09/23/responding-to-critiques-of-burlesque-cheat-sheet-crazy-making-edition/. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Nie, C. (2014). CAKE girls. Pussy Power, April 24. http://pussypower223.blogspot.com/2014/04/cake-slang-for-female-genitalia-started.html. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Orenstein, P. (2016). Girls and sex: Navigating the complicated new landscape. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
- Paglia, C. (1992). Sex, art, and American culture: Essays. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
- Paul, P. (2005). Pornified: How pornography is transforming our lives, our relationships, and our families. New York: Times Books.Google Scholar
- Phelan, H. (2016). Is the naked selfie good for feminism? Let’s take a closer look. Elle, March 17. https://www.elle.com/culture/a34928/naked-selfie-and-feminism/. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Renny, M. H. (2003). Beyond bra burning: students explore the meaning of ‘feminism’. Princeton Alumni Weekly, March 26. http://www.princeton.edu/paw/archive_new/PAW02-03/12-0326/onthecampus.html. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Royalle, C. (2000). Porn in the USA. In D. Cornell (Ed.), Feminism and pornography (pp. 540–550). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Sabean, R. (2012). ‘Men-Ups’: How I got the idea for my gender-bending photo series. Huffington Post, February 22. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/rion-sabean/men-ups_b_1292365.html. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Sales, N. J. (2002). Girls, uninterrupted. Vanity Fair (September, pp. 250–258).Google Scholar
- Sekyiamah, N. D. (2017). Why my nude selfie is a feminist statement. The Guardian, March 8. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/08/nude-selfie-feminist-statement-emma-watson-vanity-fair. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Smith, E. W. (2016). Dita von Teese on Retro beauty, feminist glamour and reconnecting with Marilyn Manson. Bust Magazine, April/May. http://bust.com/feminism/15861-dita-von-teese.html. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Taylor, K. (2006). Today’s ultimate feminists are the chicks in crop tops. The Guardian, March 22. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2006/mar/23/comment.gender. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Walker, C. (2003). Reevaluating notions of feminism and erotic culture. The Daily Princetonian. http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2003/02/reevaluating-notions-of-feminism-and-erotic-culture. Accessed 7 July 2018.
- Wang, C. (2015). Celebrity raunch culture: is it feminism? Huffington Post, December 6. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/cheryl-wang/celebrity-raunch-culture-_b_6511570.html. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Wass, M. (2017). Demi Lovato poses for ‘Notion,’ opens up about being a role model. Idolator, October 3. https://www.idolator.com/7669326/demi-lovato-notion-boob-pics. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Williams, M. (2015). I’m one of the women who called James Deen a feminist, and now I’m horrified. Huffington Post, December 14. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bustle/james-deen-sexual-assault-feminist_b_8804668.html. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Willson, J. (2008). The happy stripper: Pleasures and politics of the new burlesque. London: I.B. Tauris.Google Scholar
- Wiseman, E. (2015). James Deen, the porn star who failed as a feminist fantasy. The Guardian, December 13. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/dec/13/porn-star-who-failed-as-a-feminist-fantasy. Accessed 8 April 2018.
- Zeisler, A. (2016). We were feminists once: From riot grrl to CoverGirl, the buying and selling of a political movement. New York: PublicAffairs.Google Scholar
- Zhao, H. (2015). ‘The power of a woman!’ Ariana Grande shows off toned midriff in statement crop top as she poses for feminist photo shoot. Daily Mail, August 8. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-3190772/Ariana-Grande-shows-toned-midriff-statement-crop-poses-feminist-photo-shoot.html. Accessed 8 April 2018.