Boys Will Be Boys – Book Review

When I began reading Boys Will Be Boys by Clementine Ford I was working on an event to raise awareness around male suicide. In discussion with a colleague – who was a passionate advocate on this issue – I mentioned that I was reading this book. His response was an adamant ‘I cannot stand to read anything by Clementine Ford.’

Being only a few chapters in I thought, that’s such a shame because she’s talking to you. In my mind all men should read this book. But sadly we know they won’t.

So instead this book is a great read for feminists. It reiterates to us what we know but in a depth and with knowledge that we relish. Of course there is also Clementine’s wit and sarcasm that helps you smile when really you just want to cry.

I never read Fight Like A Girl but the reviews were nothing but strong. So when I was confronted at the airport with no book to read on yet another flight home I lunged at Boys Will Be Boys. Unlike my colleague I have no problem reading Clementine’s articles and this was my first book of hers.

While I enjoy her work for Fairfax I now much prefer her words in long form. In Boys Will Be Boys she has time and space to really unpack her arguments and with solid examples. This book works as a detailed catalogue of how men’s behaviours only serves to work against them. It is a mix of what you already knew and what you didn’t.

And before anyone cries ‘not all men’ what Clementine does with this book is look at how a patriarchy works for men and in their favour. It is about how the world has been built to protect men, but mostly how they protect each other. But this is not a positive and instead feeds in to what we know of toxic masculinity.

While I knew a lot of what was documented here, Clementine’s clear explanation and rationales allowed me to sort through in my own mind and find ways to navigate it clearly. 

There is so much complexity around the issues she raises and when you speak openly and publicly about them you are open to attacks. Clementine is at the coalface of those attacks, and she shares them with us. But more importantly she equips us with more material to help her with that public fight.

In the book’s blurb it says this book “…reveals how the patriarchy we live in is as harmful to boys and men as it is to women and girls.” However I felt it explored the damage to women more so than men. It does this through a wide berth of behaviours at home, work and mostly with sex. 

I did find myself wanting to look more at how toxic masculinity is impacting on the wellbeing of men and literally killing them. But perhaps that’s more of a book that a man should write so that they actually read it.

Like myself Clementine is a mother of a son. When you look at how harmful the patriarchy is to both men and women you can’t help but be concerned about their future. 

Her letter at the end to her son was a moment I realised how much of these fears were shared. But it left me with some hope, because this book helped me sort through so many arguments about the patriarchy I have been fighting in so many different ways.