Book Review: “I Hate Men”, by Pauline Harming


This short book, an essay really, is a tonic for my soul.  I am a misandrist, a man hater, and have been so since I realised at a very young age that men were the problem, not just individuals.  When my experiences led me to realise that it was not the particular but the general which was the problem.  

Patriarchy is a word that describes a social construct that is about systemic violence towards the other, an exclusionary, structural form of hate and degradation.  Its roots lie in sexuality, male sexual insecurity, and a fear of female power.  We speak of entitled men, but the entitlement is not a root cause, it is a by-product of male fear.  The root cause of it all is that men fear women, fear female power, and use all manner of tools, beginning with physical strength and all male power to subjugate and control in order to contain that which they fear.

As a transgender child and later teen and adult, at times in denial, mainly in shame, and in fear, these tools worked against me, nominally someone who was inside the tent.

“From now on I’ve decided that my priority is to commit to being a genuine ally to the women I know.  I want them to feel safe in my company, to know that if they are ever the victim of any kind of sexual harassment or assault, I’ll always be there for them.  I’ll always believe them, I’ll never for a moment doubt the truth of anything they tell me in confidence…I want to tell them they’ll never have to fear that I’ll find an excuse for him [especially if I know him]…I refuse to be one of those people who thinks that domestic assault is a question of ‘perspective’, or a private matter between the two parties.”

PaULINE HARMANGE

Confessing Misandry

There are two people I have confessed my misandry to.  It was wonderful to hear back from them just how much they love men.  One of them inspired me to think about the positive qualities of men that I too possess: a desire to protect, to care for, to be supportive to, to help, to serve.  The other loves men for the contrast, the opportunity to play with difference.  She is so grounded in herself, in her own femininity, that she has freedom.

Both women and one of my therapists who I have never written about (yes, there is one more, and I shall one describe her at length, as she has been instrumental to my coming out and helping me across the threshold.  She sings to me, sweet lullabies that stir my soul and have filled me with colossal energy.  She is a medium), have abjured me to find love of men in my heart.  Their feeling expressed was that acceptance of the male would help me to come to terms with myself.

It seems logical.

I do think I tried.  For one, a domme, I wallowed in maleness, male sexuality, and sought pleasure.  It was surely fun, but not on a spiritual level, and in the end, I had to conclude that it was in the way.  With the second, I am drawn into her orbit through inspiration, not by command or games or kink or anything else.  Her female energy is unlike anything I have ever encountered, fey, light, nurturing, complex, whimsical, curious, open, trusting.  This mix has asked much of me—because it has forced me to ask it of myself.  What greater gift could there be?  When we are given the tools to feed and nourish ourselves we are given a true gift.

So, I have tried to accept men and manliness and manhood.  And as I have stepped into my femininity, and my body and my mind have changed, I found myself more accepting of the male in me.  Somehow, allowing for the female to take over meant that the male that was still there was okay to exist.  Recently, this has manifested itself in male-seeming clothing…I have worn jeans again for the first time in almost 6 months.  This is important.  It means that I am becoming comfortable enough in my own body to wear comfortable clothes.

Invisible Men

I have described a bizarre feeling of walking through an enormous, crowded, lively New York restaurant.  The men disappeared.  I knew there were men there.  Only their faces were all blurred to me.  They ceased to exist and became nothing more than background noise.  It was very a strange and somehow reassuring feeling.  I could, however, see all of the women clearly.  They were not blurry.

Part of me wondered shortly after whether this is something that women do as a self-protection mechanism—that men disappear from the landscape so that eye contact is not made, so that unwanted advances are not cultivated.

Of course, I am also aware that most women really love men, at least sexually.  I joked with a friend recently that cxxk, especially erect cxxk, can be really beautiful, yes, even to me, but what a pity that it is connected to a man.  She agreed, “yeah, after all, women are so much nicer to look at, to touch.  Wouldn’t that be delicious.  Plus, I think we would actually know how to use the thing.”

