Have you fought like a girl? Do you wish to learn how boys will be boys? Do you never bore of generic book titles that only appear on page 10 of search results when you want to Google search this specific one? Then Clementine Ford’s Boys will be boys: Power, Patriarchy and the Toxic Bonds of Mateship is the perfect book for you.
Clementine Ford is not new to feminist nonfiction. Her first book, Fight Like a Girl, was published in September 2016, and claimed to be a memoir and “call to arms for feminists new, old and as yet unrealised“. Her second book, Boys will be Boys was released in September 2018
Unlike bell hooks’s Feminism is for everybody, Ford actually gives us definitions of all the popular feminist buzzwords, like heteronormativity, transgender and everything starting with cis, but inexplicably also defines “disabled person”. Interesting she needs to define it, coming from a woman with a track record of being scared of disabled people. Most of these words are basically just made-up words telling you you’re bad for things you can’t control, like your gender, sexuality and skin color. You’re also bad (cissexist/cisnormative) if you believe being cisgender (“people whose assigned sex at birth accords with their gender identity” [p. xii]) is the norm. Ford is already guilting us the reader into feeling sorry for her, something we’re very used to seeing from Fight Like a Girl, because she’s had “numerous anxiety spirals” (p. xii) about trying to fit everything about toxic masculinity into this book of hers. Her author’s note just reads like an apology for all the bad reviews for Fight Like a Girl who accused her of being Feminism 101 and a White Feminist™.
Ford begins by comparing patriarchy to a line from a 1996 cult movie called The Craft. She claims patriarchy is hard to explain. The us vs. them narrative is very strong here, and Ford only assumes feminists are reading this book.
[Patriarchy] is especially hard to explain to those people who have either never heard of it or whose only experience of it is in laughing sarcastically at feminists and all our LOL TRIGGERED paranoia (p. 2)
If you did a “we” count in this novel, the program would crash, but this is the beauty of Ford’s writing style: this is how she hooks you in. Her writing has a poetic feel to it when she’s describing patriarchy; the repetition and appeal to emotion is very hard to
resist. The gist of it? Patriarchy is everything. Everywhere. It is air. It is life. It is existence. Something something foreboding music.
Anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the Patriarchy Controls Everything method is a “them”. They are “some people”. They are “those people”. They are not us. They are Strawman Man: The World’s Rapiest Superhero, who believes all women are hysterical, and watches Ben Shapiro Reks Feminist compilations. But they are wrong, because they don’t understand patriarchy like Ford does, and they care too much about feeling bad. Feminism helps men! cries Ford. Feminism allows men to have thoughts and feelings (except when Ford mocks them for their emotions by calling them whiny manbabies). Feminism is trying to overthrow patriarchal standards of oppression for men.
Patriarchy is what causes men to think raping and assaulting and abusing women is okay, while forcing themselves to kill off their emotional self, in some pseudo-cult Ford defines as the Brotherhood of Man. These aren’t outliers, she says. This is most men. While they may not all be evil, most are easily led into evil actions.
Much like her first book talks in-depth about Jill Meagher’s murder, Ford politicizes the murders of two women: Qi Yu and Eurydice Dixon. She says how, after Dixon’s rape and murder, the police victim-blamed Dixon and then a anti-feminist (actually a run-of-the-mill conspiracy theorist, but don’t let facts ruin your emotional narrative) graffitied a vulgar image over her vigil. Just let that sink in, Ford says, with her typical dramatic flourish. This paragraph makes it sound like men like the Victoria Police detective and the “anti-feminist” are the norm, when there were millions of men and women at Dixon’s vigil, and many millions more around Australia and the world defending Dixon and condemning her alleged killer.
Ford barrages us with more images—more women and girls abducted and sexually assaulted—all with one aim: to show us men are bad. She tells us feminists are the good guys, trying to tell the word the truth that MEN ARE BAD, but no-one will listen to them and their crusade for goodness, because only feminists care about truth and justice. There is no doubt the cases Ford is talking about are bad. Any rational person would think so. We also hear more about Strawman Man in a long-winded emotional way that really only sounds like diehard Pauline Hanson voters.
Basically, she summarizes her book. She will tackle toxic masculinity and the problems about men, and how only feminism can dismantle patriarchy’s influence on men. She knows boys can be sweet and kind because she birthed a son, so naturally she knows all about men now. Sigh. We’re in for a long ride.
One – It’s A Boy
Clementine Ford talks about her pregnancy, and ranting that patriarchy’s influence begins before a baby is even born.
One of the first ways we’re socially conditioned to imagine the outline of a person is by assigning them a gender (p. 13)
Well, no duh. There is a reason gender exists. To continue the human species. We need to know who has a “ding or a dong” (p. 13) because at some point in the future, it will matter to continue humanity. To label this as “worthy of critique” is frankly silly. She complains regular people aren’t listening to feminists grr! because they’re having gender reveal parties, and all feminists know gender is just like a pair of underwear. According to Ford, chromosomal makeup (XX or XY) “no more define gender than wearing pink skirts or blue ties” (p. 15) because it traumatizes trans and ‘gender nonconforming’ people. She brings up intersex people, saying because we take them seriously when they choose their gender, why not for everyone? Um…maybe because they’re such a small percentage of the population.
