Feminist author Clementine Ford has used her first agony aunt column to liken the actions of a grandfather desperate for affection to the #MeToo movement.
An anonymous mother wrote to Ms Ford through Yahoo, asking how she should respond to her father-in-law offering to blow bubbles for her one-year-old daughter on the condition she gave him a hug.
She said her daughter had been playing with her grandfather, who was blowing bubbles for her. When he stopped, the one-year-old asked him to keep going.
The grandfather responded by telling her: ‘I’ll blow you more bubbles if you give me a hug’, the woman said.
‘I am furious that he tried to bribe my child with something she really wanted for her affection. I said, “we don’t negotiate for hugs”,’ the mother wrote.
‘How can I best advocate for my daughter in these situations when all I want to do is come down on other people like a tonne of bricks for perpetuating a culture where women feel they owe men/people affection, that their affection is a favour that can be bought?’
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Ms Ford wrote back, explaining to the woman that she wasn’t overreacting, and was helping prepare her daughter to speak up if she was uncomfortable with the advances of someone older than her.
The author, who describes herself as a ‘hardline feminist’, said it could be ‘hugely disempowering’ to be a child.
Ms Ford said children who attempted to enforce boundaries with adults when it came to physical contact were often ignored.
‘Is it any wonder the #metoo movement has unearthed so many stories of women manipulated or trapped into activity they don’t remember consenting to but felt ill-prepared to stop?,’ she wrote.
Ms Ford advised the woman to explain her choices to her family without her daughter present, and to remind them one in five women in Australia will experience sexual assault at some point in their life.
She continued to say forcing a child into hugging and kissing people with more power than them could teach them it was normal to trade physical affection for things they wanted.
The column was Ms Ford’s first for Yahoo Australia, and comes just months after she spectacularly resigned as a columnist for Fairfax because of ‘censorship’.
Many women praised Ms Ford’s words, saying they agreed with her stance on teaching children consent early.
‘Exactly on point with many conversations I have tried to have with extended family (only to be vilified for it),’ one woman wrote.
‘But worth every patronising comment because from two years old my oldest daughter was already asserting herself with phrases like “it’s my body” and “no, I’m the boss of my body”. My own little mini hardline feminist!’
But some said Ms Ford had gone too far, and not considered the complexities of intention.
‘Boys often hate kissing their mothers when they reach adolescence, or younger. Are mums meant to back off because they’re now seeking unwanted physical favours?’ one man asked.
‘Clementine’s point is easy to make because it doesn’t take the time to consider the complexities of the intentions of the family.
‘Any resistance from well meaning, loving adults who want to show and receive affection (which is now evil) is regarded as potential sexual interference in the upbringing of a child. This harms the child in the end, and why? To satisfy the worries of the hypersensitive feminist mother?’