August 3, 2019

Review: Boys Will Be Boys

Boys Will Be Boys Boys Will Be Boys by Clementine Ford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The purpose of this book is made clear in the introduction.

Boys Will Be Boys takes aim at toxic male spaces and behaviors that are used to codify male power and dominance, but that also secure protection from the consequences of them. I've looked at how gender inequality is first learned in the home and then filtered down through pop culture, and how this provides the perfect launching pad into even more damaging practices later on--the embrace of online abuse, rape culture, men's rights baloney and even the freezing out of women from governance and leadership.

This book is definitely not Feminism 101. It's a fairly dense text, for all that the author makes it as readable as possible and writes with plenty of sharp snarky humor. (She includes her definitions of transgender, cisgender, cissexist/cisnormative, heteronormativity, cis-het and disabled person up front.) If you haven't read any serious work on feminist theory before, I'd recommend you start with bell hooks' classic Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics before tackling this book. There is plenty to chew on here, and only my intense dislike of marking up my books kept this from being scribbled on in the margins and highlighted.

The only (minor) drawback is the fact that the author is Australian, and a great deal of this book discusses Australian politics and culture. (Although she does touch on the United States, including Harvey Weinstein and our so-called President.) One thing she tries to make clear is that men should be as invested in dismantling the patriarchy and its insistence on male dominance as anyone else, because it ultimately imprisons them just as much as women, locking them in rigid, emotionless, stoic and ultimately damaging gendered boxes. It would be so much better if men were allowed to be kind and soft and nurturing, if they could like pink and get butterfly tattoos and wear dresses if they wished, and not be regarded as lesser or "sissy" (God, I hate that slur) because of it.

There's some pretty harrowing stuff in here, especially in the chapter on rape, which is to be expected. But this book is a valuable addition to feminist scholarship, and gives the reader a great deal to think about.

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