On her friend Dev’s (who will be forced to read this book, no doubt) recommendation, Ford has a replacement for gender reveal parties, which involves a situation that would probably lead to the flock of parrots murdering everyone on sight just for some precious Judith Butler pinata birdseed. Jeez, how can one even take this book seriously? She says gender reveal parties are beginning of the insidious influence of gender roles, and no one boy or girl are the same: “There’s no such thing as a universal boy” (p. 18). Then why all the generalizations about Strawman Man?
Ford goes more into detail about her pregnancy and raising a young son: about how everyone was so much about gender, and she’s the only one self-aware. She even got side-eye from another pregnant woman because of her politics. Can’t Clemmy ever get a break? Despite all the patriarchal resistance, Ford has been a model feminist by “captur[ing] an ongoing small act of resistance in my local Kmart” (p. 24). What does she mean by this? Did she stop rape culture in its very tracks? Erm, no. She shared pictures of problematic baby clothes to her Instagram followers.
She overloads us with studies proving gender roles are deeply ingrained in us, and that’s baaaad, but only feminists can save the day. Those studies also show you can’t define gender by genitals, so who is she to assume all these “boys will be boys” boys are actually boys? She also overloads us with social media stories and more personal anecdotes. While talking about the Australian same-sex marriage plebiscite, she misleads her reader (you, us) into thinking the anti-same-sex marriage people (them) were all Christian loonies who thought Safe Schools would be the end of the world; pretending Safe Schools is an innocent, anti-bullying program, when it isn’t. She talks about Cory Bernardi, a far-Right politician who once compared same-sex relationships to bestiality (so you know he’s a fringe loony) and makes it seem like Bernardi has far more power than he really does.
Basically, Ford gives us a choice. Either be a hateful, boy-hating, soulless, insecure monster like Cory Bernardi, or you can support kindness, love, compassion and rainbows and join Clementine Ford. She says you can’t define gender by genitals or appearance, so who’s she to say all her “haters” are men? Isn’t she just assuming their gender? For the most part, Ford is saying reasonable things here: Yes, boys should be allowed to play with and wear what they want. The problem? She’s a hypocrite. You only have to read on to see why…
Two – A Woman’s Place
Chapter Two rants about the unfair division of labor in the home: i.e. women do more cooking and cleaning than men. A reasonable complaint. However, she already betrays her “boys should be able to do what they like” rhetoric by mocking a unnamed man, assuming he “secretly wants to marry his mommy” (p. 40).
Her rant about changing last names after marriage is infuriating, especially because she assumes it is patriarchy that causes women to change their surnames.
It’s your name. You were born with it, just as men were born with theirs. The difference is that our patriarchal society still treats women as if our names are on loan from one man until we find another to claim us and gift us with our new and true identity. (p. 40)
Sigh. What about women who hate their names? What about victims of childhood abuse, or other trauma, who wish to separate themselves from the name of their abuser? What about women with frankly boring surnames? What if their partner’s name is more pleasing? Of course, in a majority of cases, Ford is correct. It’s ridiculous. And hyphenating doesn’t always work. But this assuming we women don’t make any choices of our own in the 21st century is bullshit. Stop assuming women’s lives, Clementine.
Her argument about women’s unpaid domestic labor being ignored by men means nothing to millennials: in this day and age, no-one (man or woman) can only work or only stay at home. She’s upset women over 65 are the “fastest growing” homeless group in Australia (ignoring that men are already the largest group of homeless) because they couldn’t save up for retirement due to staying at home, but, hey, barely any millennials will be able to save up for retirement. There’s gender equality for ya!
No wonder Ford’s partner won’t listen to her when she complains about his lack of housework: she legitimately says “fucking heteropatriarchal bullshit” (p. 48). This chapter is just far too many pages ranting about how men do less housework than women, and that’s patriarchy’s fault. Patriarchy means men are mocked (by other men and women) for doing housework, and women are patriarchalized into doing housework for no benefit . Strawman Man also think he’s entitled to rape his wife during and after pregnancy, because patriarchy. Pontronkonky. Patriarchy. And I’ve finally worked it out. She adores boys, but it’s those precious men (Him Upstairs [p. 63]) she loathes so so deeply. Don’t believe me?
one of the most oppressive inequalities shouldered by women partnered with overgrown oafs cleverly disguised as human males. Money. (p. 64)
…and a man called Brian saying something somewhat stupid (he assumes his partner will be the stay-at-home parent, not himself) causes her to (joking, she’ll say, JOKINGLY. But the evil overgrown oafs are never allowed to make a joke!) say this:
I get to indulge my secret internal fantasy of scooping him and all the men like him up into a giant net and dropping them into the middle of the sea. (p. 64)
But even little boys like her son aren’t let off the hook, because “we [women] exist in our own right, and our potential for success isn’t conditional on helping to give men like him a free ride” (p. 68). Those cute, innocent boys will grow up to be Strawman Man! Beware!
Her solution is paid parental leave (not maternal or paternal), like they do in Sweden, which is reasonable. Have gender equality in housework. Build empathy, even though empathy can’t be “built”. Too bad she goes into a rant on patriarchy. Again.