As a person who has eschewed my cxxk, pleasure tool that it once was, and recognising that a woman I date might pine for that, I take small comfort in the potential future use of a strapon.  Though I will have to think on that a bit.  I certainly can’t wait for the first time when a woman mounts me…and you can be sure that I have no intention of it being anyone else.

My conclusion

I really don’t like men at all.  And though I am pleasantly surprised by how my close male friends continue to be close, the friendships that I am cultivating and cherishing most are those with my female friends.  I don’t have time for men anymore, don’t really want to have anything to do with them.  I’m just tired of them and their world.

And in part because both my therapists and my dommes have felt that I needed to find harmony with this thought, I had put aside my misandry.  But then I read this book.  And in its pages, I found voice for my feelings, and find that it is okay to hate men.  And that I do, and that I am okay with it.

Herewith follows a section by section highlight of the key points which author Pauline Harmange raises, with occasional commentary from yours truly.

Misandry Defined

  • “Taking offense at misandry, claiming it’s merely a form of sexism like any other…is a bad-faith way of sweeping under the carpet the mechanisms that make sexist oppression a systemic phenomenon buoyed throughout history by culture and authority.  It is to allege that a woman who hates men is as dangerous as a man who hates women, and that there’s no rational justification for what she feels, be it dislike, distrust, or disdain.”
  • Misandry in feminist movements doesn’t really exist, “because there is no coordinated, structured system for denigrating or coercing men.”
  • “It’s unnerving to be accused of being a horrid extremist who hates men.  Thousands of women were burned at the stake for less.”  [Her observation is personal for me.  I have referred to myself as a witch.  That feeling preceded learning the truth of my ancestry.  I am direct matrilineal descendant of the last woman to be executed for being a witch in the United States.  My mother’s family were originally Albigensians, the victims of the first Papal pogrom.  Anti-female and bigoted violence are ancestral scars which I have rediscovered through biting, but that is another story.]
  • “Men beat, rape, and murder us.  Boys will boys.  Girls, on the other hand, will become women, and will learn to make their peace with this, because there’s no way to escape the narrow vision of our destiny as refracted through the crystal ball of the patriarchy.”
  • “It appears that misandry is very difficult for men to deal with—an intolerable brutality that adds up to precisely zero deaths and zero casualties.”
  • “All that time they spend snivelling about how hard it is to be a poor persecuted man nowadays is just a way of adroitly shirking their responsibility to make themselves a little less the pure products of the patriarchy.”
  • “…if we alienate [men] with all that talk of men are trash, the risk is they won’t join in and help us in our struggle.  As if we were incapable of organising our struggle without them…”
  • “If we all became misandrists, what a fabulous hue and cry we would raise.  We’d realise that we don’t actually need men.”

Misandry, a Definition

  • “I use the word misandry 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.  And when I say ‘the male sex’ I mean all the cis men who have been socialised as such…”
  • “We have to stop praising men for such pathetically trivial things as leaving work early to pick up their kid from school.  Do not forget that in exactly the same situation a woman is blamed and criticised, whatever her choice.”
  • “What we want is for men to put their power and privilege to good use: by policing their male friends and acquaintances…instead of explaining to women how to go about fighting their battles.”
  • “You become far less forgiving when you analyse the statistics on violence against women through the prism of sociology…we are fed up because of a profound sense of an injustice of which we are all victim…men and masculinity are a problem, for the whole of society, but particularly for women.”

Shacking up with a Man

  • Growing up, my “head was filled with the romantic nonsense with which little girls are indoctrinated…it was obvious that boys my age were swanning about as though they both performed and expected sex at the expense of love.  That’s precisely what every girl is warned of and what’s expected of every boy.”
  • “…women’s efforts to make themselves pleasing to their spouses are rarely reciprocated.”
  • “If I refuse to grant him the right to be mediocre because he’s a man and that’s what men are like, its because I want to grant myself the same respect that I have for all women, for whom I wish truly egalitarian relationships.”

