To Love and be Loved: Clementine Ford on How We Love – WORD Christchurch 2022

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending Clementine Ford’s WORD Christchurch Festival event for her new book How We Love, her fearless and combative third piece following Boys Will Be Boys and Fight Like a Girl. She’s been a lightning rod over the past few years in the contemporary feminism sphere, igniting debate from critics and love from adoring fans. The energy that fans have come to know her by radiated as she spoke with Christchurch local, Naomi van den Broek.

In her most recent work, she turns from manifesto to memoir. How We Love has a more intimate, heartfelt feeling throughout. An atmosphere of love and admiration engulfed the room as Clementine was greeted on stage by adoring fans, which was fitting given the discussion that was about to take place. Clementine shared personal experiences, the impetus for her most recent book, her writing method, and the sources of inspiration for her work.

Ford spent much of her childhood growing up in the Middle East, specifically in Oman. At age twelve, her family relocated to England. After this she spent her teenage years growing up in Adelaide. During her time at the University of Adelaide she took a gender studies course and referenced this as a time when she was learning about feminism and describes it as a personal catalyst for her decision to become a feminist activist. She shared her experiences with ADHD, opening the evening by saying:

“please be warned, I have ADHD so if I’m fidgeting and lots of movement is happening I apologise…also shoutout to any neurodivergent people in the audience tonight.”

After an introduction, Clementine spoke about what How We Love means to her with some experts read out by Naomi.

How We Love recognizes love in all of its expressions. Not only the love we have for our partners or children, but also the love we have for our hobbies, our families, our friends, movies, music, and our children. According to Ford,

"if you only had one experience of love you'd be devoid of other experiences" because love is all around us.

She continued by saying that lifelong monogamy is a failed project and that as humans we frequently find ourselves concentrating entirely on it. There is a lot more to learn about and experience in terms of love than just romantic relationships. This premise is the driving force behind her third book.

How We Love

So what motivated Ford to write How We Love? Really, it's only that she wanted to write about something joyful. People may find Ford's passion for love difficult to understand. Even if they didn't like her, she knew that people would read it and find at least one of the stories relevant. She added that while the last chapter of the book is about becoming a mother, the first chapter of the book is about the death of her mother, who passed away from cancer, and coming to terms with everything associated with it. As the book begins with a sombre tale of maternal love and weaves in tales of desire, crushes, teenage angst, wrath, and sadness, it comes full circle.

Ford stated that the want to love and be loved is the desire to know and be known when discussing the challenges associated with knowing and defining love. If we want to love and give love to others, we must first know and accept who we are, allowing others to access and grasp our most personal and intimate selves. We all want people to know and understand who we are, but Ford reiterates that she doesn't like to categorise herself; for her, being "simply me" is enough. The book explores self-love and the path we take to love ourselves.

Ford feels completely loved in the world because she loves herself. Before, she never invited herself to be known, and this caused rifts in relationships around her. Without knowing and loving yourself how can you love and know someone else? Towards the end of the evening she proposed a question to the audience: how sure can you be about romantic relationships? Expanding on this, she said that if you were to leave a romantic relationship would the other person be able to recount the stages of your life? Would they be able to be a witness to your love? This question left the audience thinking, because throughout the evening Ford had talked about being able to recount events from your life and being the only person who will be there for you at the end of the day. By considering this question I came to realise that I am most likely the only person who is 100% sure about my relationships and feelings about love.

In the final conversation, Ford continued to discuss love in an almost philosophical way. She talked on how it's important to keep in mind that what seems fast to us now is actually slow in comparison to human history. Politics and activism are two of the various ways that love is recorded. Rape cases, abortions, and the freedom for women to vote were all topics of discussion—and for good reason. When it comes to love, we have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go. Ford noted that everything seemed urgent and tense to her when she was 21 years old, but that after 20 years, she now realises that it takes time for people to comprehend what happened in the past, whether that time is spent in friendships, activism, politics, or romantic relationships.

As Clementine puts it, How We Love is a collection of stories and notes on a life. She has opted to share with the world her notes on her life. Love is the one thing that unites us, and stories help us do that. Love is the basis of friendships, romantic relationships, community rallies, and late-night listening to favourite albums. Love is also the cause of all of these phenomena. The world would be a pretty dull place without love for both ourselves and others.

As humans, we commonly act in love: "Planting seeds for a forest we may never get to see," Ford concluded. She used the phrase "so many of the things we do are because of love," which is a fitting expression of her feelings. In order for our children, friends, and family to be able to live in a world where love is still evolving, we plant seeds for them so that they can learn how to love themselves and others.

Spending the evening with Clementine Ford was funny, heartful, and joyous! Here are a list of her books, and some authors/titles she recommends (as asked by an audience member).

Clementine Ford’s books and some of her recommendations

Clementine Ford and her Recommendations

List created by jessebraydon

A list of Clementine Ford's books and some recommended reading by her.

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