Three – Girls on Film
Another chapter where Ford complains about sportsball. Damn Strawman Man enjoying his football. This chapter, as you may have assumed, is Ford criticizing the lack of women and girls in popular culture, and how she grew up with only a handful of female role models to idolize. She also can’t math, because:
The cast of this story [the movie Labyrinth] about a girl’s quest is still infuriatingly weighted in favour of men—sixty-two to twenty-eight to be exact.
But 62+28=90. What happened to the other ten percent? Are they puppets? Puppets still have gender. Here Ford was telling us in Chapter Two she can do math.
Ford spends far too many pages talking about favorite movies of her childhood (Labyrinth, Terminator 2, Star Wars, Indiana Jones) and how problematic they are, because there are barely any women, because movie screenwriters hate women. We’re also introduced to Strawman Man’s arch-nemesis Strong Female Character (p. 82), who Ford dislikes about half as much as Strawman Man, because she lacks a personality and hides behind the mask of Feminism. Even though, less than ten pages later, she’s deriding Strawman Man for his criticisms of Strong Female Character (who he calls Mary Sue). Remember, folks: Do as I say, not as I do.
She moves to kids movies, because frankly, of course she’d know because of her son. There’s a problem. Ford believes Frozen, a movie hailed as a feminist classic, is not actually feminist at all, because there’s only two female characters of any importance, and five males characters of importance. Never mind 99 percent of people can only tell you the names of the two female characters. Anna and Elsa.
I find myself wondering how it is that men who align themselves so strongly with hero narratives can be so unaware of what side of the story they sit on…[they] consider themselves to be the good guys. (p. 98)
The naivete in this is astonishing. Here, Ford can’t believe why men who she disagrees with politically are so bad. They’re doing horrible things! Well, Clemmy, it’s not like bad people purposely do bad things, unless they’re psychotic, sociopathic or narcissistic. Most human beings are not. Anti-feminist men included. They believe they’re doing the right thing. Is this really so hard to comprehend? It is basic empathy, something Ford said we need more of in the last chapter. But her solution to all the “sea of white men with a few supporting characters added ‘for balance'” (p. 100)? Change pronouns in existing stories. Tell our children more diverse stories. Tell boys they’re not entitled (she sounds like a Right-winger complaining about millennials).
Four – Not All Men
This chapter is as the title implies. Ford is complaining about men who say #NotAllMen. She refers to Strawman Man by his secondary name, Not-All-Man, “defender of the defended” (p. 102), and gives us more info on how Strawman Man works. He relies on his Man Signal being beamed into the sky, and rushes in to play devil’s advocate.
There’s something sinister about the lengths to which some men will go to make sure they are never held accountable (as individuals and as a class) for indignities and rampant abuse women are subjected to on a daily basis (p. 102)
Whelp. Who knew? Sharing genitals/pronouns with someone means you are are responsible for all their horrendous acts. I guess it’s time for me to apologize for the acts committed by Rosemary West, Aileen Wuornos, Elizabeth Bathory, Irma Grese and Ilse Koch, plus countless others too numerous to name.
Of course, that’s strawmanning Clementine Ford, the Queen of Strawmanning. She’s just trying to say #NotAllMenners are changing the topic, shifting the focus. We know not all men are evil, violent monsters, so we should know Clemmo is making generalizations for the sake of sensationalism. We should know not to take her seriously! Except when she (without any apparent joking) legitimately believes all men are responsible for the behavior of bad men just because they happen to share the same genitals/pronouns. The #NotAllMen folks don’t expect you to give them a hall pass and call them heroes (well, some of them do) for not being Strawman Man: The World’s Rapiest Superhero, but why be surprised by the overly emotive, dramatic language in this book 100 pages in?
We’re introduced to Not-All-Man’s disguises, which are 1. The ‘Well, I’m Not Like That’ Man (the anti-feminist, like Tony Abbott or Andrew Bolt), 2. The ‘Male Champion of Change’ Self-Saucing Pudding (the male ally) and 3. The ‘None of My Friends Are Like That’ Conspiracy Theorist (like it says, e.g. Matt Damon).
Ford’s rebuttal to the #NotAllMenners: #YesAllMen. You know a man who is “guilty of assault, rape or just garden-variety misogyny” (p. 110). To Ford, all men are guilty of some form of garden-variety misogyny, by which she means YOU’LL joke to YOUR mates that women should be raped and kidnapped and murdered. Wow! Strawman Man must have the wildest convos with his mates! Who knew one insensitive joke about women is basically the same as rape and murder?
We also have the 4. The ‘Women Do it Too’ Equal Opportunity Officer (she critiques the One in Three campaign, accuses these men of “point scoring and deflection” [p. 114])
Men are not a homogenous group of people, and their experience of (and desire for) sexual contact is not operated by a remote satellite circling the earth (p. 115)
While she’s talking about an important issue here (some men not taking teen male victims of rape seriously), the hypocrisy levels are off the charts. Jeez, says the woman assuming all cis, white, straight men are #YesAllMen baddies. “Only I can say all men are [insert strawmanning here]!” Basically: it’s not feminism’s fault, we’re helping, it’s toxic masculinity. Blah blah.
