Can a Man Be a Feminist?
Neil Boyack Speaks with Clementine Ford.
Clementine Ford is someone who speaks her mind. She is a firebrand Feminist who is not only championing the rights of women, but cutting a path with a clear and unapologetic dialogue around the gender inequalities that punctuate our culture and community. Born in Miles, a small farming community in Western Queensland, Clementine experienced the world early in life. Moving from Miles to England at age 2, her family then moved to Oman, stayed for 9 years, then went back to England and subsequently the family found themselves back in Australia by the time Clementine was aged 14. Clementine enjoyed meeting other women and people “outside of home”. One might consider this a whirlwind childhood and imagine things weren’t that certain in life but Clementine looks back on her childhood as something special. Clementine is thankful for her upbringing and assures me that she was strongly attached to her parents and that her voice was grown amidst a family that held wide ranging views , yet, there was never any doubt on the reproductive rights of women, and the rights of women to choose, and certainly never any excuses for violence against women or sexual assault. Her father, an engineer by trade and a political conservative, seems at the opposite end of the spectrum to his daughter, yet Clementine states she is close to him, even though they differ on many things. Clementine’s mother, a South American, non-Australian citizen was always vocal and critical of politics yet described herself as a “left wing pinko commie socialist”. These are the influences that Clementine Ford considers as the foundation of her Feminism. When talking of the intra-debates within Feminism Clementine is interested in sourcing the views of other women from other cultures and other walks; a criticism of mainstream Feminism being that it is merely a tool for the promotion of mainstream, white, middleclass women, and no-one else. Clementine is searching for other views to colour her thinking, to take Feminism to a new plain. Being such an outspoken and cut-through commentator on Feminism, it is publicly that Clementine receives a lot of flak, trolls, hate mail, and criticism from shock jocks, neo-cons, and women-hating men. We talk self-care and well being, and I suggest it must be difficult to maintain focus and commitment, on certain days at any rate, in the face of such attacks but Clementine attributes her self-care and the maintenance of her focus to her supportive partner, her friends, and her strident belief in what she does. Getting such attention, such a reaction, speaks volumes about her ability to maintain focus under pressure, and stay on message with a consistent intensity, it must be said. When I ask Clementine what she hopes for, she states “revolution”. Not the sort of change where you “exhaust yourself wanting total change” but nevertheless, a “fundamental change”. “I don’t want women to live in violence in any way” Clementine states. I tell Clementine of a man I met recently who stated he was a Feminist and I asked Clementine the question: can a man be a Feminist? Clementine is definite in her response, stating that men can be Feminists as long as they don’t take up the space of women. To see and hear more of Clementine Ford, come to Newstead Short Story Tattoo, May 1, 2, 3, where this conversation will continue. Visit www.newsteasdtattoo.org for more details, tickets through Oztix.
NB April, 2015