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French official's attempts to outlaw ‘I hate men’ book backfires as sales skyrocket

France 24 logo France 24 10/09/2020 FRANCE 24
a close up of text on a black surface © Monstrograph

A French official’s decision to speak out against a book he said was an “ode to misandry” appears to have backfired after sales of the book in question – “Men, I hate them” (Moi les hommes, je les déteste) – have exceeded expectations, forcing extra print runs after the book sold out just weeks after its publication. 

Ralph Zurmély, an adviser to France’s ministry on gender equality, said Pauline Harmange’s book should be banned for “inciting hatred” on the grounds of gender. France has several laws in place against speech that incites hatred based on race, religion or sexual orientation, for example. 

In an email obtained by French investigative website Mediapart, Zurmély reminded the publishers that “incitement to hatred on the grounds of gender is a criminal offence” and threatened to take them to court if they did not pull the book –  which he called an “ode to misandry” – from sale.

Harmange’s book questions whether women have good reason to hate men and notes that anger towards men can actually be “a joyful and liberating path”. The small French publisher behind the publication, Monstrograph, called it a “feminist and iconoclastic book” that suggests misandry can actually be a way of “making room for sisterhood”, English daily The Guardian reported.

Monstrograph bills itself as a “micro-publisher” of “weird little books for nice monsters” (Petits livres bizarres pour monstres gentils), an apparent play on its name.

The little book of less than 100 pages was offered for €12 on pre-order and was set for an initial press run of 400 copies. But since Zurmély's criticism, the title has become something of a victim of its own success. Its first three press runs sold out, with some 2,500 copies sold in just the two weeks after its August release. Monstrograph was forced to cease publication and the book will soon be re-issued by a publisher "with more resources", the publisher said on its website

The gender equality ministry subsequently clarified that Zurmély’s threats of prosecution were a personal initiative that was taken independent of the ministry.

Mediapart cited the book’s editors as calling Zurmély’s claims “ridiculous”. "This book is not at all an incitement to hatred," said Coline Pierré, one of the two co-founders of the publishing house. “The title is provocative but the words measured,” she said, underscoring that the book contains no calls for violence.

"There is no incitement to hatred in my book," Harmange told Mediapart, adding that if Zurmély is concerned about misandry he should find other ways of dealing with it.

For a government official to have a “power crisis” over a little "80-page book with just 400 copies" seems “very problematic”, she said.

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