Instead of working towards change that will benefit all people, including men, we are forced to squabble in the gutter about who’s meaner and who has it worse. What a wasted opportunity (p. 117)
That’s intersectional feminism.
Lastly, there’s the 5. The ‘You Lose Credibility with your Misandry’ Man. She doesn’t deny it, she just says it’s not harmful to be misandrist, and says anyone who disagrees with her man-hating is a fragile, toxic man (whelp, didn’t know I was a secret man). She’s just letting out her millennia of frustration about men’s subjugation and domination with sarcasm. Sure you’re “agitating for our own liberation and freedom” (p. 119) by tweeting. Yeah, suuure. It’s not that you’re a provocateur who’s waiting with bated breath for the manbabies to give into your bait.
Her takeaway? Men, stop being egotistic. We women are under no obligation to care about your feelings, so be a feminist ally. A feminist ally can be a genuinely Nice Guy, and not just an Elliot Rodger Nice Guy™. Be a Feminist Ally. Just don’t expect us to give a shit if you are. Because women [I disagree with] are fools for trusting any man at all. Because even the alliest ally doesn’t give a shit about women.
Five – We Know What Boys Are Like
In Chapter Five, we learn about “institutional” slut-shaming via Bible Belt purity balls, and how sex education trains boys to think they are sex machines and girls to think they are bastions of purity. Pornography is misogynistic and capitalistic and bad because “what’s being sold here is fantasy, not reality” (p. 133). Who’da thunk it? Porn isn’t reality. Shock horror! Pornography is especially bad, says Ford, because it gives men backwards views on consent and also erectile dysfunction.
Her solution: “improv[e] consent dialogues (in adolescents particularly)” (p. 136), which is a really Gender Studies way of saying “talk about consent” and give kids proper sex ed. Her sex ed involves Gender Studies 101, telling boys about sexism and misogyny in regards to both porn and everywhere. You should be watching your porn ethically and analyzing it to make sure it’s feminist, because a 10-year-old who’s just been given the Sex Talk (or even a grown adult, for that matter) will definitely analyze with a feminist lens “a woman being ploughed by three dicks at once” (p. 137) on Pornhub.
It’s telling how much leniency is granted to boys allowed to ‘learn from their mistakes’ while girls continue to be subjected to scrutiny and shame for similar engagement (p. 143)
While this is still true in too many cases, there has been a recent shift in power dynamics, where women are allowed as much leniency as the Boys Who Will Be Boys. The aforementioned quote tends to only be true in ultra-conservative and conspiracy theorist communities. For the rest of the western world, it seems to be the reverse. Only Brock Turner’s immediately family and friends supported his behavior, whereas there was barely any scrutiny of Lavinia Woodward, a woman who, while on drugs, allegedly stabbed her partner. The judge presiding over Woodward’s case, as well as her university professors, refused to punish her, simply because her future as a doctor would be compromised by this minor lapse in judgment. So, what do people like Turner and Woodward have in common? Money. But we hear crickets from Ford.
Conversely, Ford’s criticisms of how Strawman Man deals with male victims of rape? It’s completely on point. She lists a few examples, which I’d never heard of, and (even ignoring her overly emotive language) they painted an appalling picture. Too many people take male rape less seriously. In Strawman Man’s universe, women are sluts and whores, and men always enjoy sex. Far too many examples of Strawman Man and his sidekicks show how insidious these people are. Ford’s example is a Brisbane, Australia, man who was penetrated with a bottle and filmed by his mates as a “prank”, and she rightly supports him in what must have been a challenge to speak out and fight for justice. A more popular example is the case of Asia Argento and Jimmy Bennett. The comments on Instagram and Twitter were vile. I would’ve killed for that when I was seventeen. On her old Instagram photo, seemingly from when the alleged rape occurred: He doesn’t look terrified, does he? As any intersectional feminist would say: Yikes. However, Ford blames it all on her mythical supervillain, Patriarchy. Patriarchy harms men into thinking rape is emasculating and the norm.
[toxic masculinity] encourages them to view girls and women as conquests instead of human beings, while denying them the right to prioritise intimacy over physicality (p. 145)
From this, she talks about “compulsive heterosexuality”: how men are forced to be less intimate, and how “no homo” has become the catchcry of Strawman Man and his mates. There’s more about toxic masculinity, and I’m questioning now whether Ford is the Stephen King of Australian Feminism? So, so many words to describe the same thing.
We all have a role to play in dismantling the twin towers of homophobia and misogyny (p. 149)
Ugh. Wait a sec…Did she really call homophobia and misogyny “twin towers”?
Six – Mass Debate
This is an entire chapter complaining about Milo Yiannopoulos.
In November 2017, Right-wing internet provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos arrived in Melbourne, Australia, and people were not happy. Clementine Ford was one of those people: “Yiannopoulos represents the chasm that exists between actual dialogue and something far more chaotic and lawless. He has built a career on saying things are not only deliberately ‘shocking’…but purposely cruel and offensive” (p.151-52). Does he hit a little too close to home? Nope, Ford thinks she’s better than Yiannopoulos, because provocateur is too polite a word for this “Islamophobic misogynist and Nazi supporter” (p. 154). She seems to believe Yiannopoulos’s carefully crafted persona—not that he isn’t a conservative, because he definitely is—is the real Yiannopoulos. That doesn’t make him any less dangerous, because just like the other Right-wing figureheads with carefully-crafted personas (Alex Jones, Andrew Bolt), there are regular Right-wingers who believe the act.
