Boys will be boys

I’ve recently started and finished reading the book “Boys will be boys” (2020/04/25) by Clementine Ford. I was originally asked to read this book by my girlfriend, who’s a fan of Clementine. Before starting to read this work, I had only a singular introduction to Clementine. I had seen a rant through an Instagram story. The rant consisted of a monologue of how terrible the men posting in the comment sections of her various social media platforms. While watching, all I could think of was that I’ve found an entertainer who does a good job delivering her product of choice, (out)rage at the world around them. All I could think of was the similarities with Glenn Beck. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of that kind of presentation/personna. Because of this, I was a little reluctant to read the book. But, I promised to keep an open mind and read the book anyways. So I bought it and started reading the next day.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book except for a couple of the last chapters. I think it’s fair to say that I’m familiar with feminism but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that would be classified as feminist literature purely for pleasure before. Academically, I’ve read a few texts on the subject during my highschool and university education. I’ve also read a smattering of peer reviewed papers on the topic when relating to particular and specific injustices (ex: wage inequality, impact on GDP, unpaid labour, etc.). So the ideas and arguments presented in the book aren’t particularly new to me. However, I was caught off guard by some of the sexism examples that are apparently very relevant in Australia that as far as I’m aware are not as systemic or extreme of an issue in Quebec – or at the very least, not in the socio-economic sphere that I’ve lived. This might just illustrate that I’ve lived a sheltered life.

So while I enjoyed reading the book in general, I was personally not a fan of a particular chapter that involved simply calling people out for their sexist and sometimes violent actions. The issue I had was that I had never even heard of 95% of the people being called out and without that background, I think a lot of the message was lost.

Having said all this, I would recommend the book but with one observation that I’d like to present. I had the impression that the book was written by two people. The first voice, a passionate semi-academic which was trying to honestly and critically comment on society and promote improvements for society as a whole for both men and women by fighting an insidious inequality propagated by both men and women. This voice also throws in the occasional joke but makes it clear that they’re very aware of themselves and reality around them. The second, a voice who wanted to spit on all men because they are to blame for the current world order. That second voice rubbed me the wrong way on occasion, particularly at the beginning of the book.

I can understand that second writer, and can agree that all men that aren’t part of the solution are part of the problem and it’s arguable that there are very few if any men that are part of the solution. At the same time, it’s clearly apparent that there are far too many women who aren’t on board with (or are against) feminism. And one possible way to get women on board is to give them a clear enemy (all men) and advance the us versus them mentality.

I recommend the book, but as a man reading the book can be a little off putting. I think this is because of the gnawing incongruity I felt while reading the book. Referring back to my feeling of two authors, the first author illustrates how both men and women are oppressed. That men are smothered emotionally while women are undervalued in multiple ways. Both are taught from an early age the world order and expected to propagate it. We need to fight this and introduce changes at a societal and regulatory level to ensure that a change is made. Then the second author comes along and says, fuck men and they’re all terrible.

Those spouts of anger, directed at a group that I’m a part of, make it a little harder to read. Particularly because the first voice makes it clear that the writer is capable of the nuance required to separate a group into sub-categories and target them for particular transgressions. When I then read that “men are terrible” with no qualifier by the second voice, it hits a little closer to home because I can no longer imagine that this is just an overgeneralization because this is all being written by the same author. Interestingly, after about the halfway point of the book, I no longer had the same discomfort or it was significantly reduced. I’m interested in knowing if something changed in the writing or if I simply got a little less sensitive.

This was a new experience for me and as I’ve said sometimes a little difficult to get through, but I think there’s value in reading and thinking about things that might rub you the wrong way. So overall, I would recommend this book to pretty much anybody. It covers a very interesting and pertinent topic, and is written by an author with a sense of humour who knows the subject well.

Deep Working by Cal Newport

I just recently started reading (2020/04/23) the book “Deep Learning” by Cal Newport. I picked it up on my e-reader based on a recommendation while reading a random blog. The entirety of the book centers on the premise that concentrating on a topic for long periods of time without distraction (thinking or working deeply) provides more value to the individual (and potentially to an employer) than working with diffuse attention (working shallowly). The exact definitions used in the book is at follows:

Deep Work: “Professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

Shallow Work: “Non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create new value in the world and are easy to replicate.”

The book is geared towards “knowledge workers”, where this kind of argument inherently rings true. If a worker is being paid and valued for working with their mind, it would be expected that it would be preferable for them to work more intensely with their minds.

While I was familiar with nearly all the concepts and arguments presented in the book, it was a fairly enjoyable read for two reasons. First, it’s been a while since I read a self-help book and second I liked the structure. The structure of the book is essentially that of an argument as to why “deep work” is beneficial – which you may or may not agree with – followed by a more practical guide as to what you could/should do to optimize the pursuit of deep work.

In many respects, I believe I followed most of the recommendations before reading the book but there’s always room for improvement. Funny enough, I think the act of reading an entire book on this subject is a little bit of a cruch for people who haven’t thought about this topic before. And I’m certain most people after reading this book won’t act on the recommendations or actively think about the subjects presented.

The only real critic to the book I had was that near the beginning I felt like the opinions were a little more researched and included references to a few studies as backup while towards the end of the book I got the impression that the author simply got lazy and started making suggestions with a sample size of one (himself or one other professor or famous example).