Pen Pricks

In certain Victorian novels, female authors paint a bleak picture of limited options available to women lacking means or family status; of a lonely and loveless existence, yet one lacking privacy and subject to uninvited comment; of a life peopled by men who, as love interests or otherwise, are often cruel and domineering.

This species of novel came to mind as I read samples of Tamil poetry written by women in R. Parasarathy’s 2007 essay “Indian Poetry Today” (Poetry, September 2007).

In a scandal-causing poem, Kutty Revathi writes of breasts: “They swell, as if straining / to break free… like two teardrops that survived / an unhappy love.”

The poet Salma was confined in her home from the age of thirteen until her marriage nine years later, at which time she began to write.

This bed
is my husband’s weapon:
by reminding me of only pregnancies,
it strikes terror in my heart.
(From No Traces Remain)

I need more exposure to these poets’ work to form an appreciation of it. I had it present, however, in reading about a French essay in The Guardian. The story is a fruit tree sagging with Gallic plums.

Pauline Harmange, 25-year-old activist from Lille, pens an essay titled “I Hate Men.”

Small publisher Monstrograph prints a limited run. Ralph, special adviser to the ministry of gender equality, rises to the bait: the vile “ode to misandry” is criminally prosecutable, an incitement to hatred on the grounds of gender.

Mais non! Mlle Harmange says the pamphlet is really an invitation to rediscover the strength of female relationships; an exploration of anger towards men as an emancipatory path, a way of making room for sisterhood.

“A state official who has a power crisis facing an 80-page book released in 400 copies, I find that very problematic,” she said.

The little book’s editor asserts:

“The title is provocative but the purpose measured. It is an invitation not to force oneself to associate with men or to deal with them.“

So much inviting, so little hating! The book’s sales have soared on the controversy. A larger publisher is set to take the title on. Mlle Harmange counts it a “gigantic snub” to the man who wanted to ban her words.

I wish her well. The “I Hate Men” project appears to be enjoying a boost from Ralph’s pique. In her shoes I would include the man in the book’s credits.

(Alison Flood, “French book I Hate Men sees sales boom after government adviser calls for ban,” theguardian.com, 9-8-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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