lifestyle

I Hate Men: The feminist bestseller the French government tried to ban


Pauline’s new book is called I Hate Men (Picture: Bénédicte Roscot)

This summer, Pauline Harmange’s book stirred up so much ire in her native France that one French government adviser tried to get it banned.

It’s hardly surprising: called I Hate Men, the title is undoubtedly controversial.

But despite the resulting furore – and the substantial amount of online hate directed at her – the 25-year-old author has ‘no regrets at all’.

‘I think it’s a great title. It’s not just provocative, it’s part of my thinking. It’s just that more nuanced when I can talk about it at length,’ remarks the writer, who lives in Lille, France with her husband and cat, Eleven. ‘I didn’t think the title would make people so angry. For me, it’s like saying I hate broccoli.

‘When I talk about misandry [the hatred of men] with my feminist friends, we agree it’s mostly distrust against men in general and an automatic dislike for men who hurt women, so it’s not hatred in a violent sense of the word. I say things a lot of women tend to think, but don’t speak aloud.

‘Even the most well-intended men fall back into the habit of using the privileges of patriarchy.’

Pauline speaks quietly but resolutely in flawless English. Still, for all that resolve, a request was made by her and her agent ahead of the interview that the piece would ‘not be combative’ in light of the online abuse she’s been subjected to.

‘It’s overwhelmingly coming from men. There are attacks on my looks, my private life, but there are also women who feel I’m not being a good feminist, that I’m working against women because they think I want to split society in two.’

True, that criticism has been unfairly fierce in certain quarters. But her surprise at the subsequent fallout is somewhat disingenuous. ‘I really don’t like this kind of exposure,’ she insists, realising in hindsight ‘I was very naïve’.

Pauline was approached to write about misandry by the small publishing house Monstrograph following a post on feminist burnout on her blog ‘Un invincible été’ (translated as ‘an invincible summer’).

Written in six months, I Hate Men, or Moi Les hommes, Je Les déteste, was published in August with little fanfare and an initial run of 400 copies.

The initial run of the book sold out (Picture: Monstrograph)

‘I really can’t wrap my head around the fact Ralph Zurmély found the website. What happened next was really overwhelming,’ says Pauline.

Zurmély, an adviser to France’s ministry for gender equality, threatened legal action stating, ‘incitement to hatred on the grounds of gender is a criminal offence’.

‘At first, I thought it was a prank, but my editors were very serious and anxious,’ recalls Pauline, who’s not actually had any correspondence with Zurmély. ‘It’s very telling he decided to react to a title and a short text about the book.

‘He felt what I was going to say in the book was equivalent to a call to violence against men. He didn’t think this cause was maybe more evolved than that, and he was acting on a whim because he felt so attacked.’

In the book Pauline asks whether women have good reason to detest men. She references the abuse and harassment experienced on a daily basis and what is deemed acceptable, or not, by society.

It is timely given that just this week, there’s been a call to criminalise public sexual harassment following a survey by Plan International UK and Our Streets Now that found 51% of 14 to 21-year-olds had experienced some form of harassment this summer.

She also explores what she deems as the low standards set for men compared to women who she feels often carry the emotional burden of relationships.

‘It’s so frustrating to think all your life you’re going to have to be the main carer for your husband or boyfriend because he has the emotional capacity of a teaspoon. Men can be so much more, and they need to change and evolve,’ reckons Pauline.

Pauline’s journey to becoming a feminist wasn’t prompted by a specific experience. ‘I was a generic young girl wanting to be loved by anyone. Then I started reading about sexism and the impact of patriarchy.

‘I realised I wasn’t that interested in what men think of me because I couldn’t fit the standards. I wasn’t very feminine or very pretty,’ says Pauline, who reveals people are often shocked when they discover she has a husband.

‘When I first talked about the book, a lot of men thought I was a sad spinster or a lesbian, which is very homophobic of course, and then when people read it, some thought I should not call myself a misandrist if I have a husband, even if I talk at length about how I can juggle the two different things in my life.

‘But a lot of women are in relationships with men, or want to be, but also are wary of them.’

The book is not intended to be a handbook, she states. ‘It’s up to the reader to create their own way of discarding men’s advice and opinions and for some women, it is going to be more difficult.

‘My hope is women will read it and feel heard and understood in their anger, and that they will rejoice in their female relationships.’

I Hate Men by Pauline Harmange (Harper Collins) is out now.

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