Male journalists and men proved their toxic masculinity by trying to force Yiannopoulos and Ford to debate. But why would she do that? Because Yiannopoulos is all that is wrong with men today. Toxic man. A whole chapter. Talking about Milo Yiannopoulos. His history. How he was “one of only a few people in the short history of Twitter to be permanently banned from the platform” (p. 156). Short history? Few people banned? Pfft. How there are other toxic men similar to him like Jordan Peterson, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Alex Jones, who are all men with varying levels of Right-wing beliefs, but she lumps them all together as Nazis.
I’m loathe to spend this much time discussing an adult man who behaves like an overgrown child, but… (p. 158)
…but you need to waste 25 pages of this book talking about a man who is almost completely irrelevant in 2018 and 2019 under the guise of “but he is proof of toxic masculinity in the current year”! We even get a description of the alignment system in Dungeon & Dungeons so she can accuse Yiannopoulos of being chaotic evil. She claims to be neutral good. We get it. You’re paid by the word.
The sense they’re being asked to personally apologise is interesting, because it not only assumes a generic and universal state of masculinity that is somehow being subjected to widespread cultural shaming right now (which is not true… (p. 164)
This hypocrisy is giving me whiplash. She also says Yiannopoulos and his manbaby shitlords who use 4chan and Reddit (I like to imagine them on r/Konmari) “recite obnoxious and easily disproven statements such as ‘the wage gap doesn’t exist'” (p. 167). shoe0nhead would like to have a word with you…
By the way, she won’t debate Milo. Because by engaging with him, she’d be falling to a terrorist’s level. Even though she constantly engages with people like Milo, and she even stoked his narcissistic ego writing 25 pages about him in this book. But…that’s different. That’s “throw[ing] my fair share of insults” (p. 173).
Seven – The Manosphere
Here, Clementine Ford talks about all the harassment she has received simply for being a good, decent human being. She recounts the time she thought she would be fired from the Sydney Morning Herald. She wasn’t, thankfully. But around the same time this book was written, most of Fairfax Media’s staff was laid off. But poor Clemmy. She was just receiving her typical aggressive misogynistic rape and death threats.
But this chapter is actually about the manosphere, or as Ford describes it:
Drawing together users from 4chan, 8chan, Reddit, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, independently run blogs and the sewerage pipes that connect the lot of them, the vast toilet system that makes up this manosphere can be accurately summarised by three words: angry, paranoid and entitled (p. 182)
MRAs (yes, she still calls them MRAs like it’s 2013) should be working with feminists to dismantle plookyparky, but they’re too busy trying to sow division and blame women. They want men to be able to rape their wives and other atrocities, whereas feminists are the ones doing all the good in the world. Even though she’s an intersectional feminist, she takes credit for the work of the suffragettes and second-wave feminists, under “we nailed that one too” (p. 186). Also, Strawman Man is only saying feminism is unnecessary in the first world; he believes it’s important in developing countries where “in some places, it’s still considered a privilege when girl babies are even allowed to live” (p. 186). Or at least he tries to tell us he cares about them.
She gives the reader a biased rundown of #Gamergate, describing it as “a thinly veiled Twitter ‘movement’ that pretended to be about ‘ethics in gaming journalism’, but, as prominent feminist and media critic Anita Sarkeesian observed, very quickly revealed itself to be a ‘sexist tempter tantrum’ more concerned with silencing critics of misogyny in gaming culture and keeping women out completely” (p. 190). The edgelord rage-wanker 4channers wouldn’t stop harassing poor Quinn, Sarkeesian and Wu.
Gamergaters nerd out over the integrity of the gaming space while secretly enjoying the fact their pretensions to some kind of larger moral goal allow them to get away with (and get off on) treating real-life women the way they treat the background sex workers in Grand Theft Auto (p. 192)
Nice strawmanning there. Of course there are plenty of Gamergaters who think like Ford manssumes, but the cherry on top is her sheer lack of knowledge on video games; so much she resorts to the oft-debunked assumption of non-video gamers about Grand Theft Auto. Yikes. Are we surprised?
Next in the Manosphere is the despicable involuntarily celibate man, better known as the “incel”. Ford spends a lot of paper talking about waste-of-oxygen incels like Elliot Rodger and Alek Minassian, and she falsely assumes society lauds these men: “This is the terrible bind in which women find themselves within a toxic cultural mindset that prioritises men’s ‘need’ for sex and affection over women’s right to determine what feels unsafe or undesirable for us” (p. 199).
Her solution is to not trivialize these violent acts of toxic masculinity, because almost all men are on this spectrum of bad: from entitlement on one end to homicidal rage on the other. We need to teach men via pop culture that women are not objects to be won at the end of quests, because we’re still in the 1990s and men think life is Super Mario. Or Grand Theft Auto, because that’s the only game Clementine Ford has heard of.
