From theguardian.com, September 8, 2020, byline Alison Flood, here is the headline:
Moi les hommes, je les deteste
“French book I Hate Men sees sales boom after government adviser calls for ban”
And the sub-head reads:
Ralph Zurmely, who advises the gender equality ministry, says Pauline Harmange’s ‘ode to misandry’ should be withdrawn for inciting hatred.
Paragraph two of the piece explains:
Pauline Harmange’s Moi les hommes, je les deteste
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
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.
As one septuagenarian birthed by a misandrist, and subsequently reared by that same misandrist (to the silent complicity of a passive-aggressive husband, my father), I can attest to the notion that such deeply imbedded imprinting, vacillating from excessive indulgence to equally excessive and oppressive abuse, leaves deep scars, analogous to undiagnosed tumors, without the currently available CTScans, or MRI’s or even physically symptoms except skin rashes from stress.
This is not a pity party! It is rather a authentically welcome response to the fact that the word “misandry” has finally hit the public square, from the pen of a courageous woman, and not from the keypad of male mysogynist. Had it emerged from a misogynist male, it would have provoked screams of additional hatred, contempt, and perhaps even violence. Men are legitimately loath to criticize their female counterparts, and is it that precise “self-gagging” (some would call it passive aggression) that could feasibly be adjudged to be a contributing factor to the misogyny that confronts millions of women around the world. Men, like my father, who categorically refused to argue with, confront, honestly disagree with or even to amend the thoughts, words, attitudes, beliefs and feelings of their female partners, have failed those same partners for centuries. And, in order of the hierarchy of the objects of misandry, as advocated by Ms Harmange, I would propose that passive aggressive men would/could rank near the top of her list.
Why do men prefer silence, and the essentially burying of their emotions deep in their bodies, minds and hearts, rather than letting them flow freely into the vortex of intimate relationships? There are several potential reasons, not be rejected as mere excuses, for this apparent preference. As our family’s physician put it, when I challenged him that men could learn to name and express their emotions, “Oh John, but women do it so much better than men!” To which I blurted, “Who is making it a competition Howie?... certainly not the women, but you have just done that!”
The relevance and the ‘health’ of acknowledging one’s emotions, and then sharing them with a female partner, is for most western men a step too far. It is an engagement in which too many men consider themselves “unarmed” and “unprepared” and thereby already a victim and loser before the uttering of the first word. Similarly, physical pain, unless it is so dire and unbearable that it cannot be ignored or denied, musts be borne stoically, preferably in silence, and certainly without seeking medical assistance. Some men go so far as to call it the ‘code’ of masculinity, defining men as strong, invulnerable and thereby heroic, in a mythical mind-set that believes “that is what women want”!
Myth-busting is desperately needed among both men and women. Men need to awaken to the lies in which we/they are steeped like ageing wine, shedding the perversity of “faux invulnerability” for the far more sustainable and relateable sharing of fears, insecurities, neuroses and even nightmares and worse-case scenarios. Women, on the other hand, need to acknowledge that some (perhaps far more than has ever been documented) actually do hate men, and that hatred need no longer be perpetrated, silently, secretly, surreptitiously and lethally on the men in their lives.
While my mother’s contempt for men, born out of her disdain for her father’s premature marriage to another woman a bare six months following her mother’s death, was visceral, clearly displayed, overt, verbal and physical, as well as emotional and frequently ice-cold silent, many women whose lives have crossed my path have been much more secretive, surreptitious, and at least this man was inordinately and tragically unprepared for their assaults. I have known and worked with women who disclosed, after a period of growing acquaintance, “I literally destroy men!” Even my own father’s confronting his own suicide by .22, demonstrated his conviction that he no longer wanted to continue living. Similarly, his own father’s physical attempt at suicide burned its image in his young adult psyche, after he found him and cut him down. And, no doubt, that image never really left my father’s memory! Did my grandmother, too, hate men? I will never know as reports from two aunts repeated “we never saw our parents even argue, ever” whenever the subject of family history came up.
The self-loathing capacity of both men and women, who for various and complex ‘reasons’ are unable to see and to value their/our own worth, is a seed planted in the genetic code and nurtured by the parenting of those who, themselves, too often bear a burden of self-loathing and self-contempt from their own lives. It is not rocket science to connect the dots of “the original fall” from Genesis, as interpreted by a plethora of Christian denominations, over the centuries, and the desperate need for redemption, through conversion, to the plague of self-loathing that infests the underbrush of western culture.
