Sunday, 6 November 2016

Rage Against the Machine

I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!

Having just finished Clementine Ford's Fight Like A Girl (2016) I feel angry at the crap women have to put up with everyday. I have felt the pressure to look and act a certain way, been asked about my fertility in a job interview, been paid less than a less qualified man for doing the same job, had men explain things to me, not been heard in meetings, been afraid, attacked, judged and ignored.  Ford's book was instantly relatable on many levels.

Part memoir and part manifesto, Ford writes about her childhood eating disorders, her struggles with mental health and body image, her sexual experiences, her abortions and her battles with online trolls. I found her writing humourous, readable, bold and brave. She holds nothing back, even though she knows she is arming those who seek to destroy her.

What I liked about Ford's book was her wit and the brashness of her language. Ford's voice comes through loud and clear as she says it like she sees it. I found many of her arguments compelling, particularly her exposure of the hypocrisy of the Not All Men and the White Ribbon movement (when sports clubs talk about the problem of violence against women then defend their players on charges of assault) and the media response to the Jill Meagher murder while ignoring the deaths of aboriginal women.  I also enjoyed her pop culture references (shout outs to Leslie Snope and Jessica Jones among others). I came away with a better understanding of Ford and what motivates her.

But I was frustrated by Fight Like a Girl too. First, the book is in need of a good edit as there are far too many passages that repeat themselves time and again (like references to the sea of man-baby tears). Her arguments would have been more compelling if the writing was sharper. More than that, I was frustrated by the lack of a clear call to arms. Ford urges "It's okay to be angry" - which is great. I get that and I am angry. But now what?  Other than getting mad what do we do with our rage? This is not the love letter to girls she thinks it is.

Ultimately, there isn't anything new here. I am glad I read Ford, but in terms of feminist memoir and manifesto, I much prefer the insight and wisdom of Roxane Gay and Gloria Steinem.