Boys Will Be Boys by Clementine Ford

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.