I have no evidence for or justification to speculate that Ms Harmange, herself, is expressing an unconscious stream of self-loathing through and in her latest essay. Projection, after all, is a common shared dynamic among all human beings, regardless of our gender, our background, our ethnicity, our religion or our political ideology. I can however, without fear of contradiction, assert that many of the women in my experience who hated men were also infected by a considerable degree of self-contempt. And, of course, it is not only conceivable, but likely, that such self-loathing arose from experiences involving men, fathers, brothers, neighbours, uncles, teachers, clergy, doctors, who treated those women/girls in an unacceptable and demeaning manner. There have been cultures developed mostly by men around the macho, alpha male mantra, model and archetype, primarily to protect and incubate their/our very fragile ego’s that they/we dared not display in front of any woman in whom we might be interested.
Distant fathers who buried themselves/ourselves in our work, in our careers, in our hobbies, boats, cars, games, hunts, vacations, too, have sometimes inadvertently, but certainly not less insidiously, imposed a degree of emotional damage simply because we were not present for our children. This emotional abandonment may have impacted our daughters more than it might have our sons, although that too may remain another of those masculine secrets begging for formal research. Naturally, it will take several ice-ages for men to open up to those researchers/counsellors/mentors in order to ‘dig’ up sufficient evidence of generations of repressed masculinity.
Fathers whose own self-loathing laid the burden of projection on their children to be “perfect” to be “heroic” to be “stars” and, too often unconsciously, imprinted an ineradicable perception and belief that the child would never ever be good enough. There are no bruises, and no cuts, and not blood or broken bones need emergency room mending from such psychic wounds. And the “conservatives” among us will cry “Nanny state!” if and when they hear or read such observations. They were raised in ‘tough love’ and emotional abandonment was effective in developing self-reliant, self-assertive and self-aggressive and independent adults, the backbone of the capitalist system, they argue.
There are other paths to child abuse by fathers who need to demonstrate their own “worth” by competing with their peers in providing, (indulging) their children with too much affluence, too much stuff and too much status, in order to compete with the children of other ambitious, competitive, usually macho and driven fathers. This ‘show’ only debases the desired and hard-wired concept of authentic relationships, a wiring from birth that knows no ideology, religion, psychology or political and social status. This path can and often does swerve into the parent who choses to be a “buddy” a “pal” or a “brother” of the child, whether that child is a son or a daughter.
For Ms Marmange to be able and willing to put into print her open, honest and courageous contempt for men, as another way to release the truth from all women, who themselves, may have been holding back on acknowledging such hatred for fear of being labelled a bitch or worse, is both commendable and historic. Will such female courage and insight prompt men, on the other hand, to come face to face with their/our misogyny? This misogyny leaves the hands and the reputations of all men in tatters because so many of our fathers, brothers, uncles, and even and especially our current leaders behave in a manner that can only be characterized as contemptuous and contemptible. Will men be able and willing to risk the backlash that will inevitable, like a storm surge, threaten to drown those very courageous and sensible and sensitive men who care deeply about the future of masculinity, and especially of the prospect of relationships with the female gender that speak only of respect, dignity, honour and trust.
After all, in a personal and cultural climate of such hatred, most of it virulent expressions of self-loathing, unmasked as violence, bigotry, hatred and ignorance, can the secret ignorance of self-denial, self-contempt and fear be finally exposed for the universality and indiscriminate prevalence with which it infects most of us?
Can we see the guns we fire at those we consider our hated enemies, and the fire-bombs that we explode on our streets, and the tear-gar cannisters that we throw at our neighbours and the lethal verbal assaults we tweet about our political, religious, economic, ethnic, and historic targets of our contempt as launched missiles of denial, vaunted and privileged ignorance, both of ourselves and of the other?
Rather than fomenting further gender wars, might it be possible that Ms Harmange has ignited a candle of peace, and of deep and profound inquiry into the buried gifts of both male and female psyches desperate for both release and for tentative exposure after centuries of being locked in dark caves of silence?
In each of us, anger is brewing, and for each of us that anger has its own unique and never-ending spring. And that anger, while providing clarity and conviction about some of those ‘things’ and ‘people’ and situations with which we no longer wish to associate, can also boil over into serious damage and lethal punishment on others. Expressing honestly that we carry anger, directed to any one or more of several targets, be they individuals or selected categories, can release us to the next steps in our growth and development. For that gift of leadership and courage, we thank Ms Harmange.
And now, can both men and women begin the long and arduous process of a dialogue born out of mutual awareness and confidence that we need each other, not necessarily as intimate partners, but certainly as social justice-seekers and activists. And if and when we can neutralize the gender aspect of our various contempts, in favour of a collaborative and anger-inspired commitment to see new ways of preserving the planet, and of respecting the dignity of all men and women, and of reducing our dependence on military power and ideologies based on hate and zero-sum beliefs, then this could be revisited as a new beginning.
Moi, les femmes je ne les deteste pas!
Mais, moi-meme, je me deteste quelquefois!