A Look into the Phrase “I Hate Men”
Most women have, at some point, uttered the words, “I hate men.”
Now, I admit that this claim of mine has no scientific basis. Yet, all around me, it seems as though women are struggling with men in their lives. Conversations with my friends are often based around how much men, to use a formal term, suck. Despite the ubiquitousness of this sentiment, we keep these discussions private. Any type of hostility towards the male species would be labeled as “misandry” and any woman who supports this a “crazy feminazi.”
These thoughts always wandered in the back of my mind, whether it was from hearing about a friend being sexually assaulted by a man to something as simple (yet frustrating) as being talked over and mansplained by one. It was not until Pauline Harmange, a French feminist, wrote the book, “Moi les hommes, je les déteste,” (“I Hate Men”) that I began to deeply think about why I felt this way. And more importantly, if saying this somehow diminished the intent of my beliefs on gender equality.
I first found this book when I saw an article about it on the French news site, France 24, shortly after it was published in August of 2020. The book had faced backlash by an adviser of France’s gender equality ministry, Ralph Zurmély, who claimed that the book needed to be withdrawn as it was, clearly, a hate crime. But of course, he had not even taken the time to read the book, and soon, his complaints were overcome by the sheer number of sales this book quickly made. I knew I had to get my hands on this incendiary title.
As I awaited the arrival of the book, I scrolled through Harmange’s blog for a preview of her thoughts. One of her blog posts mentions how she is actually married to a man. I will share one of my favorite quotes from her blog concerning this:
“Si votre mec ne trouve pas que la plupart des hommes sont des gros cons à cause de la société patriarcale, de leur éducation, et de leur propre fainéantise à se remettre en question… peut-être que lire mon livre lui fera du bien?”
With my mediocre French skills, this roughly translates to “If your man does not find that most men are big idiots due to the patriarchal society, their education, and their own laziness to question themselves… maybe reading my book will do them well?”
I could not agree more with this statement. I am proud to say that I can throw in an “I hate men'' into a conversation with the males in my life without receiving a “Well, not all men…” in return. Of course it is not actually “all men,” but it is enough of them to be able to complain. Even if I were to qualify my statement to “some men,” this does not erase the pervasive nature of misogyny. I have always found that the men who think that the patriarchy does not apply to them just because they are a “nice guy” are the ones who need to pick up a book about feminism.
Harmange also explains that she wants people on all spectrums of the phrase “I Hate Men” to read the book. It is not only for people who have a bright pink “Men are trash” sticker on their car but also for those who are content with the men in their lives or those who are not sure if misandry is something that they support. I did not know where exactly I was on this spectrum, but I knew I was intrigued.
My book (the English translation version, I confess) arrived, and I dove right in. An important quote appeared in the first few pages that stuck with me:
“Misandry and misogyny cannot be compared, quite simply because the former exists only in reaction to the latter.”
These two ideas are in no way equal, Harmange argues, because misogyny is built into the system that we women live in. We “hate men” because many of them, often unintentionally, feed into the patriarchy. But when people hate women, it is because well… they are women. Casual acts of misogyny are somehow accepted in our society, while a woman’s understandable frustration from them is not.
Harmange’s most convincing point came when she explained why hating men is not necessarily anti-feminist. It is in reality not about men (as the patriarchy often implores us to think)— it is about loving ourselves and supporting other women. I will share two quotes here explaining this seemingly absurd belief.
“Having the same level of confidence in ourselves as a mediocre man has in himself would also mean being kinder to ourselves.”
“[It is] time we allowed ourselves to be flawed human beings. Standards are very low for men, and far too high for women. Let’s reserve ourselves the right to be ugly, badly dressed, vulgar, mean, bad-tempered, untidy, exhausted, selfish, incompetent…”
Hating men just means holding them accountable. It means not letting them get away with sexist jokes or applauding them for doing the bare minimum. It means being easier on ourselves. It means not getting called a bitch/psycho/lonely/lesbian when we speak up about our rights. It means celebrating womanhood and dismantling the systems that prevent us from doing so.
Edited by Emiru Okada
Graphic by Emily Mogami