A noted Australian feminist writer, activist, and “troll agitator” offers her take on the culture of toxic masculinity.
In her latest, Ford (Fight Like a Girl, 2018) analyzes patriarchy and, in particular, “how the systems we live in allow men to get away with doing deeply shitty things.” She begins by examining the behaviors that “codify male power and dominance…[and] secure protection” from the consequences of those behaviors. She traces the genesis of toxic masculinity to the cultural penchant for forcing young boys to accept the rigid ways of being that disallow them to express emotions or preferences for “girlish” things like dresses and dolls. The more boys see the males and females around them assuming equal roles in both the private and public spheres, the less likely they will feel entitled to tell women their place is at home taking care of men. The fewer stories they see in books, film, and online that “reinforce regressive stereotypes,” the less chance boys will develop the inflated sense of social entitlement Ford sees as being at the heart of toxic masculinity. She argues that rather than glorify male violence, society must teach boys the importance of communicating with and respecting the vulnerability in each other and in women. Ford also considers the online “manosphere” backlash against female empowerment, which includes men’s rights activism that sees feminism as a “social cancer.” The author then delves into the various frightening manifestations of rape culture. Normalized through the sanction of powerful men like Donald Trump, it paints women as provocateurs responsible for all acts of male sexual aggression they might suffer. Ford’s book, which draws on current events in Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. as well as her own life as a wife and mother of a son, launches yet another furious and necessary salvo at the gender status quo while offering a blueprint for a more enlightened world.
A witty polemic with significant contemporary value.