From time to time, I open the pages of Fairfax’s Daily Life, just to check that Clementine Ford still isn’t interesting or insightful. Once assured, I resume my dislike of the feminist firebrand.
In her most recent column, her outlook, as ever, is rather cheerless. That’s understandable, I suppose: despite her best efforts, the patriarchy remains unsmashed and all those pesky males have somehow avoided extirpation. On this occasion, there is an additional weight upon her spirits. Allow me to explain.
Her subject was the clash between Steve Price and Jamila Rizvi on The Project. To put it uncharitably, Pricey, as the lads call him, had a temper-tantrum because a mean girl interrupted him. Ford delivered a just rebuke, but the demolition of one man is never enough. Ben Fordham, the radio host on 2GB, also came in for some harsh criticism. Ford related her appearance on his program in 2013 when he suggested that the notable lack of women in radio hosting roles was due to the irritating and intolerable sound of their voices.
If pressed, I’d likely offer a word or two in defence of his thesis, at least as it applies to his accuser. Listening to Clementine hold forth induces shudders in this humble servant and, I would surmise, in much braver men than I.
No matter, though. After some urging, Clementine confessed to a bit of a memory mix-up: during their conversation, it was she, rather than he, who speculated about the quality of women’s voices. Fordham never even brought it up. In the rush to accuse yet another man of something, her imagination got the better of her.
Mr Fordham, it must be said, handled the incident with decency and goodwill. After visiting the archives and replaying the evidence for all to hear, he only wished to receive an apology for being unjustly maligned. Shall I risk it and employ the adjective ‘manful’? In these dark days of gender fluidity, the wrong vocabulary does make one vulnerable to the charge of sexism. Oh, dash it! It was a manful performance, Fordham, old chap.
The apology, which Clementine posted on social media, wasn’t all that bad, I suppose. Sure, she banged on for a while about how everything she said was basically justified, except for that teeny-tiny error of false accusation. What’s more, she showed evidence of a wider vocabulary: the words ‘toxic masculinity’ and ‘rape culture’ didn’t appear even once, so that’s progress of a kind as well.
This sorry episode, I fear, will do little to bring Clementine Ford into disrepute. She can usually get away with just about anything. After all, she’s something of a recidivist when it comes to overzealous journalism. In 2014, she and her editors (unknowingly) breached a suppression order on reporting the crimes of Jill Meagher’s killer, Adrian Bayley, unnecessarily delaying subsequent trials and the delivery of justice.
But none of this seems to matter to her loyal and cultish fan base. For them, she can do no wrong, and every attempted smirching supplies yet more evidence of a sinister patriarchy at work.
With her new book, Fight Like A Girl (partly a memoir, partly a manifesto, but wholly unreadable), she seeks to enlist more girls in the cause. This makes sense. Being a feminist maniac herself, she desires to be the cause of feminist mania in others. I think, however, her project will find limits.
The constant maintenance of outrage must be exhausting; there simply isn’t enough time in the day to deliver a measure of contempt to all those who deserve it: men, the patriarchy, Emma Watson, men, men who call themselves feminists, Christina Hoff Sommers, and men. Having found her niche, Clementine Ford is likely in it for the long haul, but many others will burn out, or realise that all that stuff they learned via their Gender Studies major might be charitably described as twaddle.
Ford’s style of feminism brands itself as tough and take-no-prisoners. That’s fine, as well as unoriginal. But Ford herself goes well beyond impoliteness and a stern tone. Social media brims with the vitriol of losers and abusers, but Ford sets out to emulate them and borrow their tactics, rather than advance any decent cause. When confronting her Twitter antagonists, her nicest remarks are of a crudely disparaging nature and are usually directed at her opponent’s negligible manhood. Score one for Clementine.
In the end, there is very little that distinguishes her from many of Twitter’s trolls. But that, after all, may very well be the point. It should have results, too, so long as everyone sticks to the areas in which they excel: serious and sensible people can get on with the work of women’s rights and emancipation, in Australia and elsewhere; Clementine Ford and her co-thinkers can disport themselves on social media, and prove that they can bully with the best of men, thanks very much. They seem to have settled for a debased and useless version of gender equality, but I guess they’ll be pleased with it.