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The Secondhand Man — Foreword

Book information


  The following is a translation from the original German text of the foreword to The Secondhand Man, by Karin Jaeckel Ph.D. —WHS

Once I read an advertisement, found it to be humorous and original, in a bitter kind of way, cut it out and saved it.  It said: 
Secondhand man,
Loved no longer and sucked dry,
seeks a wife lacking demands
for a life together
from the hand into the mouth.
It came to my mind and turned, in the design of The Secondhand Man, into the title of that book when one of the fathers with whom I had one of the many research discussions remarked: "I'm a secondhand man, a little bit used-up all right, but other than that still in pretty good shape.  All I'm lacking is a wife who isn't bothered by me working like an ox, but having no money; — that I would love to be together with her, but don't have the time; — that I see red when another man comes near her, because I would like it if I could trust her, but can't trust her anymore; — That I would like to have children with her but won't have any with her, because I already had some with another one and can't bear the fear to lose my children once more; — that sometimes I have murderous ambitions and seriously envision that I shoot down a certain woman to earn in return free room and board in the slammer, because that can't be any worse than to have become a slave." 
    The Secondhand Man — a tendentious, women-hostile, anti-liberationist book… I can already hear the outcry of many voices that will be raised against me. 
    However, is it really that? 
    One thing I'll admit freely and without hesitation, The Secondhand Man is a tendentious book.  And why not?  Tendentious publications about man-woman problems are nothing new.  The difference between most of the meter-long rows of much-regarded books and never-lacking observations about matrimony, divorce and its consequences and The Secondhand Man is only the sex of the main protagonists.  While the majority of the publications up to now dealt tendentiously with the situation of the woman, I put into the centrepoint the men and fathers who have left a first marriage behind them and are trying to construct a new relationship on the ruins of their life up to now. 
    To the contrary, The Secondhand Man isn't an anti-liberationist book.  Only one who has no comprehension of the meaning of liberation can consider this book to be anti-liberationist! 
    Emancipation means "Liberation from dependence and patronization toward equal rights and self-determination."  Within the meaning of equitability and equal rights, emancipation is a worthwhile goal. 
    However, a woman who was once married to the man who is the father of the children she bore and whom she now exploits with the assistance of a divorce and its consequences in every possible way, and whom she, filled with malice and rejoicing over his misfortune, demeans and degrades to a pauper by being perpetually concerned about her own advantages, and who ruthlessly even steps on the emotions of her children, she isn't emancipated but rather uninhibitedly egoistic. 
    Strong women with an intact feeling of self-worth know that love and partnership are more than never-ending lust.  They don't need to slander men as incapable fathers and the lazy-boys of the nation and marriage as a welfare-institution.  They have no need to become malicious instead of being brave, because they know that they'll be exactly as okay as they simply are.  And above all, they don't need to take out their frustration on the backs of their children, that is, to abuse them as weapons in the circumstances of a separation that has been perverted to a theater of war. 
    With The Secondhand Man I feel myself united with all the strong women in the whole world, the women that haven't been included in the statisticians' reports.  I feel that it is time that we rise to protect the true meaning of emancipation, namely, practicing partnership and love beyond ex-and-jump. 
    By that I don't mean that divorce and separation are generally wrong, that a marriage must last forever and eternally and that for the benefit of the marriage everything, even the most terrible humiliations must be endured.  No, there are situations in which a relationship must be dissolved without delay.  I'm thinking here of physical violence in the marriage, of emotional and physical cruelty and abuse, of emotional and sexual exploitation, of neglect and lovelessness, and what other borderline injuries there may be.  >>Anybody who suffers from that deserves the undivided support of society, not only — as customary up to now — women and children, but also men.<< [note
    My accusation is not directed at people who dissolve their marriage or marriage-like relationship.  I pillory only the how.  I pillory: that the political and humanitarian power struggle, the excessive escalation of the expectation of achievement, and, in connection with that, the expectations of luxuries as well as the labour- and gender war, have undermined family life as well as the raising of children in a fashion that has become a steady trickle-irrigation, stemming from all varieties of media, that has made the life-philosophy "The obligations to the others, the rights to me," into a class-goal. 
    That this form of education doesn't lead to stronger personalities but, instead, to uninhibited egoists who are no longer capable, or barely so, to form lasting relationships is obvious from the divorce rate. 
    I don't deny that separation and divorce comprise a heavy burden, which especially in the first stage of separation may lead to uncontrolled actions.  Nevertheless, I'm firmly convinced that a woman with inner strength is in a position to bring about a separation in a humanitarian, fair fashion; without wanting to destroy her partner and to abuse their children as means to bring about the end.  Even though separation is painful and requires much labour of mourning, that brings about the nurturing of at least a relaxed process of communication, if not even a friendly one, with the most important man in the life of the common children.  Women are proof even today that this is possible.  It is the intent of The Secondhand Man to help it to become a matter of course. 
______________ 
Note: The wording of this last sentence is changed somewhat from the original text as per the following instruction by the author: 

The author asks the translator for this authorized change to the corresponding sentence in the 1997 edition and declares to incorporate this new wording into a new edition/official translation of her book, for the expressive emphasis of the unjustified single-sidedness of the discussion of family violence.

— Oberkirch, [Germany] May 21, 1999

—translated by Walter H. Schneider

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About the author, by the author

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Posted  1999 06 07
Updates:
2001 02 10 (format changes)
2007 12 16 (reformated)