I’ve read a lot about how this book is brave, polarising, important. I think it is all of these things. If I’d read it when I was thirty, I would have loved it. Clementine Ford’s outrage would have resonated with my own. Her use of sarcasm and humour would have been a life-saving leavening that saved my head from exploding, maybe hers too. After all, the picture she draws is breathtakingly dismaying. Still. Her extravagant use of foul language wouldn’t have blipped – its a perfectly legitimate way to manifest so much fury. And she’s funny. Anyway, I don’t require all activists to be cool-headed intellectual super-linguists like some folk seem to. Besides, that kind of iciness is the rightful reserve of the English (ok, kidding, don’t get lathered). Nor did I read this book because I wanted to be bathed in beautiful poetic language that made me sigh. I also wonder if her angry words haven’t drawn the very kind of approbation she’s refuting – it isn’t nice for a girl to be so gleefully foul-mouthed and such a girl should be shut up at once. If that’s the case, long may she offend.
However, I’m not thirty and I’ve heard it all before – as many have pointed out, there’s not a lot of new thinking in this polemic. I don’t think that’s the point at all – I think she is bringing the SAME message – because it is sadly, sorely needed – to a new generation who probably aren’t going to read Gloria, Gertrude, Andrea, or even Naomi, unless they’re doing Women’s Studies or the like. If that’s so, she’s bang on target – her sass, swearing and humour will reach a generation the old warriors won’t. The young things will love her savaging of Dudebros and That Guy, – they will get it. Especially in this regressive age of corporate patriarchy trying it’s damnedest to wipe out any and all opposition. Hers is a firebrand message, even if repeating the tenets, to light the darkness and good on her.
Clementine reveals a lot about her personal history – another point of identification for young women in the Age of The Selfie, and her life story is sufficiently familiar to reach a LOT of women. I think this is the brave bit since it opens up every despicable charge you can imagine, from being mentally ill to being a fat loser. She’s heard it all, and whilst she may not be made of actual asbestos, she’s developed a pretty thick hide from constant exposure. That the diatribe aimed at her on a daily basis is mind-bogglingly vile pretty well proves her point. She is brave to keep stepping up to the plate and taking it on the chin for the rest of woman kind. Even Jesus didn’t have to put up with that.
That she unapologetically points the finger at men we know – our husbands, brothers, fathers, friends – is the red rag to the dudebro-bull, but she’s right to do it. Misogyny is a problem for men to wrangle with, and they aren’t doing it enough. It’s hard to give up so much unearned privilege and power – kind of like how it’s hard for the first world to give up much of anything so the rest of the world can have enough. It doesn’t just happen, it has to be made to happen. Clemmy is a maker.
Therefore, this is an important book, and I’m going to give it to the young women I know. And if you haven’t, even if your ears burn a little, you should read it.