Kate Manne, assistant professor of philosophy at Cornell University, is not a fan of the children’s book, “The Giving Tree”.
“The Giving Tree gives everything she has to her beloved boy, and he never says thank you,” Manne said. “In the end she is an amputated stump, and people still think this is a beautiful story. If nothing else, maybe just switch the genders. If you must tell the story, just switch it up.”
Manne believes this story reveals a greater culture that takes advantage of women and absolves men. She sees the boy’s behavior as indicative of male entitlement, while the tree’s generosity symbolizes female obligation. On Friday afternoon, Manne spoke to a group of about 20 people at Angell Hall about “himpathy,” the excessive sympathy offered to men who commit acts of sexual violence. Her lecture, titled “Unforgiving Him: On Himpathy and History” focused on the #MeToo movement and the willingness to excuse sexual misconduct.
“We tend to forgive, forget and exonerate when it comes to the crimes of men, and to extend sympathy and forgiveness to him rather than either the women he victimizes,” she said. “We are very oriented to male pain and its prevention, and tend to be very forgiving of misdeeds that are of a misogynistic nature.”
Manne also addressed the recent allegations against Aziz Ansari, saying when women try to bring attention to their own injuries, people tend to suspect them “of dishonesty, hysteria or irrationality,” or playing the victim.
“It’s really interesting that no one has said, ‘I think she’s lying,’ and my hunch is that no one needed to,” Manne said. “They had independent grounds for complaint in the form of ‘It’s not that bad, toughen up’ or ‘You should’ve left.’ That sort of victim-blaming.”
Hannah Katz, LSA sophomore and co-chair of FemDems, also said people have defended Aziz Ansari by claiming that it was “bad sex.”
“Women’s stories of sexual assault are not up for debate,” she said. “Debating accounts of sexual misconduct minimizes and de-legitimizes the voices of women. Sexual assault is the only crime where survivors are frequently accused of lying or misreporting.”
Engineering senior Hannah Strat said people who believe men and women receive equal treatment “should probably take a closer look at what’s going on.”
“They should listen to people’s stories and evaluate their own self-bias,” Strat said. “It’s just so obvious. The idea that we’re just going to let people persecute women and not fight against it is not even feasible.”
Comparing “Gossip Girl” actor Ed Westwick, who has been accused of rape by multiple women, with other perpetrators, Manne noted the “disproportionate sympathy for the young men with the bright futures.”
“He’s good looking and he’s young,” she said. “He doesn’t fall into the monster trope, the creepy old dude trope that Harvey Weinstein fits into. The men who have gone down have largely been over 60, and some of them significantly older.”
Fox News executive Roger Ailes and actor Bill Cosby were in their late 70s when allegations derailed their public image. Film producer Harvey Weinstein is in his 60s.
Katz said that “men of status are too easily forgiven for sexual misconduct.”
“This is especially apparent when these men are known for being advocates for women, such as in the case of Aziz Ansari and James Franco, who wore Time’s Up pins to the Golden Globes,” Katz said. “Sexual assault is sexual assault no matter who perpetrates it. To forgive these men due to admiration of their work or past advocacy belittles survivors and sends the message that we don’t believe them and don’t care about what has happened to them.”
Manne said the more domineering misogynist is less popular among members of the left, yet the unsuspecting misogynist is more likely to be forgiven.
“With Weinstein in particular, you have this male reporter who spoke to so many women who were reluctant to come forward,” she said. “There’s a sense with the #MeToo movement that women were giving information which would raise woke male consciousness and increase goodwill that was there already. It’s almost like a ‘Giving Tree’ friendly campaign.”