It’s quite a title, isn’t it? Pauline Harmange, the 25-year-old bisexual blogger from Lille originally wrote her misandrist manifesto in French as Moi les hommes, je les déteste. Published in August in an initial print run of 400 copies by a tiny, obscure press, Monstrograph, there it would have stayed had Ralph Zurmély, an adviser to France’s ministry on gender equality, not called for it to be banned on grounds of incitement to hatred.
The demand went nowhere, but suddenly everyone wanted to read the incendiary polemic and, no longer able to keep up with production, Monstrograph sold it to the beefier Éditions du Seuil, while in the UK, it went to a 10-way auction that Fourth Estate won, apparently forking out £25,000 for the pleasure.
After all the hoo-ha, this slim volume turns out to be such a confused, pathetic whimper that it’s hard to take seriously. As Harmange explains, it began when she wrote on her blog that she was fed up with men’s apathy and general lack of interest in women’s rights. “Almost immediately an anonymous lurker left a comment, ‘Maybe you should ask yourself why men don’t want to talk about it. A few possibilities: the aggressive — hate-filled, even — attitude of feminists towards any man who doesn’t say ‘I’m ashamed to be a man! Down with men!’” The lurker went on to suggest that Harmange should accept the relationship between men and women for what it is and in the meantime could expect to be dismissed as a “sex-starved shrew” doing a disservice to her cause.
While no one should accept anything if they don’t want to, he surely had a point: Harmange is not alone in thinking men today should be ashamed of themselves merely for being men. Even if they are not rapists or murderers, they are, according to Harmange, “violent, selfish, lazy and cowardly”, they are “the pure products of the patriarchy”. As she puts it simply: “men are trash”.
She has a hierarchy of hatred too: “We need to be vigilant, we have to keep an eye on even the genuinely decent ones, because anyone can stray off course, and all the more so if he’s cis, white, wealthy, able-bodied and heterosexual. The sum of his privilege is so great that it makes him very hesitant to change.” That’s quite a charge sheet — and her lack of facts to back her opinions is striking. She briefly mentions statistics about men perpetrating more sexual violence against women than vice versa, but her writing originates from the School of Feeling: if I feel it, it must be so.
She uses “we” as if talking for all women. “We are brought up to be docile little girls who will grow up to become gentle and understanding women.” I wasn’t and I’m not. “The truth is there’s no good means of expressing anger if you’re a woman in a relationship with a man.” Yes there are. “Men who choose the terrain of reason as opposed to emotion place themselves in a position of authority.” It’s not just men; anyway, reason sometimes trumps emotion, and sometimes it doesn’t.
She asserts that the majority of men are mediocre (true by definition), and that she grew up to be so indoctrinated by the patriarchy that no matter how many of her girlfriends told her she was pretty — or clever, which, tellingly, she cared about less — only men’s opinions mattered to her. What kind of upbringing did she have?
She quotes the LinkedIn statistic that when a job is advertised, a man is more likely to give it a go, while a woman tends not to even apply unless she’s sure it’s for her. But then, remarkably, she recommends that women should stop putting themselves down, be bolder and ask themselves, “what would the mediocre white dude do?” Her conclusion that women should behave more like said white dude is baffling given how much ordure she has heaped on him.
It’s even harder to square when you discover that Harmange is actually married — to a man! “Ostensibly I don’t have any legitimacy when it comes to hating men. I chose to marry one after all, and I have to admit that I’m still very fond of him.” You bet.
I Hate Men is a risible, solipsistic cri de coeur that only a naive young woman could have written. While it does the cause of feminism no good, its publication does at least demonstrate that, unlike vast swathes of the world where women have very few rights, in European democracies like France and the UK, freedom of speech does still exist. Including the incitement to hatred of men.
I Hate Men by Pauline Harmange translated by Natasha Lehrer (Fourth Estate, £7.99) Buy it here