Boys Will Be Boys: Power, patriarchy and the toxic bonds of mateship

Clementine Ford

Boys Will Be Boys: Power, patriarchy and the toxic bonds of mateship
Allen & Unwin
29 September 2020

Boys Will Be Boys: Power, patriarchy and the toxic bonds of mateship

Clementine Ford

‘Everyone’s afraid that their daughters might be hurt. No one seems to be scared that their sons might be the ones to do it … This book … is the culmination of many years of writing about power, abuse, privilege, male entitlement and rape culture. After all that, here’s what I’ve learned: we should be f*cking terrified.’ Clementine Ford, from the introduction

Fearless feminist heroine Clementine Ford is a beacon of hope and inspiration to hundreds of thousands of Australian women and girls. Her incendiary first book, Fight Like A Girl, is taking the world by storm, galvanising women to demand and fight for real equality and not merely the illusion of it.

Now Boys Will Be Boys examines what needs to change for that equality to become a reality. It answers the question most asked of Clementine: ‘How do I raise my son to respect women and give them equal space in the world? How do I make sure he’s a supporter and not a perpetrator?’

All boys start out innocent and tender, but by the time they are adolescents many of them will subscribe to a view of masculinity that is openly contemptuous of women and girls. Our world conditions boys into entitlement, privilege and power at the expense not just of girls’ humanity but also of their own.

Ford demolishes the age-old assumption that superiority and aggression are natural realms for boys, and demonstrates how toxic masculinity creates a disturbingly limited and potentially dangerous idea of what it is to be a man. Crucially, Boys Will Be Boys reveals how the patriarchy we live in is as harmful to boys and men as it is to women and girls, and asks what we have to do to reverse that damage. The world needs to change and this book shows the way.

‘A truly vital piece of social commentary from Australia’s fiercest feminist … Read it, learn from it, and share it - this book is absolute GOLD!’ AU Review


Just as she did with the title of her first book, Clementine Ford has taken another well-known expression and repurposed it for the title of her second. Ford reclaimed Fight Like A Girl and framed the idea as a positive; with Boys Will Be Boys Ford challenges the assumed and oft-quoted wisdom of that idiom.

In making the case that many of the current prevailing notions of masculinity are deeply problematic, Ford stipulates that the issues of toxic masculinity are cultural, not biological. Yet, as any regular reader of Ford’s Fairfax columns would expect, this is not a book that sets out to make excuses for unacceptable behaviour. And thank goodness it’s not – at the time of going to press, less than a year after the Harvey Weinstein revelations and the advent of #MeToo, the backlash against those who spoke out, and continue to speak out, is rife, and ample space and support is being given to this backlash by reputable media. Ford demands better than this for, and from, everyone: for all people, of all ages, across the gender spectrum who are imbibing insidious and overt cultural messages every day about who they are, who they should be, and how they should interact with others.

Example after example lands like punch after punch of how our limited and rigorously policed notions of masculinity are causing harm to all. While she is under no illusions about the immense privileges patriarchy affords men, Ford is just as concerned by the harms it inflicts upon them – particularly while they are growing up – as she is about the damage it indubitably does to women. Boys Will Be Boys is an impassioned call for societal change from a writer who has become a stand-out voice of her generation (and has the trolls to prove it) and an act of devotion from a mother to her son.

Elke Power is the editor of Readings Monthly.

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