A French government official’s attempts to ban an essay entitled I Hate Men over its “incitement to hatred on the grounds of gender” have backfired, sending sales of the feminist pamphlet skyrocketing.
Pauline Harmange's Moi les hommes, je les déteste, 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". Its small French publisher, Monstrograph, called it a "feminist and iconoclastic book" that "defends misandry as a way of making room for sisterhood".
Ralph Zurmély, a special adviser to France's ministry for gender equality, called it an "ode to misandry". Zurmély, in an email obtained by Mediapart, told Monstrograph that "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 said that the threat of prosecution was “a personal initiative and completely independent of the ministry”, but Zurmély told Mediapart that if Monstrograph continued to sell Harmange’s 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, a 25-year-old activist from Lille, said the book is 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 criticised 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.
Monstrograph did initially set out to print just 400 copies when the essay was published in August, but after Zurmély’s attacks, the first three editions of the book have sold out, with almost 2,500 copies sold just two weeks after its release. A larger publisher, who has yet to be named, is now set to take the title on.
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.”–Guardian