A feminist book entitled ‘I Hate Men’ is on course to become an unlikely bestseller in France, largely thanks to a government official’s call for it to be banned.
‘Moi les hommes, je les déteste’, by 25-year-old Pauline Harmange, explores whether women “have good reason to detest men”.
The 96-page essay, which UK publishers are considering translating into English, argues that anger towards men may be “a joyful and emancipatory path, if it is allowed to be expressed”.
The first 450-copy print run flew off the shelves after an adviser to France’s gender equality ministry demanded that it be withdrawn from sale on the grounds that it promoted gender hatred.
It has since been reprinted and some 2,500 copies have been sold.
The adviser, Ralph Zurmély, wrote to the publisher: “This book is obviously an ode to misandry (=hatred of men), both in terms of the summary on your website and from reading its title. I would like to remind you that incitement to hatred on the basis of gender is a criminal offence! Consequently, I ask you to remove this book from your catalogue immediately or face criminal prosecution.”
The book’s publisher, Monstrograph, denied that the book was an incitement to hatred. Colline Pierré, one of the founders of Montrograph, which describes itself as a volunteer-run “micropublisher”, said: “The title is provocative but the language [is] measured. It is an invitation not to oblige oneself to frequent men or compromise with them. At no time does the author incite violence.”
The magazine NouvelObs commented that if the book were banned, a similar case might be made to ban works by male authors such as Michel Houellebecq for “misogyny”.
Martin Page, also a founder of Monstrograph, said: “There’s enormous interest in translating this book into English and we’ve sent the text to a number of publishers who’ve requested it, in the UK, the US and in Sweden.”
Ms Harmange, from Lille, in northern France, describes herself as bisexual, but is married to a man. She said her experience of working with rape victims has made her distrust men she does not know.
Nearly 40 women a day suffer sexual violence in France, she added, whereas women who do not like men “neither kill nor injure anyone, nor prevent them from dressing as they wish, from walking in the street at night, or from expressing themselves as they see fit”.
On average, one woman is killed by her partner or ex-partner every three days in France.
The author said: “I’m simply inviting woman to imagine a new way of being, to take less account of the often ill-grounded opinion of men, and to take seriously the saying, ‘it’s better to be alone than in bad company’, and to rediscover the strength of feminine relationships full of reciprocity [and] gentleness.”
The book opens with a quotation from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar: “The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way”.
Ms Harmange said she had not expected it to sell more than a few hundred copies.
But Monstrograph said it had been overwhelmed by demand after the call for a ban propelled it into the headlines. It is too small to handle further sales, but said a larger publisher would reprint the title.
France has been shaken by the #MeToo movement, which has exposed sexism and alleged abuse in its film industry, media and politics.
The Musée d’Orsay in Paris was forced to apologise after refusing entry to a woman on Tuesday because of her plunging neckline.
“Rules are rules,” a guard reportedly told her. She wrote to the museum, which houses the world’s largest impressionist and post-impressionist collection, complaining of “sexist” discrimination.
The management immediately apologised for its “overzealous” staff. In a tweet, the museum apologised and said it “deeply regretted the incident”.