I know what you’re probably thinking: Is this woman Mark Zuckerberg’s sister? As a matter of fact, she is. And while Mark is crushed in senate hearings on Facebook’s Political Ad Policy (spoiler alert: he’s not doing so well!) Donna Zuckerberg is crushing online misogynist communities in her book Not All Dead White Men.
Focusing heavily on what are referred to as “Red Pill” communities, Zuckerberg elegantly dismantles misogynist theory and philosophy. Her aim is to shed light on the ways in which misogynist publications and representatives use ancient Greek and Roman philosophy (and society) to support their own beliefs, usually by applying the rules ancient society to our own modern one.
In doing so, Red Pill (and usually right-wing conservative) publications and web forums, such as The Daily Stormer, misappropriate and misrepresent the ancient philosophies of Greek and Roman antiquity. The issues with this appropriation are multifaceted, from issues in the understanding of the texts themselves to the ways in which misogynists and Red Pill believers alike use that philosophy to justify their misogynist views and behaviors.
Not All Dead White Men reads like a thesis paper and is incredibly information-heavy. It can be quite dense at points and takes a few re-reading of lines to fully understand what is being said. All that in mind, Zuckerberg does an excellent job of handling her discussion in a rational and academic fashion. In some ways, she needs to present her material in the most rational way possible; she remarks at how Red Pill members and misogynists will take any opportunity to dismiss a woman’s opinion if she is being too loud, too angry, or too emotional. This is not, of course, exclusive to these particular groups of men but is a facet present in many other patriarchal establishments with right-leaning tendencies such as Fox News.
There were numerous times during the reading of this book that I was completely and thoroughly disgusted by the quotes taken from Zuckerberg’s sources. From contributors to The Daily Stormer to prominent media figures like Ben Shapiro, some of the men’s remarks are absolutely vile and border on psychotic. Ideas like guardianship over women for their entire lives and the ability to treat a woman in any capacity (in the context of being allowed to cause physical harm to a woman) are themes present in many of their discussions. It is sickening and it makes you want to put the book down—but I urge you to hold on.
We have to face the fact that these people (these men, most often) exist and that their views actively cause harm to women, women of color, people of color, and a host of other minority groups. Zuckerberg takes no caution in calling these men misogynists and homophobes—because that’s exactly what they are. Moreover, we must not let these groups deface ancient philosophy for the sake of misogyny. Professors and doctors of the philosophical arts ardently defend their study and emphasize that there is no way we can face the society of antiquity to modern day life. The study of these subjects is incredibly important, but the misuse and misrepresentation poses a greater threat.