Clementine Ford on backlash, misconceptions and dating as a single mum

·Lifestyle & Entertainment producer
·6-min read

She’s made quite a name for herself as one of Australia’s most prominent feminist commentators, releasing three best-selling books and gaining hundreds of thousands of followers across her social media, and now Clementine Ford has launched a podcast.

Dear Clementine gives listeners the chance to ask questions about family, friends, sex and career and receive the advice they may not want but definitely need.

Clementine Ford has launched a new podcast Dear Clementine with Nova. Photo: Nova
Clementine Ford has launched a new podcast Dear Clementine with Nova. Photo: Nova

Around the release of the Nova Original Podcast, Clementine spoke openly with Yahoo Lifestyle all about the new project, life in the public eye and dating as a single mother.

What’s your goal with the podcast?

I want Dear Clementine to create a space for women to feel really seen. For example, the world projects a very particular type of success for women - be ambitious (but not too ambitious) and ultimately find happiness by partnering with one person and having children.

But what happens if these things don't make you happy? And what if you discover that you might not want them at all?

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I want Dear Clementine to be the place where women's feelings are validated instead of undermined. I want young women to feel safe asking for guidance from someone with a bit more experience and a lot less convention than they might have been taught to want, and I want older women to know that it's never too late to seek happiness.

And of course, while I always speak with an audience of women in mind, I consider the podcast accessible to everyone and I would warmly encourage all people to listen - especially men who are interested in understanding more about women and our perspectives.

Clementine Ford.
‘I want Dear Clementine to be the place where women's feelings are validated instead of undermined.’ Photo: Instagram/clementine_ford

Do you feel any pressure giving people advice?

I don't feel pressure, but I do feel an incredible sense of responsibility. Although I offer no-nonsense advice, it's never flippant or thoughtless. People are trusting me with some of the most intimate details of their life - that's an extraordinary privilege, and I take it very seriously!

Is there anything off-limits on the podcast?

There are no limits on what people can ask, but there are limits of course in terms of the extent of guidance I can offer.

I’m not a psychiatrist or a mental health practitioner, so I can't offer armchair diagnosis. And I'm not a trauma counsellor, so I have to be very careful in terms of how I answer questions relating to trauma. But what I can do is validate the nature of the question, and direct listeners to appropriate services or trained experts to deal with the specifics of what they might be asking.

You often spark debate with your opinions on social media. How do you deal with the responses, both good and bad?

It's interesting, because my public career has spanned the evolution of social media from something crude and barely formed to the vibrant landscape it is today. Social media is inextricable from daily life for most people, and for those of us working in media, it's essential.

When I was younger, I was a lot more impulsive and more rigid in some of my opinions (and certainly in my response to disagreement). There are things I still consider non-negotiable - I won't tolerate racism, misogyny, transphobia or any other oppressive and harmful behaviours that degrade us as a society. But I have become a lot more open to assessing my own position on things, and certainly to receiving criticism.

I'm constantly navigating my own position in the world, and I consider it an enormous privilege to be able to learn from people who are willing to challenge me on fundamentals and on my own behaviour. I'm not perfect - no one could claim to be! - but one of the things I hope I model in all of my actions is a willingness to admit when I'm wrong and try to be better.

It's important to keep a perspective on the way people speak about you online. You are neither the greatest, smartest person who ever lived nor the worst, most disgusting person to walk the planet. I think what we all must strive to do is to leave things better than we found them, and that's what I try to do.

What’s the biggest misconception about you?

Oh gosh, where to start! One thing I hear a lot from people I've just met is that I'm nothing like they expected. I don't think people realise that I'm warm and funny and that I genuinely care about trying to do good in the world.

The nonsense concept of the “man hater” is so deeply embedded in society, and people seem genuinely terrified of it. But I'm not a feminist because I hate men - I'm a feminist because I love women, and I understand that patriarchy hurts all of us. And the men who truly engage with my work understand that I'm trying to liberate them too.

Clementine Ford.
‘I’m not a feminist because I hate men - I'm a feminist because I love women.’ Photo: Instagram/clementine_ford

You recently posted a snippet of your dating profile online, what advice would you give to single mothers in the dating world?

Single mothers are made to feel as if we're damaged goods, which is especially despicable when you think that women are also taught that the most important thing we can ever do is have a child.

Consequently, a lot of single mothers feel they have to settle for partners who are not what they need and certainly not what they deserve, simply because they've accepted the false premise that they a) need someone to validate their worth as a woman; and b) their status as a single mother means they can't be choosy.

But single mothers are some of the most incredible people out there, doing multiple times the workload of other parents and often in much more fractious circumstances. Dating is much harder when you're operating in those conditions, but that's a reflection of society and not a person's worth.

I want single mothers to understand just how f**king amazing they are, and to see their status as an opportunity to LIFT their standards. As a single mother myself, I would never invite someone into my life who wasn't absolutely worthy of the limited amount of time I have or the incredible privilege it is to be in my company.

Does it decrease the quantity of people I might be willing to date? Absolutely. Does it make the quality much better? Without a doubt. Once you have a high standard for yourself, you become much less tolerant of people who don't meet it.

You can listen to Dear Clementine on the Nova Player or wherever you get your podcasts.

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