Pauline Harmange’s feminist essay Moi les hommes, je les déteste (I Hate Men) has come under fire from Ralph Zurmély, who serves as a special adviser to France’s ministry for gender equality, and who called the piece of writing an “ode to misandry”. However, his criticism of the work has caused the essay to skyrocket in popularity, with over 2,500 copies selling when the original print was only ordered for 400.
The book itself explores whether or not women have “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”. French publisher, Monstrograph, described the title as a “feminist and iconoclastic book” that “defends misandry as a way of making room for sisterhood”.
Some critics argue it serves as an “incitement to hatred on the grounds of gender”. In an email viewable on Mediapart, and sent to the publisher, Zurmély wrote: “incitement to hatred on the grounds of gender is a criminal offence”, and says the book should be pulled “on pain of criminal prosecution”.
France’s ministry of gender equality has stated that Zurmély’s threats of legal action are “a personal initiative and completely independent of the ministry”, but Zurmély states that Monstrograph would be “directly complicit in the offence and I would then be obliged to send it to the prosecution for legal proceedings”.
Monstrograph, a small publisher, has told the media that the book is not mean’t to be an incitement of 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”.
Harmange, a 25-year-old activist from Lille, describes the book as a way for 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”.
Reacting to Zurmély’s criticism, she said: “A state official who has a power crisis facing an 80-page book released in 400 copies, I find that very problematic”.
The publisher originally printed just 400 copies of Harmange’s essay in August but, following Zurmély’s response, the first three editions have already sold out, selling 2,500 copies within two weeks of its publication. A larger, unnamed publisher, has stepped up, and intends to print a larger run.
Writing of the reaction, Harmange said: “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). 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.”