Ford’s feminism in demand in Darwin as her first author appearance completely books out


CLEMENTINE Ford received a warm welcome in Darwin this week, with a completely sold out appearance at the Northern Territory Library as a part of her national tour following the launch of her second book Boys Will Be Boys.

Although some may think the feminist author may not have the same pull in the Top End as she does in the east coast capitals, her conversation with Territory storyteller Johanna Bell proved to be the biggest author event held by the library in recent memory — with over 250 Top End residents coming out to hear the author speak.

Territorians even signed up to a waitlist in the hopes of scoring a spare seat if someone couldn’t make it.

Ford said she hadn’t been surprised by the turn out, but had been saddened by some of the things she had heard.

“This is my first time in Darwin itself and it is beautiful. I don’t know what I was expecting but I’ve had a really amazing time. It is bloody hot though,” she said.

“Regional areas are really hungry not just for my work but for authors to visit them. But I think there are a lot of really good people who are working really tirelessly in regional areas to try and bring about gender equality and change to their communities.

“The other thing that really sort of touched me about it and made me a bit sad as well was that consistently I kept hearing from women, and it was mostly women who came, about how much you needed this content here.”

A staunch feminist who has not shied away from the controversy surrounding her work, Ford gave some strong advice to Darwin audience members.

“We talked a bit about the split that happens in heterosexual households after men and women move in together, the way that women’s workload goes up and men’s goes down and how this is exacerbated almost irreversibly when children come along,” she said.

“There was a woman who asked a question about whether or not it was possible for men to express emotional interest into the lives of the mothers of their children after a baby is born and to truly understand what is going on for her, step up and do the work that needs to be done.

“Of course it is possible and a lot of men do that, but the more common stories are those of the frustrated mothers and partners who feel like they have to do everything.

“They joke about their partner becoming their fourth child or their biggest kid. Or they go to their mothers’ group and share their frustration about how their husband, for example, comes into the laundry and just throws his clothes by the laundry hamper and not even in it.

“I’m always like, well why are you washing his clothes? He is a grown adult, he can do it himself.”

Ford said the key message in her latest novel was that the patriarchy we live in socialises all of us in harmful ways.

“But the conditioning that it provides to men is one that causes harm to themselves and allows them to mitigate that harm by expressing it onto other people,” she said.

“Boys and men are hurt by patriarchy and enabled or empowered to hurt others in return.”

The book has been out for just over ten days and Ford said she had already received numerous messages from men who have read it.

“They have talked about what it meant to them to see a critique of masculinity that says you at your base, when you were born as boys, you could have been so much more than the world tells you that you have to be in order to be a man,” she said.

“They have to somehow carve themselves out of who they are to create the perfect image of masculinity. It is really scary and really sad.”

Others might say that the online abuse and death or assault threats that she receives could be seen as far more scary that her theories on masculinity, but Ford said they are just a symptom of the system.

“It wears me down because it is actually so childish. If they just listened to what I’m saying they would realised that I’m trying to make this world better for them too,” she said.

“But they have been so messed up by the messages, both men and women, that they’ve received about how they are supposed to be that they are just very scared. I actually just see extreme fear and I see that from women as well, they are terrified that men won’t like them. That if men see in the slightest that they are not 100% on their side and supportive of their power, then that lens of abuse will be turned on them.”

The award-winning author said it would have been nice to have more Territory men come along to her talk.

“Not just because I think they would benefit from it but because I think if they were more aware about how deep the problem is and they were willing to actually to put in the work, rather than just insisting they be categorised as nice and good men and not have to do anything to prove it, then I think they could get seriously involved in being part of the change and they would really lessen the load that is currently on women,” she said.

Ford said that Boys Will Be Boys was written as a companion piece to her first novel Fight Like A Girl.

“It is two halves of the same coin. Fight Like A Girl was about what it is like growing up under a patriarchy as a woman and how we can start to rise up and fight back against that. Boys Will Be Boys is about what it is like to be socialised as male under a patriarchy and how the fight back against that is different than the one for women,” she said.

“It’s about rediscovering the softness of men and rediscovering the capabilities of men to be vastly different than what has traditionally been assigned to them. I don’t think you can tell one story without the other.”



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