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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.
- Kate Manne
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- School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences - Lectureship in Social and Political Philosophy
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