The woman who hates men – and the book that hooked France

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PUBLISHED: 11:28 September 17, 2020 | UPDATED: 4:10 PM September 17, 2020

French feminist and writer Pauline Harmange.  Photo: Pauline Harmange

French feminist and writer Pauline Harmange. Photo: Pauline Harmange

Pauline Harmange

A book by Pauline Harmange, 25, was a surprise success – helped by an attempt by a government official to have it banned. CONSTANCE KAMPFNER reports on an issue that highlighted the complexities of French feminism.

Become a supporterAlmost four years after its creation, The New European continues to grow stronger in print and online, offering a pro-European perspective on Brexit and reporting on the political response to the coronavirus epidemic, climate change and international politics. But we can only continue to grow with your support.

I am walking down a road on the outskirts of Nantes, minding my own business and fully engrossed in my podcast on female octopuses, when out of the corner of my eye I see a car pull up beside me.

“Hey Miss! a man shouts. The automatic program kicks in: keep walking, don’t make eye contact, try to ignore that feeling in my stomach.

“Hi, where are you going? The man yells as he sails along my bed. Now anger is also mounting his head; I can’t focus on what the marine scientist says about parturition of the octopus and it pisses me off.

So I look up to give the driver a dirty look and do a double take. It’s my roommate coming home from work. He gives me a lift. He apologizes for surprising me – he was just kidding.

I in turn apologize for the death gaze and quickly readjust my facial expression to something nicer. But as I get into the car, the emotion I had a few seconds ago for my close friend takes longer to dissipate. It sounds a lot like hate.

According to 25-year-old French writer Pauline Harmange, I have nothing to be ashamed of. His first book Me men, I hate them (which loosely translates to “Men, I hate them”) argues that men have given women every reason in the world not to love them – so why wouldn’t we?

As a Brit who has lived in France, I have to say that it takes a while to get used to the gender dynamics there. I have the impression of being constantly sensitized to my femininity, whether at work, in the street or in social situations, a fact only underlined by the constant use of the feminine in the language.

A Parisian friend of mine who now lives in the UK told me that she always felt like a weight had been taken off her every time she crossed the Channel. “I worry a lot less about what I’m wearing when I leave home in London,” she tells me. Which, given that 85% of young women experience sexual harassment in UK public spaces, says something.

In her book, Harmange, a longtime volunteer for a charity that fights against sexual abuse, cites figures from 2018 which show that 96% of those convicted of domestic violence were men, as were 99% of those convicted of domestic violence. sexual violence. Women, she said, “are encouraged to love men, but we absolutely should have the right not to.”

Happily married to a man herself, she argues that women should be allowed to dislike the masculine species as a whole, but instead make exceptions for certain anomalies. Coming together in a shared hatred of men, she suggests ironically, could present women “a joyful and emancipatory path”.

The 90-page essay shocked many people in France, no one more than Ralph Zurmély, an adviser to the French ministry of gender equality who tried to get it banned.

This of course had the opposite effect of what he had planned and demand for the book – which had a tiny first run of just 450 copies – skyrocketed. His “micro-publisher” is overwhelmed and had to ask a larger publisher to step in as copies flew off the shelves.

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Almost four years after its creation, The New European continues to grow stronger in print and online, offering a pro-European perspective on Brexit and reporting on the political response to the coronavirus epidemic, climate change and international politics. But we can only rebalance the right-wing extremes of much of the UK national press with your support. If you enjoy what we do, you can help us by contributing to the cost of our journalism.
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