Why Clementine Ford is so important to men like me

Clementine Ford’s defiance and determination not only provides inspiration, encouragement and strength to women who face abuse and intimidation from men, she provides a critical insight into the experience of those women to men who are prepared to hear and understand.

Clementine Ford speaks for women with clarity, reason, humour, and honest emotion. She is brave, forthright and determined in the face of intense and sustained abuse and intimidation. On Wednesday 2-Dec-2015, Koraly Dimitriadis wrote about her regard for Clementine Ford. Dimiatriadis explains how she and other women like her are inspired, encouraged and strengthened by Ford.

Those same writers are also critically important to men. Ford’s forthright, honest and heartfelt writing, her intellectual rigour, her courage all serve to inform, confront, and challenge men. Men like me. Her writing communicates the experiences of women at an emotional as well as intellectual level. I can feel the pain, the anger, the humiliation, the sense of combined injustice and powerlessness. It’s that combination of feeling and knowing that constitutes understanding. Understanding is crucial for action.

The attack on Ford in the social media has recently gained a foothold in the public conciousness, and perhaps it will fade again soon. But the truth is that it has been sustained for a very long time. Ford has largely borne the abuse in silence until now. In my opinion she is entirely justified in concluding that without action, it will never stop… not for her, not for the other women who are the targets of such poisonous vitriol.

My first encounter with Clementine Ford felt very much like a slap in the face. And not a playful slap either. It was like she’d grabbed me by the shoulders and belted me with a truth I’d not comprehended before. That article (Male Privilege Extends Beyond the Airwaves) was the first article I’d read in a long time that made me stop reading partway through so I could think and absorb what I was learning.

Once I had finished the article, and thought some more, I decided I would write to Ford to thank her for the insight she’d given me, and describe say what I’d taken away from the article. But when I checked her profile on the ABC Drum website there wasn’t an actual contact address, just a reference to twitter. I despise twitter for reasons I won’t go into here… this article isn’t about me. Instead, I went looking for other articles in search of a direct contact method.

It was in the “comments” and “responses” sections of these other articles that I had my first encounter with the nature and the extent of the abuse directed at Ford. It was variously blunt, savage, abusive, unreasoning and staggeringly offensive! Then I understood why Clemetine Ford did not publish any avenue of direct contact.

The particular insight that I gained from the article – the first of Ford’s that I had read – was this: abuse in the workplace, like abuse in the home, is delivered secretly. The quiet, vicious threat delivered in private like a cowardly knife cut. It is unlikely that I will recognise which men in the workplace are the abusers. They know their behaviour is shameful, wrong, and would never be accepted in the workplace or wider community; so they hide their cowardice behind the mask of social acceptability. That’s why most men like me will never hear the kinds of comments exposed by Ford.

I have an awareness now, that I didn’t have before, of how isolating and disempowering it must be for a woman to have to hear a steady flow of casual, belittling, dismissive comments and humour around her. For any woman. But for one who is already feeling threatened and afraid, how much more so. It would tell her that anything she said would be discounted, dismissed. Particularly when her abuser is somebody who is probably generally popular and admirable.

How will my own behaviour be read then? Am I approachable? Do my humour or comments convey the message that I would wish to help, or even care? Or am I as the abuser hopes, part of the unaware, unquestioning, inadvertently complicit herd?

Clementine Ford’s articles can only help to break the isolation; helping women to understand that others have also experienced the injustice, share their anger, are standing up to confront the abusers, and are exposing their shameful, cowardly behaviour.

Men also need her work to reveal the behaviour of the abuser, to provide insight into the effect they have on their victims; to challenge and confront men’s assumptions, their complacency and their behaviour.

So thank you Clementine Ford for this article, and others I’ve found and read since, and yet others I haven’t yet found. Don’t stop. Bring it on. Push our faces into the ugly, brutal, unbearable truth until we clean it up.

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