Clementine Ford/ Allen & Unwin
I’ll be honest, I have never read Clementine Ford’s first best seller, Fight Like A Girl (2016). In fact, my current feminist reading list has been limited to attempting to finish Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex – a hefty book that I’m sure will make me sound super pompous and bougie at Ponsonby dinner parties.
Ford is a Melbourne-based writer, speaker and feminist thinker and her new book Boys will be Boys was written in response to her fears and worries surrounding raising a boy in a toxic patriarchal system. It is not enough to educate girls and women about feminism but what about the men? How do we raise sons as feminists? The patriarchy hurts everyone and Ford is adamant to prove it. However, do not let the title or overall aim put you off if you have no offspring or un-woke men to relate this to (if you only have woke men in your life, congratulations, please introduce us). This book is for everyone.
Boys will be Boys is quite brilliant and I will fight you intellectually to the death if you disagree. The book is very modern, very relatable and very emotional. I can’t tell you the number of times I literally yelled “YES!” at my book and terrified Alfie, the unimpressed tabby I was looking after for two weeks. I wrote numerous notes and highlighted so many lines that the book now resembles the diary of a passionate, mad woman. Mad with anger, I should say. As Ford notes, “For millennia women have been forced to live with the risk (and reality) of rape, assault, forced reproduction, imprisonment and even murder by men, yet we’re still expected to pepper every single thing we complain about with disclaimers”. No disclaimer here, but be prepared.
The book is not an easy read. Ford allows us to venture in slightly easy at first before really delving into the darker recesses of humanity. We start with some excellent notes on how 90s movies shaped us (can I just say how excited I was to read that someone else has an inexplicable obsession with Terminator 2: Judgement Day?), the inexcusable rise in gender reveal parties and sobering facts surrounding gender pay gaps. The book then proceeds into some very uneasy chapters on famous ‘men’s rights activists’ (if you don’t know why I have put that in quotation marks then you clearly need to read this book) and toxic masculinity. The pages on rape, that Milo (in my opinion) wanker, #MeToo and society’s obsession with meritocracy make for hard but necessary reading. Do you remember when former Aussie Prime Minister Tony Abbott made himself the Minister for Women? Yeah, seriously.
The anger is often softened by Ford’s meticulous wit. One of my favourite lines is when she discusses the #NotAllMen, “I’m not like that” guy who makes it his mission to call on women he thinks are close to being too ‘pro-woman’: “Like thigh rub in summer time, he’ll find you.” Seriously, she is hilarious and I’m pretty sure I won’t find this in my Beauvoir book. I want to take Ford to dinner and laugh and cry with her into some decent Proseccos.
She is also not afraid to write about things that make us cringe or things that make us frightened. Some of her points are repetitive, but perhaps this is more indicative of the need to really drive the point home than anything else.
For those who have read a lot of feminist literature, some of what is here will not be that new (although it is pretty up to date, having only been released in October this year) but I think that’s its point of difference. Ford’s book – unlike, say, Beauvoir’s – is not for the ‘intellectual elite’. No, Ford’s book is for the masses and I mean that in a good way. What good is discussing the importance of feminist values and desires if only within your safe bubble or echo chamber? Ford wants to break through that chamber and challenge even the least woke of readers. She debates the complexities of intersectional feminism and is very aware of how non-CIS women and women of colour are often worse off under this patriarchy. Her writing, wit, research and even bright coloured cover are all there to serve a huge audience with hopes of getting the message out to those who need it most. That, for me, is the true brilliance of this book and I hope she succeeds. If only to change the mind of just one of the many, many trolls who abuse her online.
Clementine Ford will be at speaking at an event held by Auckland Women’s Centre and the Women’s Bookshop on November 27th, 7 - 8.30pm at Freeman Bay’s Community Centre. I will be there, front row, proudly holding my vandalised copy of her book.
Boys Will Be Boys: Power, Patriarchy and the toxic bonds of mateship (Allen & Unwin) is out now.Support Villainesse