Eight – Your Honour, I Object
This chapter talks about rape victims. We learn about Paul Elam, of MRA website A Voice For Men, talking about how fake rape claims are so common, with Ford immediately refuting his claims and ranting that patriarchy takes rape victims less seriously because toxic masculinity patriarchy buzzword buzzword. She is correct in her discussion of MRA-types not taking rape seriously; you know, the type who says a woman is making a fake rape accusation if she simply breathes wrong.
Unlike the feminist movement, which throughout its rich and storied history has sought to liberate all humans from oppressive structures of patriarchy, the men’s rights movement is founded on the basic conviction that women are trying to fuck men’s shit up and it isn’t fair. (p. 213)
Yeah, we get it. Feminists=angelic, pure heroes. Anti-feminists=Demonic, evil monsters. Even if one does agree feminism is better than anti-feminism, this overly-emotive language is so over the top it does the opposite of its intended purpose. What she does here is show MRA’s are just as hypocritical as Ford and her brand of feminism.
Ford also “debunks” the other A Voice For Men/MRA belief: that is, of the family court system being swayed in the mother’s favor. She continues strawmanning Strawman Man, unaware there are multiple types of anti-feminist men (they’re not all just Default MRA). How can they hold two completely separate views!? mocks Ford, seemingly obliviously. Basically, Ford’s rebuttal is Elam’s arguments on custody battles are based in lies: According to his estranged kids, he is a bad dad. She also cites laws saying family courts are increasingly swayed towards fathers, regardless of if they were good or abusive fathers. Ford claims the MRAs are listened to over feminists because of “a public easily swayed by feelings rather than facts” (p. 223). Hmm. You sound a bit Right-wing there, Clem-Clam. In the United States, she says the system is so in favor of fathers, rapists can willingly petition for custody in seven states, and more states where there are only some exemptions for rapists. This is disgusting.
She also rants about One Nation (a far-Right Australian political party) supporting abusive fathers in the court system (p. 222-23), which is interesting because Ford’s own father (who she has a positive relationship with) is a One Nation candidate.
Basically, MRAs hate women so much they wish to legislate them. And by MRA men, she means the “white, cis straight and pissed off” (p. 228) dudes. Ford could have made this chapter so much shorter.
Nine – The King of the Hill
Australians are still very sexist because they won’t listen to me, Clementine-the-Younger, and they voted in the sexist Tony Abbott as Prime Minister. To make matters worse, his cabinet wasn’t very diverse. She accuses Peter Dutton of “hav[ing] no soul and eats kittens for breakfast” (p. 235), but previously admitted to “fucking hat[ing] cats” (p. 174), so does she really care about Dutton eating kittens? Wouldn’t she be cheering him on?
Sexism isn’t just rampant in Australia, with the misogynistic treatment by Abbott of women like Gillian Triggs and Peta Credlin. Misogyny and patriarchal oppression are global. This the reason why we’re all reading this chapter: Donald Trump.
How frustrating must it have been for the most qualified candidate in US history to lose to a man so incompetent, dangerous and cartoonish that he is a living satire (p. 240)
Most qualified in US history? Has Hilary Clinton already been US President and we somehow didn’t know? While Ford does talk about unfair treatment of Clinton by Strawman Man and his allies, she ignores many of the valid criticisms anyone who was not Strawman Man had with her.
Back to Australian politics, and male politicians are constantly interrupting female politicians, and Ford gives us a PhD candidate’s thesis and other studies to show how prevalent manterrupting is. And if you think mansplaining and manterrupting are bad, then think of women of color, who “must confront the dual aggressions of misogyny and racism” (p. 243)
She complains about women who dare to disagree with feminism, by dehumanizing and degrading them. These women, like Miranda Devine and Janet Albrechtson just suck up to boys, and Samantha Armytage and Julie Bishop are “foot soldier[s] to the patriarchy” (p. 244). Stupid Stepford blondes like the Fox News anchors. WHY ARE THEY BETRAYING THE WOMAN HIVEMIND! Burn them for apostasy!
When you’re attacking even The Australian for political correctness, there’s something wrong (p. 250)
Nothing to criticize here. She’s absolutely correct.
Whether or not these men exist en masse in reality or just mythology is irrelevant—the stereotype is heralded in the folksy colloquialisms favoured by the likes of Tony Abbott (p. 252)
So you’re telling me Strawman Man may not even exist? He’s just a myth created by far-Righties to pretend “mateship” is a real thing when it’s actually gender-exclusionary. Shocking! I was excited to learn more about Strawman Man; he “slam back beers, never wear pink and are only allowed to cry when their football team either wins or loses” (p. 252).
We hear about poor Yassmin Abdel-Magied, who “was subjected to the most despicable and violent of cultural acts after she posted a simple seven-word status on Facebook” (p. 253). Yeah, that’s definitely what happened. You’re not exaggerating to paint Abdel-Magied as a blameless victim at all. She definitely wasn’t trying to make Anzac Day, a day meant to commemorate the sacrifice of Australian and New Zealand soldiers at Gallipoli in WWI (also soldiers in WWII and Vietnam), about her political issue of the moment. She wasn’t exactly like one of those #NotAllMen, women murder too MRAs. Imma let you finish, Taylor, but let me say Manus, Nauru, Syria and Palestine are worse atrocities. “That special day…when our citizens…abus[e] brown people on the train.” (p. 253) Clementine Ford confirmed for reading TheAntiBogan. There’s no denying racists jumped on Abdel-Magied for racist reasons, but to utilize the fringe to manipulate your audience is insulting.
