I received a free copy of Fight Like a Girl by Clementine Ford from NetGalley in return for review consideration. Fight Like a Girl is a non-fiction feminist memoir published by Oneworld Publications in the UK on 10th September 2018 (originally published in 2016).
Below is the Goodreads synopsis of the book:
Online sensation, fearless feminist heroine and scourge of trolls and misogynists everywhere, Clementine Ford is a beacon of hope and inspiration to thousands of Australian women and girls. Her incendiary debut Fight Like A Girl is an essential manifesto for feminists new, old and soon-to-be, and exposes just how unequal the world continues to be for women. Crucially, it is a call to arms for all women to rediscover the fury that has been suppressed by a society that still considers feminism a threat.
Fight Like A Girl will make you laugh, cry and scream. But above all it will make you demand and fight for a world in which women have real equality and not merely the illusion of it.
I’m going to start this review by saying that there’s a content warning for the entire book. Due to the nature of what Ford’s writing about, there is discussion of sexual abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, eating disorders, and probably a few other topics as well. If you’re interested in reading the book but are concerned about any topics, drop me a line and I can have a look through for any particular sections or anything like that.
Now, onto the review. This book made me mad. Like, SO MAD! And if it doesn’t make you mad when you read it, then I think we probably wouldn’t get on all that well. Whenever I see Clementine Ford’s name pop up on something, I know it’s something I’m going to want to read, and this book is no exception to that.
As a proud and outspoken feminist myself, Ford’s writing hits me right where it hurts. She covers a myriad of the ways in which women suffer and struggle in the world compared to men (I’m using binary terms here, but want to make it clear that Ford’s feminism is inclusive of all women and gender non-conforming people who are affected by these issues), and it’s a difficult read. She looks both at a personal level – issues that have affected her and her loved ones personally – and a more global one, covering some of the truly horrifying statistics around areas such as domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, and mental health. Although these were all issues I was aware of to varying extents, Ford brings them all together, managing to cover a huge number of topics in a relatively small book. She’s also coming from a different perspective from similar books I’ve read previously, which have been written by British or American authors. Ford is Australian, though has lived all over the world, and thus brings a different set of experiences and some different social elements to the book, which I really appreciated.
As a woman in media, and particularly one who doesn’t conform to many of the standards expected by the patriarchy, Ford has long been subject to some truly hideous abuse online, and she writes bluntly about that – about the kind of language and threats aimed at her, about how she deals with it, and the reactions she gets when she tries to push back against it (unsurprisingly, these reactions are largely as bad or even worse than the initial abuse). For me, this was some of the most frustrating content to read about, because Ford highlights some of the immense and ridiculous contradictions and double standards faced by women with an online presence – a topic which always makes me want to *headdesk* to infinity because it’s all so ridiculous, and yet the people perpetrating the online abuse and attacks are completely oblivious!
Ford also acknowledges clearly the ways in which she experiences privilege which make it easier for her to navigate the world – being white, being cis, passing as straight due to her long-term relationship with a man (bi-erasure is in and of itself a problem, but can provide its own set of privileges in some circumstances) – and looks at particular areas where intersectional identities cause further problems. Plenty of other feminist writing fails to mention this (and Ford mentions one specific book with which I personally have huge issues), and whilst this in no way negates the need for more books by a more diverse group of writers, this is definitely a step in the right direction.
Ford’s writing is blunt and to the point. Her style is fairly conversational (a sweary, angry conversation in the pub), and not at all patronising, as can sometimes be a problem with books like this. She doesn’t pull any punches with her language, emphasising the book’s sharp, angry feel throughout, but it feels appropriate to the subject matter and to Ford’s personal connection and level of permanent anger about things. I feel that anger too, and it makes me want to fight back.
Fight Like a Girl is an incredibly frustrating read, due entirely to its subject matter. It’s a subject I personally feel very strongly about, and this is a book I would recommend to anyone similarly angry about the huge injustices being dealt with by women all across the world on a daily basis. Just be prepared to feel angry, and maybe have a feminist friend nearby you can rant at when you’re done reading.
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