Hysterical and Sexually Frustrated Misandrists

  • “There are men who have agreed to listen to the reasons why our relationships with them are skewed, why their privilege must be deconstructed, and who don’t start squawking the minute they hear someone say that all men are bastards.  They get it, they even agree.  They are our allies.”
  • “We have everything to gain by distancing ourselves from the limited role of the patient, gentle, almost passive woman, and insisting that men make the effort to become better people.”

Men Who Hate Women

  • “In the collective imagination, misandry and misogyny are two sides of the same coin, that of sexism.  The problem is the etymology: drawn from the same root, both words presumably cover the same principles?  No they don’t…the concepts are not equal, either in terms of the dangers posed to their targets or the means used to express them.  Misandry and misogyny cannot be compared, quite simply because the former exists only in relation to the latter.”
  • “The reason society is patriarchal is because there are men who use their male privilege to the detriment of the other half of the population…[In France] 90% of people who received death threats from their partners were women, 86% of those murdered by their partner or ex were also women…96% of those who receive a prison sentence for domestic violence were men, and 99% of those sentenced for sexual violence were men.”  [Interestingly, she highlights a study in the UK prison system showing that female guards also commit rape—on female and male prisoners—demonstrating that rape is a question of power].”
  • “Any man who believes that the patriarchy is merely the fruit of the feminist imagination rather than a concrete reality is complicit in systemic sexism.”
  • “A generalisation isn’t always an easy shortcut, but rather a straightforward description of reality… ‘Not all men are rapists!’ …a true statement, but it’s also true that almost all rapists are men—and that all women have or will suffer some kind of violence at the hands of men.”
  • “During the thousands of years that men have benefited from their dominant social position, what did we do—what have we done—to deserve their violence?”
  • “Having relationships with men isn’t something we owe them, a duty, but, as in every balanced relationship, all the parties involved have to make an effort to treat one another with respect.”

I am Woman, hear me Roar

  • “The examples we set [for boys and girls] are toxic; neither the violence we encourage in boys nor the passivity we impose on girls is an appropriate response, for ourselves or for others, in situations of injustice or conflict.”
  • “Criticising women for creating discord is dishonest as well as sexist.”
  • “Feminism is the interface between private anger, which belongs in the domestic space, and public anger; ‘the personal is political’, whether we’re talking about the gender pay gap or which person in a couple has remember to put on the washing.

Mediocre as a White Dude

  • “Humanity isn’t made up of only men.  It’s difficult to believe given how much room they take up and the way they’ve managed to make everyone believe they’re completely indispensable.”
  • “That’s not to say that all men are necessarily malign, but it’s hard to fight the idea that’s imprinted on our psyches very early on in life that men’s opinions…are more valuable than ours.”
  • “For a while now my guiding wisdom in life has been Canadian writer Sarah Hagi’s Daily Prayer to Combat Imposter Syndrome: ‘God give me the confidence of a mediocre white dude’.  Whenever I am beset by doubt, I think about all the mediocre men who’ve managed to make their mediocrity pass for competence…”

The Heterosexuality Trap

  • “We teach children from a very young age that not having a girlfriend or boyfriend is almost a problem—but also let them understand that ‘there’s still time’.  But we never give them the option of not wanting one.  With girls, it’s reinforced by an armada of clichés and conventions conveyed through fairy stories they absorb, from the sleeping beauty waiting for a kiss from a prince to be brought back to life, to the lonesome wicked witch who devours other people’s children.  Boys, meanwhile, grow up with a more nuanced vision, thanks to a fantasy world peopled by solitary heroes who achieve extraordinary things because of their superpowers…they’re encourage to reach for their dreams.  Little girls, meanwhile, must wait for their Prince Charming to turn up.”
  • “We imagine single women who don’t have children to be selfish and bitter, while their sisters who are married and mothers have the freedom to bestow their generosity and natural kindness.”

