Sexual violence, unequal pay, harassment on the streets and at the workplace, domestic abuse, stalking, body- and slut-shaming, are only some of the problems concerning gender inequality. The Global Gender Gap 2021, whose parameter are Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment, show that still a lot has to be improved - Italy, my home country, is at 63rd position; if you want to check where your native country or the country where you live is, click on the pdf below.
In fact, even Iceland, which is the first ranked country, had to impose measures to reach equality. In 2018, Iceland’s government introduced a policy that requires companies and institutions with more than 25 employees to prove that they pay men and women equally for a job of equal value. The law is successful, but if actual gender equality was reached, no government needed to impose to companies such measures – I mean, it would be natural to pay women and men the same wage.
How to fight and deconstruct the patriarchal system? There are, I think, two ways of taking action against it. The first is to give immediate and practical hep to the victim of violence, harassment, and discrimination, through the approval of laws that promotes equality and contrast violence (for instance, opening anti-violence centres, worsening the punishment for men who use violence against their partner, ex partner etc.). The second is to try to change the system itself by informing those who neglect the problem. However, in order to improve the system, one needs to have a clear view of it, to take a position, and then to discuss with the uninformed ones. That’s why I decided to read at least a pair of essays on feminist theory per year.
A book that I recently read and that I found brilliant is Pauline Harmange’s “Mois les hommes, je les déteste” (“Men, I detest them”). I would define it as a pamphlet, because it is short, sharp, and provocative. The book was published in 2020, and suddenly became really successful: you can find it in a bookshop of 17 different countries!
However, several people have strongly criticized Harmange and the publishing house Monstrograph, claiming that the book promotes gender inequality, but in the opposite way (i.e. it discriminates men). Ralph Zurmély, a special adviser to the French Ministry for Gender Equality, wrote a letter to Monstrograph, demanding the retraction of the essay from the market.
Who attacked the author probably has never even opened the book, stopping at the title. In fact, “Mois, les hommes, je les déteste” does not encourage women to hate men. Misandry is the central topic of the pamphlet, but this concept should be intended as anger towards a category of privileged people (male, white, cisgender and heterosexual), not as hatred towards men as single individuals. But why should we call it “misandry”, which seem to be the opposite of “misogyny” – someone could ask? The author, as I said, deliberately choose to offer a provocation, but her real target is the patriarchal system, not its single individuals who in some way undergo the system.
Therefore, misandry is an attitude to fight patriarchy in all its aspects and manifestations. Women and all the oppressed (the member of the LGBT+ community as well as ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities) have the right to feel anger towards the privileged part of the society. This anger should become an instrument to reclaim and take over their own space. In fact, women do must not wait for men that say to them “we allow you to…”, but rights have to be conquered.
Another key-concept of Harmanage’s view is “sisterhood” (in French sororité), namely, solidarity between women. Women should form together a compact and solid political body, through the construction of their own spaces. This does not mean necessarily a political party or an association – indeed, the author mentions also a club for knitting! The important is that a safe space is created, a space where women can be together and solidarize. In fact, as Harmange reminds, “solidarity between women is never frivolous, but has always a political meaning”!
P. Harmange, Odio gli uomini, Garzanti, Milano 2021