Life&Style Writer Molly Brooker reviews Clementine Ford’s book ‘Fight Like A Girl’ and discusses the importance of female friendship
In August of this year, Australian writer, broadcaster and feminist Clementine Ford published her first book Fight Like a Girl. It is part memoir, part manifesto and maps out Ford’s life as she learns to embrace feminism, and discard the internalised misogyny she grew up believing. The book as a whole is fantastic, but there is one chapter in particular that struck a chord with me. Chapter Five ‘A League of Their Own’ focuses on the importance of female friendships, and Ford’s personal journey from self acclaimed ‘gender traitor’; avoiding the company of women, preferring to judge and ridicule them from a far, to a fully fledged ‘girls girl’. The lesson Ford presents is essentially that girls should reject the outdated belief that they need to compete with each other for mens approval and instead embrace the fact that other girls can give you just as much (if not more) validation and love as men can.
This chapter, and Ford’s whole book resonates with me on a very real and personal level. Whilst I have never fallen into the same trap as Ford of the ‘gender traitor’ (I have always enjoyed close relationships with other girls), I have most definitely found myself judging, and quite frankly hating other girls unnecessarily from afar. The lightbulb moment for me came when I started University. For the first time I was living in an environment where the women around me were not just expected, but encouraged to speak their mind and engage in issues that matter to them. I began to listen to the different experiences of other girls, and instead of feeling threatened, or judged I realised I could learn from them. Obviously University is not perfect, and there are many occasions when women don’t feel safe or respected or heard; but I cannot deny that this environment allows women to surround themselves with other women who want to learn and grow with one another.
The University of Birmingham has taught me so much about feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, the Black Lives Matter movement, period poverty and countless other issues that I was quite frankly ignorant to before. In her book Ford makes the point that she feels safe and supported by women, because their shared experiences prove that her feelings are “valid amid a narrative which still wants us to believe we are overly sensitive and humourless”. For me, University has provided a similar safe space in which I can voice my opinion without fear of judgement and patronisation, and that is down to the girls I have met here. The friendships I have made here have shaped me as a person. I have learnt about sex, money, family, mental illness and politics over drunk chats at 3am, whispered conversations in the library and useless revision ‘meetings’ where all we do is gossip and avoid our work. There is something intrinsically special about the freedom with which female friendships can discuss topics. Debates can be had without judgement however there is always space to call someone out if you don’t agree with what they are saying.
As a new school year begins, and Freshers settle into new friendships, and older years return to the ones they have already formed, I urge all girls to embrace their female friends. Cling on dearly to the girls you meet here, don’t fall into the trap of seeing girls as your enemies, they are your closest allies and your greatest strengths. University is a surreal experience, a tiny portion of your life which can cause major impacts on your future self – make sure you make the most of it. In a world that has embraced the Times Up and #MeToo campaigns, use your time at University to start a dialogue with other woman and throw yourself into similar movements. Ford, at the very end of Fight Like a Girl writes that her book is a love letter to girls. She says “I wrote this book for you. The Future, we can write together.” I encourage you all, learn from other women, help other women and come together as women. Embrace the idea of girls loving and supporting other girls – you will not regret it.
You can buy Clementine Ford’s book Fight Like a Girl on Amazon and other similar online retailers.