The #MeToo movement exploded in 2017 after the Harvey Wienstein incident, and it has spread all over the internet. It has reached places all around the world and has even taken hold of conservative countries like Korea. #MeToo movement has once again placed the term misogyny as a trending keyword in our everyday conversation and has put the topic up for debate. Unfortunately, the #Metoo movement is not the first time misogyny has been an apparent problem that affects our society. Although it has been a long time since society welcomed the idea of fighting for women’s rights, we hear the questions asked once again: What is defined as misogyny, and where does misogyny take place? It is odd, that these questions are raised only when forms of misogyny appear in harmful and hostile ways, and dismissed when the acts are behind the scenes. Opposition to misogyny is often met with criticism on how dumbfounded the concept is. They act as if misogyny exists in a vacuum, and is unheard of in our society. The people who acknowledge this term is often put in a courtroom charged guilty of invoking a notion that does not exist. The essence of misogyny does not occur for those who do not understand its true meaning
Notably vibrant in the era of #MeToo, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny by Kate Manne adds a strong femenist voice to the discussion of misogyny and its existence in its growth internationally. Misogyny- formed from the greek roots misein,“to hate”, and gynē, “ women”- tends to be referred to men’s deep hatred of women. However, Manne points out that this type of definition is “the naïve conception” (p. 32), she aptly states that this can augment the ignorance of people on misogyny She further notes that this naïve conception limits the responsibility of misogyny primarily to specific individuals. To perceive this issue in such an outlook minimizes misogyny to a personal problem, when in actuality it is a question of the system in which the individual is immersed in “a property of social systems … in which women… tend to face hostility of various kinds because they are a woman in a man’s world ” (Manne 33).
Characterizing misogyny as an individual matter is harmful, for it asserts that gender based stereotypes and discrimination is an anomaly, thus throwing out the idea that our cultural and political system has a significance. Naïve conceptions can also be intentionally misused to dismiss misogyny. Those who testify to being victims of the patriarchal culture are ignored, and left to watch society deny the criticism against misogyny— arguing that men do not hate women but love them. The true meaning of misogyny is lost, and its association with subjective causes “would threaten to make misogyny epistemologically inaccessible to women” (Manne 44), therefore preventing prevention.
Kate Manne’s “epistemology” on the concept of misogyny imposes a few significant points. First is a distinction Manne explains between misogyny and sexism. She refers sexism to the traditional stereotypes that are used to defend and legitimize the skewed distribution of privileges and power between a male and a female in a patriarchal society. Whereas misogyny is the system in which men govern and produce sexist ideas. Misogyny and sexism work hand in hand, one behind the other, with the prior being the enforcement plan and guidance for the latter. In this Manne looks at misogyny in a new light and opens up the debate on the silenced topic of misogyny.
Secondly, Manne’s firmly criticises the conception of misogyny urging a shift in attention away from the men to the victims. Manne argues that misogyny, which may look inactive, will become reactive, once any woman intrudes upon a male’s authority or fails to live up to patriarchal standards. Society will place women on a pedestal to be chastised for their failures or awarded for accomplishing their given role as a “giver… obligated to offer love, sex, affection, and admiration… forms of emotional, social, reproductive, and caregiving labor. (Manne 301)
As a result, controlling women to preserve this ethic of patriarchy.
Admittedly Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny is written from the standpoint of an western feminist, and her sole purpose is to judge societies’ gender power dynamics and sexist principle; Manne’s work provokes controversy and holds value all at once. In a sense Manne’s works seems to have forgotten the queer and trans individuals, or fail to acknowledge other cultures. However, her analysis on misogyny relates to all the unethical aspects between a male and female that has not been resolved. Despite the ongoing attempts from feminist that fight for different positions on gender identity, misogyny continually controlls how a male or a female is treated in this patriarchal society. Misogyny is widespread, across different ethnicities, races and different groups of people. Women worldwide are disrespected, assaulted, criticized, and attacked physically and mentally. Even women with wealth, power, and fame are not dismissed from the mistreatment.
In effect of the #MeToo movement many Korean famous female celebrities and high ranking Korean officials have testified to being abused. Such a movement is quite ironic, as Korea is a conservative nation that loves to mask any flaws. A lot of sexual assaults happen behind closed doors and go unnoticed. One of the biggest Korean scandals in 2019 is the Burning Sun Scandal. This sex scandal involved a handful of and famous Korean male celebrities and high ranking male officials that were a part of illegal activities including human traficking of young women and illegally collecting sex tapes. Multiple accusations against these celebrities were ignored and silenced by higher officials. Sadly, The victims of this scandal was no longer victimized but looked down upon and shamed; it took over a year for the information to be leaked to the media and finally investigated. This is a clear example of misogyny: there are guilty men, misogynists, and their are victims, they young girls. Granted, “particular kinds of women” are often suited as the targets (Manne 33). Nonetheless, Manne points out that “one woman can often serve as a … representative for a whole host of others in the misogynist imagination”, and “almost any woman will be vulnerable to some form of misogynist hostility from some source or other” (Manne 68). Thus coming to a conclusion as to why misogyny is still present regardless of the absence of a misogynist.
But like most cultures, Koreans too abide by the rules set up by men. Like the old korean saying goes “girls have to be beautiful, smart, and kind, but never know that they are beautiful, smart, and kind” In other words they are expected to be perfect, but not self aware of it. This expectation on women trickles down to the gender inequality of employment in South Korea. In 2017, OECD stated that Women’s employment rates are on average 56 percent which is 20 percent less than the male employment rate of 76 percent. For women living in Korea, finding a job is a horror story in itself. They not only have to have a good resume, but the perfect look —factoring into the 1 million plastic surgeries per year ( Business Insider). But after finding a job, they are expected to do more than what is required. According to my friends that live in Korea, as a “freshman” worker they are expected to dress and act like the cute girl next door. To make matters worse, a 2001 paper written by Professor Elizabeth Monk Turner stated that women earn less than 33 to 46 percent men with equivalent experience and skills.
Similarly to other East Asian countries gender roles in Korea is partly derived from the traditional Confucian ideals in which women are obligated to be housewives and take on the responsibility of childcare. Many Koreans argue that a patriarchal ideal is inevitable, because it was established in the past so it can no longer be changed. In Down Girl Manne does not represent misogyny through historical context. Neither does she bring up the idea that patriarchy is going to change because the historical context changed. As a result, it appears that society is trapped in an environment of patriarchal power that exerts itself by practicing misogyny. Manne explains misogyny as men’s christmas list wanting women to stick to their patriarchal standards and to be their helpmate. Manne ends Down Girl without a fixed solution; however, Manne sparks hope as she plans out an ameliorative approach.
Down Girl documents the multiple ongoing forms of misogyny, which helps us realize that the concept of misogyny is everywhere, and that we are all players playing in a man’s game. #MeToo is another plea against misogyny preceding after the many other movements, like the #YesAllWomen” that exploded five years ago. As the conversation on misogyny continues and other episodes of misogyny occurs, I believe that many more campaigns against misogyny will launch. It may seem like a never ending cycle of hashtags, and accusations, but I believe that our society is going through a slow change. I hope the topic of misogyny will continually be part of our conversation. The cat has been let out of the bag and keeping quiet would be like putting it back in.