The Secondhand Man Foreword
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:
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,
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,
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
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
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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