She lists some examples of exclusive men’s clubs where men are sexist, and then references Trump’s election victory to show how these men were emboldened to continue being sexist men, because all sexist men from A are always the same sexist men as in B.
Ten – It’s Just a Joke
Rape jokes are bad. Toxic men keep making rape jokes. Other toxic men allow said toxic men to keep being toxic.
Comedy, like most industries with potential for great reward and riches, is not only dominated by men but also protected by a network of them who want to maintain it as their own private bachelor pad (p. 269)
Female comedians get rape and death threats on the reg, simply for pointing out sexism. One of these is Lindy West, a woman I’ve only heard of because she blocked me for no reason. Lovely lady. She tried to point out sexism by male comics, but was subjected to “a maelstrom of online harassment.” (p. 273) I’m not sure what harassment I personally did. Breathed, probably.
On page 275, Ford talks about a “friend and fellow feminist” she joked with, one can’t help but think of another popular feminist mentioned in the Manosphere chapter. Here Ford says she doesn’t think all men should die, “just the annoying ones” (p. 275).
She’s annoyed we women have to be respectful of men’s feelings, because who cares about the fee-fees of toxic manbabies when we have to crush patriarchal oppression. But manbabies are allowed to be #triggered all day long and can call it Freedom of Manxpression. In her words:
There are only so many times you can be told your objection to the ritual abuse and oppression of women is really just an unnecessary and mean attack on men before you decide fuck it and agree with whatever nonsense they decide to throw at you. After all, that’s where my sun cannon joke came from…Reader, you’d be surprised by how many people seem to genuinely believe I’m building a death cannon in the desert (p. 276-77)
Whelp, then. There are only so many times a man can be told he’s a rapist before he decides fuck it and agrees to be a rapist. There are only so many times a woman can be called a Stepford blonde and a “supportive female enforcer of patriarchy” (p. 260) before she says fuck it (or dagnabbit if she’s a Fox News host) and enters Strawman Man’s mancave to receive her enforcement badge.
She turns to regular blokes utilizing sexist comedy to be sexist, talking about secret groups where sexist men make sexist jokes. Despite some men pointing out this bad behavior, these men are indicative of a widespread rape culture. She minimizes the definition of rape culture so she can say it happens here in the West:
We mean a culture in which the criminal activity of rape is minimised and normalised through dismissive attitudes, victim-blaming, the defence of ‘boys being boys’ and, yes, the use of sexually violent imagery and disrespect for consent as a vehicle for laughter (p. 280)
She uses studies to show regular blokes are sexist, because university/college students admit they would rape a woman if they faced no repercussions. Uh, wouldn’t most people commit a crime if there weren’t repercussions? Ford calls it “bleak but unsurprising” (p. 283). But what did she actually learn? “Sexism is not peripheral to the crime of rape—it is central” (p. 283). Rape jokes make rapists think rape is okay.
Most rapists don’t fall into the category of Alleyway Attacker. Most rapists probably wouldn’t even consider themselves rapists so much as opportunists (p. 284).
Doesn’t mean we should minimize the harm caused by Alleyway Attackers. Her second point is true, but that’s because any human being doing a horrible, vile thing will justify their bad behavior.
Eleven – Asking For It
In this chapter, Ford talks about the excuses rapists and rape apologists use to defend rape. Like Brock Turner’s family.
In news cycle time, it took an entire ice age for media to publish his mugshot (a move that has as much to do with white supremacist culture as it does rape culture (p. 291)
Oh, of course it’s white supremacy. You have to cover all your intersectional bases, eh? But Ford’s problem here is, because Brock Turner was out of prison in three months, “This is what rape culture looks like” (p. 291). Nope. This is what being family friends with the judge is like. This is what money culture (class privilege) looks like. It doesn’t help that, yet again, Ford redefines rape culture so she claim the western world is a rape fest.
She talks about a case in Belfast, Northern Ireland, that undoubtedly reads like a horrendous situation for the Jane Doe involved. Ford is especially critical of the defense lawyers victim-blaming Jane Doe—but isn’t that expected? They’re trying to get their clients off with not guilty. And that’s what these rugby players/alleged rapists got. A not guilty verdict. Ford’s solution is for rape culture scholars (or for regular folks to be educated on rape culture) to be on juries:
It’s impossible to expect that a typical jury of twelve average people has been protected their entire lives from the impact of the rape culture we all live in (p. 307)
Regular people—especially regular men—have been corrupted by rape culture, and probably will victim-blame and justify the rapist’s behavior.
Ford then spends a lot of pages (far too many) over-inundating us with examples of women being allegedly raped—mainly by young male sports players—and trying to face justice in a court system that will find the men “not guilty”. At the beginning, you are horrified, but after the first few examples, this effect becomes dulled, and you’re just waiting for Ford to move onto the Next Big Toxic Masculine Issue. She uses very strong emotive language here, describing the women’s alleged rapes in detail, and repeating herself every few paragraphs, mockingly saying “She consented!” Finally, she stops trying to bloat out her word count:
No, she didn’t.
