'No one seems to be scared that their sons might be the ones to do it.’
No, I haven’t (yet) read ‘Girls will be Girls’. I picked up ‘Boys will be Boys’ because a number of people whose opinion I value kept telling me it was an important book. Like Clementine Ford, I am the mother of a son. And, in 1981 when both my son and Ms Ford were born, equality (of both opportunity and responsibility) was elusive.
Ms Ford challenges assumptions about superiority and aggression as the natural realms for boys. While I agree with her, it is difficult sometimes to recognise all the ways in which so many boys are conditioned. I also agree that patriarchy is as harmful to males as it is to females, I just wish that everyone else could see this.
Reading about gendered inequalities caused me to question some of the assumptions I have subconsciously or unconsciously taken as fact. Hey, I’m a child of the 1950s, gendered roles were automatic and generally unchallenged. Married women (unless they were professionals) generally stayed home to look after the children. If a married woman worked outside the home, it was seen as a clear indication that her husband was not a good provider. Girls were educated as a bridge to marriage, boys were educated to earn an income. Of course, there were exceptions, but it was difficult to swim against the tide.
So, I read Ms Ford’s book, agree with the fact that change is necessary but am less confident about how such change will be implemented. And then I remember that I am the mother of a son, a son who grew up in a home where both parents worked and shared domestic responsibilities.
I read Ms Ford’s closing chapter in which more than fifty ‘famous’ men are named because they have been publicly accused of sexual assault and their alleged criminal acts. I wonder how many others could be added to the list.
In some ways this book is a depressing read, in other ways it is heartening, Depressing because I doubt that I’ll live long enough to see automatic equality; heartening because the more conscious we become of gendered inequality the more momentum we can generate to address causes and consequences.
This is not a comfortable read. It’s confronting. I loved the epilogue: the lovely, loving letter Ms Ford wrote to her son in which a different definition of boyhood will not be seen as incompatible with being a man.