Esther Vilar, born Esther Margareta Katzen (September 16, 1935 in Buenos Aires, Argentina) is an Argentinian-German writer. She trained and practised as a medical doctor before establishing herself as an author. She is best known for her 1971 book The Manipulated Man and its various follow-ups, which argue that, contrary to common feminist and women's rights rhetoric, women in industrialized cultures are not oppressed, but rather exploit a well-established system of manipulating men.
Vilar's parents were German-Jewish emigrants. They separated when she was 3 years old.
In 1960 she went to West Germany on scholarship, after studying medicine in the University of Buenos Aires, to continue her studies in psychology and sociology. She worked as a doctor in a Bavarian hospital for a year, and has also been a translator, saleswoman, assembly-line worker in a thermometer factory, shoe model, and secretary.
Esther married in 1961 the German author Klaus Wagn for two years and they had a son called Martin, in 1964. She later had a divorce, but claimed: "I didn't break up with the man, just with marriage as an institution".
The Manipulated Man (1971)
One of Vilar's books is called The Manipulated Man. In it, she claims that women are not oppressed by men, but rather control men in a relationship that is to their advantage but which most men are not aware of.
Some of the strategies described in her book are:
- Lure men with sex, using seduction strategies
- Use praise to control men by administering it carefully
- Use emotional blackmail as a means of controlling men
- Use of love and romance as a guise to mask her real intentions and motives
The Manipulated Man was quite popular at the time of its release, in part due to the considerable press coverage it received.
Vilar appeared on The Tonight Show on February 21, 1973, to discuss the book. In 1975 she was invited to a televised debate by WDR with Alice Schwarzer, who became known as the representative of the women's movement at that time. The debate was controversial, in particular due to its high aggressiveness, and at some point Schwarzer claimed Vilar was: "Not only sexist, but fascist", also comparing her book with the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer.
According to the author, she received death threats over the book:
So I hadn't imagined broadly enough the isolation I would find myself in after writing this book. Nor had I envisaged the consequences which it would have for subsequent writing and even for my private life - violent threats have not ceased to this date.
Her play Speer (1998) is a work of fictional biography about the German architect, Albert Speer, and has been staged in Berlin and London, directed by and starring Klaus Maria Brandauer. She has also written many other books and plays, but most have not been translated into English.
- Vilar, Esther (1998). The Manipulated Man. Pinter & Martin. ISBN 0-9530964-2-4.
- Vilar, Esther (1976). The Polygamous Sex: A man's right to the other woman. W. H. Allen. ISBN 0-491-01737-5.
- Vilar, Esther (1998). Speer. Transit. ISBN 3-88747-128-8. (play)
- Vilar, Esther (1982). El discurso inaugural de la papisa americana: The inaugural address of the American papess. Lectorum. ISBN 84-02-09008-7.
- Vilar, Esther (1971). De gedresseerde man. Tritonpers. ISBN 90-6057-032-4.
- Vilar, Esther (1975). Het polygame geslacht. De Centaur. ISBN 90-6057-023-5.
- Vilar, Esther (1977). Het einde van de dressuur. De Centaur. ISBN 90-6057-224-6.
- Vilar, Esther (1980). Oud. De Centaur. ISBN 90-6057-168-1.
- Wünsch dir was (in German) Der Spiegel, December 27, 1971. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
- Author Esther Vilar Lashes Out At Women Star-Banner, June 14, 1972. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
- E. Vilar, "Der dressierte Mann", radio-interview (in German) ARD, November 7, 1971. Retrieved in December 19, 2011.
- Excerpts from the debate can be seen in the documentary about Alice Schwarzer, available in the "Deutschland - Lenker und Gestalter" series of 12 DVDs released in Germany, and in a recent Schwarzer interview aired in September 27, 2011, and available in the ARD website. The full-42 minute debate can be obtained directly from WDR in DVD here.
- Im Clinch (in German) Der Spiegel, February 10, 1975. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
- Frau gegen Frau (in German) Die Zeit, June 16, 2005. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
- Esther Vilar, The Manipulated Man, revised edition, August 1998