Sisters

  • “How to reconcile that deeply ingrained habit we have, of trusting men and wanting to please them, with reality?  We all know at least one woman who has been the victim of some kind of sexual assault.”
  • “If we persist in idealising men…there will always be a discrepancy between what our female friends should be able to expect from us and what we can actually offer them.”
  • “From now on I’ve decided that my priority is to commit to being a genuine ally to the women I know.  I want them to feel safe in my company, to know that if they are ever the victim of any kind of sexual harassment or assault, I’ll always be there for them.  I’ll always believe them, I’ll never for a moment doubt the truth of anything they tell me in confidence…I want to tell them they’ll never have to fear that I’ll find an excuse for him [especially if I know him]…I refuse to be one of those people who thinks that domestic assault is a question of ‘perspective’, or a private matter between the two parties.”
  • “I have a circle of radiant, talented, passionate, extraordinarily spirited female friends, who deserve all my support and all my love.  I’ve chosen to devote to them—to all women—all my relational energy.  Men don’t need me in order to feel validated, convinced of their life choices, or confident of their merits.  And there’s a reciprocity in female relationships that goes without saying…I know that if I’m ever demoralised or filled with self-doubt…I just need to pick up the phone and I’ll have the support I need from this group of women.”  [This is true in my own life, has always been so.  And my closest female friends have all described this to me as their essential support network].”
  • “I’ve decided to privilege women, in the books I read, the films I watch, the culture I imbibe, and in my close friendships, so that men just aren’t that important anymore.  Instead, I privilege the sisterhood, which is so supportive, which nourishes me—in my creativity, my radicalism, my thinking both about myself and about society—in so many areas of my life, where I’ve finally realised, I have no need of men to shape the person I am.”

In Praise of Book Clubs, Pyjama Parties and Girls’ Night Out

  • “Gatherings of women are like a witches’ Sabbath.  When they’re apolitical, men think they are frivolous and absurd.  When they become sites for struggle they are exclusionary and threatening…female solidarity is never frivolous, it’s always political.  It’s in our women-only spaces that we cultivate our sisterhood.”
  • “We have the power to create spaces and times in our lives that we do not serve the interests of men…Hating men and all they represent is absolutely our right.  It’s also a celebration.  Who would have thought there was so much joy in misandry?  It’s a state of mind that doesn’t make us bitter or lonely, contrary to what the patriarchy would have us believe.  Hating men opens the door to love of women (and of ourselves) in all the forms that might take.  We need that love, that sisterhood, in order to be truly free.

Thoughts in Conclusion

This book has spoken to me deeply.  So much of what she writes echoes my own feelings and observations.  That the French cultural police tried to ban it for being too controversial was a blessing, for it had the opposite effect, catapulting this book and its author onto an international stage.  It is an important work.

On a personal level, it validates my own feelings.  I have struggled to find space for the masculine in my own life, in my own self, and have felt somehow a failure for not being able to do this both on the instruction of people I listen to and admire (my dommes) and for people I pay to help me process my struggles (my therapists).  Here is a voice that says my feelings are okay, empowering, necessary.

I have written that the sisterhood is the ultimate salve for me.  I can’t say when this truly took shape in my mind.  Ex-Mistress had me work on something regarding my life goals and finding myself in community with women was central to that exercise, and she asked me to describe it, to figure out what that looked like, how it might take shape.  A lovely dominatrix friend first described to me this very empowering concept of creating her own community, not finding it or looking for it.  I thank her for that nearly every day.

These words on the sisterhood mean more to me than any of the rest.  To provide unstinting and unquestioning support to the women in my life, and to women more generally.  It is both necessary and good, and I look forward to living a life that unfolds with this as a core philosophical underpinning.  I live this through charity but welcome the thought of making it my life’s work.  It is certainly becoming my way of being.

There is quite a lot on this blog about being trans and what that feels like.  I have also written about the importance of the sisterhood to me.  I am aware that I will not always be accepted as a sister, or welcomed into female spaces.  I understand that is a consequence of being AMAB, no matter what I look like.  I was raised male and decades of privilege has rubbed off on me…but I am willing to do the work, and shedding that skin is the ultimate prize.

Those moments of sisterhood are love-laced bliss.  Filling me with tears of joy.  Nothing in life matters more.  It is heaven on earth.  And here, finally, an author who shows the way.

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