Not fighting back isn’t the same as consenting. Relenting isn’t consenting. Giving in out of self-preservation isn’t consenting. (p. 325)
Ford’s overall message is this: Make women a big deal. Give them a future, so people care. I guess she’s saying treat female victims like they treat female perpetrators like Lavinia “Promising Future as a Doctor” Woodward or Asia “He’s 17. What 17 Year Old Boy Doesn’t Want Sex?” Argento. Stop making excuses for boys and men. We should stop teaching men rape is a “small mistake” or some such nonsense Strawman Man tells his kids, his family and his friends.
Twelve – Witch Hunt
Here Clementine Ford lists some the men accused of sexual misconduct under #MeToo, starting with villainous leader, Donald Trump and his former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter. She tries to paint it out that a sheer majority of these men, who she knows are guilty (for many of them, we have no clue whether they are guilty or not guilty) and have committed vile acts ranging from domestic abuse to rape to plain old murder, and how society/patriarchy/everybody has let them off and now they’re still worth lots of money.
- Casey Affleck, Roger Ailes, Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Dayne Beams, Nathan Bock, Marlon Brando, Richard Branson, Josh Brolin, Chris Brown, Kobe Bryant, Don Burke, Louis C.K., Bertrand Cantat, Wayne Carey, Nick Carter, Bill Clinton, Sean Connery, David Copperfield, Bill Cosby, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Johnny Depp, Michael Douglas, Ched Evans, Michael Fassbender, James Franco, Mel Gibson, Alfred Hitchcock, Dustin Hoffman, Matty Johns, R. Kelly, John Kricfalusi, Matt Lauer, Danny Masterson, T.J. Miller, Roy Moore, Bill Murray, Nelly, Garry Oldman, Sean Penn, Roman Polanski, Terry Richardson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ryan Seacrest, Charlie Sheen, Bill Shorten, Jeffrey Tambor, Robin Thicke, Clarence Thomas, James Toback, Donald Trump, Mike Tyson, Lars von Trier, Harvey Weinstein
Here, Ford writes a frank letter to her young son, about what she expects and doesn’t expect of him. It boils down to modeling empathy and compassion, teaching kids everything isn’t gendered, “sharing your emotions isn’t a sign of weakness—it’s a sign of strength” (p. 361) (except if you’re a manbaby), plus this dot point list:
- Kindness and empathy are valuable
- Power shouldn’t be used to control women
- Violence is not the way to solve your problems
- We need to be held sometimes – affection is acceptable
- Respect women – understand women will be afraid of you
- Enjoy friendships with women
- Resist other men’s attempts to bond with you over the degradation of women
- Seek intimacy – consent is important
- Embrace sensitivity
- Your life is no more valuable than anyone else’s, but live a valued life
Most of which are important valuable lessons, but it’ll be interesting to see if Ford will be able to teach her son these lessons, or if her “I’M JUST JOKING” blithering rage about The Other Men will dilute her message. Guess we’ll find out in a couple of decades.
- If patriarchy is literally everything, then is it even possible to disrupt and dismantle it? Because Ford makes it seem so simple. Why not turn Ford’s references of Plinkyponky into a Bandersnatch Cumberdale game?
- Are “coded”, “codify” and “part and parcel” Clementine Ford’s version of bell hooks’s “divested”? Start a drinking game!
- On that point, every time something about men turns into a rant about capitalism, have a drink!
- She’s not afraid to say “fuck” and “shit” whenever the mood suits, and even calls Milo Yiannopoulos a “massive c*nt”, but inexplicably self-censors with “dingleberry” and “heck”.
- Maybe more her editor’s issue? Switches between Americanization and Australianizations pretty easily. At one point she calls chips “crisps”. Australians don’t call them crisps.
- Despite defining a bunch of nonsense words in her Author’s Note, Ford keeps using other jargon such as “signal boosting”, “queerphobia”, “femmephobia” and more gargantuan vocabulary (agentic, melange, immutable) that Shift F7 on Microsoft Word will become your BFF!
- Frankly, I’m tired of her referencing her son as an emotional appeal. Ford knows all about menfolk because she birthed one.
Boys will be boys is a lot like Ford’s first book Fight Like a Girl: it is overly emotive and manipulative, with a strong us vs. them narrative, far too repetitive, and with so many examples of horrific behavior by men against women that it kind of dulls the effect. Despite being more readable than other supposedly beginner’s guides like Feminism is for everybody, Ford still uses too much lingo and jargon that the average person will be a little confused. The main problem with the book was that it was hypocritical. It’s a guide telling us to allow men to have emotions and be more open like women, but was also critical about men who have emotions. Ford believes she is better than patriarchy, but if there is actually a patriarchy, all Boys will be boys seems to be doing is reinforce that behavior. The whiplash of the messages she is sending would likely only confuse her son, who she uses far too often as an emotional appeal. While there were important issues Ford outlined and hypothesized solutions for, this hypocrisy stained the read-through of this book.