“We should have the right not to like men”: the French writer at the center of a literary storm | France

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When Pauline Harmange, a French writer and aspiring novelist, published a treatise on the hatred of men, she expected it to sell at most a few hundred copies among friends and readers of her blog. .

Instead, a threat by a government official to take legal action to ban me men, I hate them (I Hate Men) made it a sellout. The first printing of 450 copies was quickly snatched, as were the two following reprints. Today, 2,500 copies have been sold.

The publisher, Monstrograph, described as a volunteer-run “micropublishing house”, is overwhelmed and says I Hate Men will not be reprinted again unless a bigger publisher comes to the rescue.

Harmange, 25, is a mixture of bewilderment and shock at finding himself in the middle of a literary and political storm. ” I did not expect that. It was a huge surprise,” she told the Guardian from her home in Lille, northern France, where she lives with her husband, Mathieu, 29, and Eleven the cat. “This is the first time a book has come out. I wrote a novel but it was never published.

Harmange said she was asked to write I Hate Men after someone spotted a blog she had written about misandry or hating men.

Me men, I hate them, by Pauline Harmange. Photography: Monstrograph

The 96-page essay opens with a quote from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar – “The problem was that I hated the idea of ​​serving men in any way” – and it explores whether women have good reasons to hate men. “I’m married to a man who’s great and really supportive of my writing. But in general, I’m suspicious of men I don’t know,” Harmange said.

“I just don’t trust them. This comes less from a personal experience than from being an activist in a feminist organization that has been helping victims of rape and sexual assault for several years. I can say that the majority of attackers are men.

She added: “If we are heterosexual, we are encouraged to like men, but we should absolutely have the right not to like them. I realize that sounds like a violent sentiment, but I strongly believe that we should be allowed to dislike them as a whole and make exceptions for certain men.

The book says that standing up for misandry is liberating and can create space for sisterhood and brotherhood. “What if women had good reason to hate men? What if anger towards men was actually a joyful and emancipatory path when allowed to express itself? Harmange writes.

I Hate Men was published on August 19 when much of France was enjoying the summer holidays, and it would almost certainly have gone unnoticed if Ralph Zurmély, adviser to the French Ministry of Gender Equality, didn’t had not written to threaten legal action.

“This book is obviously an ode to misandry (= hatred of men), both in terms of the summary on your site and reading its title. I would like to remind you that incitement to hatred based on gender is a criminal offence! Consequently, I ask you to immediately remove this book from your catalog under penalty of criminal prosecution, ”writes Zurmély.

Harmange said: “We were a little scared at first. But the first print had already sold out, so the publishers decided to send the books in and see what happened. As a precaution they no longer printed.

“I was shocked. This man works for the Secretary of State for Equality between Men and Women, whose mission is to do something about sexual assault and rape. It seemed outrageous that he was more concerned about censoring a small feminist book instead of doing its job.

When the story was picked up by French investigative site Mediapart, the publishers proceeded with a reprint. The ministry told Mediapart that Zurmély, who apparently only read the publishers’ title and description of I Hate Men, acted on his own initiative.

French magazine NouvelObs described Zurmély’s zeal as “cancelling culture” par excellence and pointed out that no one had sought to censor Baudelaire from the writings of 19th-century French novelist George Sand: “She is stupid, she is heavy, she’s talkative […] The fact that some men fell in love with these latrines is proof of the baseness of the men of this century.

“And why not banish Michel Houellebecq for his misogyny while we’re at it,” asks NouvelObs.

Harmange laughs at the idea. “Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, misogyny is so entrenched in French literature that we often don’t even realize it.”

She said misandry was often seen as a joke or, worse, a tool to discredit feminists, but she thinks there’s nothing wrong with owning that hate, which she says is legitimate given the harm that men do to women.

“Misandry only exists as a reaction to misogyny, which is the basis of systemic violence,” she writes. The book cites statistics from 2018 showing that 96% of those convicted of domestic violence were men and 99% of those convicted of sexual violence were men. “While misandry has never killed anyone,” Harmange writes.

Harmange says her husband is one of the “exceptions”. In the acknowledgments at the end of the book, she writes that he was “the first of us to believe in me”.

She said: “He’s as amazed at the reaction to the book as I am, but he’s supportive of me and my writing. He’s just worried about me being harassed online.

Harmange said the negative reaction to the book was to be expected. “Feminine and feminist voices are not always welcome among men.”

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