A French government official’s futile attempt to ban an essay entitled I Hate Men because of its “incitement to hatred on the grounds of gender” have since backfired and has sent sales of the feminist pamphlet into the stratosphere.
Pauline Harmange’s Moi les hommes, je les déteste is an essay that explores whether women “have good reason to hate men”, and whether “anger towards men is actually a joyful and emancipatory path, if it is allowed to be expressed”.
The small French publisher, Monstrograph, called it a “feminist and iconoclastic book” that “defends misandry as a way of making room for sisterhood”.
Ralph Zurmély is a special adviser to France’s ministry for gender equality and he called it an “ode to misandry”. Zurmély emailed Monstrograph and called the work “incitement to hatred on the grounds of gender is a criminal offence”, and asked the publisher to pull the book from publication “on pain of criminal prosecution”.
The ministry subsequently distanced themselves from the remarks and said that the threat of prosecution was “a personal initiative and completely independent of the ministry”, yet Zurmély went on to say that if Monstrograph continued to sell the book, the publisher would be “directly complicit in the offence and I would then be obliged to send it to the prosecution for legal proceedings”.
Monstrograph stressed to French media that the book was not an incitement to hatred. “The title is provocative but the purpose measured. It is an invitation not to force oneself to associate with men or to deal with them. At no time does the author incite violence,” said its editor.
Harmange is a 25-year-old activist from Lille and said that the book is simply an invitation to women “to imagine a new way of being, to take less account of the often unsupported opinions of men, to consider the adage ‘it is better to be alone than in bad company’ seriously, and to rediscover the strength of female relationships full of reciprocity, gentleness and strength”.
She went on to criticise Zurmély’s response to her work. “A state official who has a power crisis facing an 80-page book released in 400 copies, I find that very problematic,” she said.
It is interesting to note that Monstrograph set out to initially set out to print just 400 copies when the essay was first published in August but after these attacks almost 2500 copies have sold and now a major publisher is set to take over the title.
Harmange wrote on her blog that her head was “spinning” at the response to her work. “As a gigantic snub to this man who wanted to ban my words, this book which should have been printed only at 500, maybe 700 copies max, has been ordered more than 2,000 times … We have withdrawn the book from sale, not because we are afraid but because we can no longer keep pace [with demand]. (And not forever, I promise),” she wrote. “In all of this, I admit, there is still a little voice that gives me hope that all of you who have bought my book – just as one gives a middle finger to a cop – will find it interesting in spite of everything.”