The Book Review I wanted To Give
TW: PSH, DV, Rape, Murder
My last blog post was supposed to be a book review of I Hate Men by Pauline Harmange, but it morphed into a rant/response to men who try to belittle women’s fight for equality through whataboutism and apathy towards women’s rights. In this post, I want to write about the important topics that Harmange covers in I Hate Men and why she has a compelling argument for misandry.
I Hate Men: A brief overview
I Hate Men is a long essay written by Harmange, detailing the reasons why she is a misandrist, and how misandry can be a useful tool to combat and respond to sexism in modern society. Harmange covers a lot of topics in this tiny book which serves as a good starting point for budding feminists to engage with misandry and offers validation to those who may hate men quietly and are not confident to admit it. I say "I hate men" all the time – but now I can say it knowing that I am not the only woman out there who does and knowing that I have a legitimate reason and argument for hating men. The book itself serves as my argument – anytime a man wants to have a debate with me about hating men, I tell them to read I Hate Men, and then we can discuss my man-hating ways (spoiler: they never read it).
What is misandry?
Misandry, by its Oxford English Dictionary definition, means “the hatred of males; hatred of males as a sex.” Whilst this definition does define misandry, it does so only to the extreme, and therefore is limiting. Using the same dictionary, misogyny is defined as the “hatred or dislike of, or prejudice against women.” Whilst this definition is similar, it encompasses more of the varying levels of dislike that people can have towards people based on their sex. In I Hate Men, Harmange writes a chapter on the definition of misandry from her own perception of the word, and one which I believe encompasses the complexity of hatred towards men better than the Oxford Dictionary definition. Harmange defines misandry as:
to mean a negative feeling towards the entirety of the male sex. This negative feeling might be understood as a spectrum that ranges from simple suspicion to outright loathing, and is generally expressed by an impatience towards men and a rejection of their presence in women’s spaces.
She continues to clarify what she means by the male sex “I mean all cis men who have been socialised as such, and who enjoy their male privilege without ever calling it into question, or not enough (yes, misandry is a demanding and elitist concept).” Using this definition, misandry can range from finding men annoying to outright hatred for them.
Isn’t it hypocritical to hate men when we want men to stop hating women?
One of the main issues that I Hate Men tackles is the idea that misandry is just as bad as, or worse, than misogyny, and that being a misandrist belittles the feminist fight to tackle misogyny. The simple fact that Harmange makes is that misandry takes shape in non-violent or threatening ways, with violence rarely being the manifestation of misandry. Whereas misogyny is deeply rooted in violence from physical to systematic. Harmange argues that to be labelled a misandrist, “you just have to make a few generalisations, say ‘men’ instead of ‘some men’ … and congratulations, you’re a misandrist!” But when you look at the statistics of who is perpetrating violence and who is the victim, Harmange (using French statistics although male violence against women is shockingly high everywhere) argues that “the vast majority of those responsible for such violence are men.” Misogyny can take on many forms, from expecting and believing women should take on the lion’s share of childcare and housework, to public sexual harassment, domestic violence, rape, and murder. But misandry rarely takes on such an insidious form.
It isn’t hypocritical to hate men whilst also wanting men to stop hating women. The simple truth is that women wouldn’t have a reason to hate men if they didn’t give us one. Harmange argues that “misandry and misogyny cannot be compared, quite simply because the former exists only in reaction to the latter.” Sarah J. Baker aptly argues in her article for Medium that “misogyny is oppression, misandry is the response.” Misandry only exists because of misogyny, and misandry can be a powerful tool to respond to sexism and a way to reject the perpetual cycle of misogyny that women face on a daily basis.
How can misandry benefit women?
Harmange argues that declaring yourself a misandrist can open up a whole new world of sisterhood and understanding for women. Whether quietly or loudly, declaring yourself a misandrist and uniting with other misandrists can be liberating – it shows female strength and solidarity. Harmange argues this through her two essays ‘Sisters’ and ‘In praise of book clubs…’. In these essays, she highlights how hating men is a commonality amongst women, and how men and the patriarchal system work against women to keep them from forming all-women spaces and uniting over their distrust and dislike towards men. Harmange argues that men often do this by “belittling our get-togethers with our woman friends, poking fun at our meetings, trying to convince us that their company ought to suffice and satisfy us.” This is because there is nothing scarier to the group in power than oppressed groups getting together in spaces where they can talk politically about issues they face. Harmange states that “female solidarity is never frivolous, it’s always political.” Men want us to feel like getting together for girl’s night is trivial because they are intimidated that without a male presence, we will gain feminist ideals. Accepting and sharing with your female friends that you hate men is the first step towards outward dissatisfaction with men, which ultimately shakes the ground that their perceived power stands on. When you accept and share that you hate men, it opens up a dialogue between other women and creates a space where men can’t invade, and from there, who knows what women will achieve in bringing down the patriarchy?
Why is I Hate Men important?
I Hate Men was originally printed and published by a small French publishing house called Monstrograph and had a run print of 450 copies. Harmange writes in her afterward that “what began as a long essay has since been translated into eighteen languages.” Cappelle reports that “since Monstrograph couldn’t keep up with demand, a major French publisher, Seuil, won a bidding war to reprint the book, which has sold 20,000 copies since.” HarperCollins then released I Hate Men in January 2022 and the English paperback version in 2022.
I Hate Men started out in obscurity and has only grown more and more prominent. I don’t know the number of copies sold since HarperCollins brought it to print, but the journey from 450 copies to now shows that misandry is a valid topic that we need to be talking about and having discussions about. There is commonality and sisterhood in misandry, and it can be a powerful tool to combat sexism in our daily lives.
I want to end my post with this quote from I Hate Men which really feels like a rallying cry to me, for women to declare themselves misandrists and join the feminist fight against the patriarchy and misogyny:
“If we all became misandrists, what a fabulous hue and cry we could raise. We’d realise (though it might be a bit sad at first) that we don’t actually need men. I believe too that we might liberate an unsuspected power: that of being able to soar far above the male gaze and the dictates of men, to discover at last who we really are.”
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Harmange, Pauline. (2020) I Hate Men. London: 4th Estate
Cover Image courtesy of @sas.mei on Instagram
Hannah Milner (She/Her) Hi, I'm Hannah (she/her) and I recently graduated from the uni of Strathclyde in Social Policy and English. I love reading books, am passionate about challenging social inequalities, and desperately want a pet cat.