Clementine Ford is an outspoken Australian feminist opinion writer. I’ve admired her work for some years because of her ability to get underneath conventional thinking about social relationships, to argue for women’s rights to determine their own agendas and behaviours and to call out men, particularly straight white men, for their sexist or misogynist attitudes. Her writing is full frontal, confronting, insightful and accurate, if unpleasant (for men) to face.
As a result, she receives a torrent of online abuse, mainly from men, telling her what they want to do to her, or what she should do to herself. Personally, I couldn’t take it. I stopped corresponding with a close friend when I received a single personally abusive email. Yet she has no choice but to ‘take it’ if she wants to keep publishing her confronting feminist views.
Increasingly, she has taken to reporting some of the tweets she receives. They are full of f***s and, c***s and any other sexually abusive word, phrase or threat to a woman you can think of and many you can’t think of. It’s the cost of the anonymity of the internet. People can – and do – say the most abusive things, because there are really no personal consequences.
Recently, Clementine had a big success. She was able to track down a man who abused her writing. His comments to her were relayed to his employer and he was fired. This should be regarded as a successful outcome of the consequences of unconscionable behaviour. Instead, Clementine received a further stream of abuse for causing the man to lose his job.
I beg your pardon?? She didn’t ‘cause’ him to lose his job. His own obnoxious behaviour caused that. All Clementine did was play the role of citizen cop. She reported the behaviour. She didn’t even seek personal damages from him for his abuse of her! But she cops it again. Just as happens to most whistleblowers. But, in the case of a woman, the abuse includes a huge amount of negative sexual and professional denigrating comment, which impacts on the recipient’s personal self-confidence.
I’ve thanked Clementine on a number of occasions for her articles. Once I received a warm, supportive personal reply. I’ve nominated her for Woman of the Year because I think her writing is truly outstanding and her views represent changes the society, individuals and particularly men need to make to our behaviour. This year she was a finalist in Daily Life’s Woman of the Year.
Clementine’s picture in her articles is more than the normal head shot. There’s a warmth and openness to her picture. But it’s her mind and her attitude that I love. Her determination to say what she thinks is ‘right’, her rational articulation of her positions, her willingness to call a vagina a vagina and her clear love of life, in spite of the vitriol, bile and personal abuse thrown at her.
I don’t suppose I’ll ever meet her. We are probably very different people. She doesn’t reply to my infrequent, supportive emails. I assume it’s because she receives so many, she’s too busy, perhaps because I’m a man, perhaps because I don’t really offer her anything she can’t already get.
But I want to tell her:
‘I love you, Clementine. You deserve to be feted by our society for your willingness to express your views, to show up the hypocritical nature of our society, to point out some of its flaws. You don’t deserve the abuse you get in return. No one does. Keep up your writing. Don’t be intimidated by anonymous cowardly trolls. Know that what you do is highly valuable, is role model behaviour. Know that you have many supporters who want you to succeed.