Day 3: The Misogyny Factor
On the third day of Christmas, my literary love bought for me… Anne Summers’ The Misogyny Factor!
Anne Summers’ The Misogyny Factor explains how women have been excluded from full and equal participation in Australian economic and public life. Despite the promise of equality, Australian women are still not there. Not by a long way.
Is this your perfect Christmas gift?
The 2014 Stella Prize judges said of The Misogyny Factor:
Anne Summers has been a central figure in Australian feminism since her book Damned Whores and God’s Police was published in 1975. In The Misogyny Factor, she traces the history of ‘the equality project’ over the last four decades and draws some grim conclusions. Full of brief, accessible recaps of the main ideas in feminism since the 1970s, The Misogyny Factor grew out of two speeches that Summers made in 2012. In one, she addressed the issues of equal pay and affordable childcare; in the other, she showed the extent of the sometimes shocking treatment by journalists and commentators of the then prime minister, Julia Gillard, who was widely and persistently referred to and described in gendered terms that were usually negative and demeaning.
Inclusive of her readership but also incisive in her arguments, Summers defines and explains in brisk, clear, unemotional terms the concepts of sexism and misogyny and the ways they infect the daily experience of women in public life. Throughout the book, she keeps her main focus on the site where workplace rights and conditions interact with women’s reproductive rights and freedoms. But she also discusses the intangibles and immeasurables: the social and cultural pressures on working mothers, the unspoken expectations that people have of women in the workplace, the unconscious discrimination and favouritism in play when appointing or promoting staff, and the unspoken fear and resentment of women in power. The ideas explored in this book underpinned our reading of all the entries for the Stella Prize.
Links and Media
- Read Sophie Cunningham’s review of The Misogyny Factor (along with Destroying the Joint and Griffith REVIEW 40: Women and Power) for the Sydney Morning Herald.
- Read Kerryn Goldsworthy’s review of The Misogyny Factor (along with Destroying the Joint, Griffith REVIEW 40: Women and Power, Quarterly Essay 50: Unfinished Business: Sex, Freedom and Misogyny, and The Stalking of Julia Gillard) for the Sydney Review of Books.
- Watch Dr Summers’ lecture on the Misogyny Factor at TEDxSouthBankWomen
- Listen to Dr Summers discuss the ongoing incidence of misogyny and sexism in Australia on ABC Radio National.
Anne’s recommendations: The best books by women she read in 2014
‘During the past year I have enjoyed reading fiction by women who have been Stella winners or short-listees. Burial Rites by Hanna Kent and Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany, both of them so different in locale, purpose and mood yet both exemplifying the stellar talent of young Australian women writers.
But my two favourite reads this year have been non-fiction. I found The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka an astonishing book, not just for the until-now mostly unknown story it told, or the creative research techniques that unearthed such rewarding material but most of all for the rollicking tone of the book. Clare Wright has shown that history can be popular without sacrificing research standards but more than that she has shown us that the people of our past can come alive as real people in the hands of a skilled researcher and writer in ways that we have rarely seen before.
My favourite book of the year was one that I should have read decades ago. It’s sat on my bookshelf since 1979 when it was republished by Virago Press, that specialised in retrieving women who’d been forgotten by history. Testament of Experience had first been published in 1957. I knew nothing about Vera Brittain but soon discovered she was once one of world’s most admired and best-selling writers (in the US and Europe as well as in her native Britain) after her first, heart-breaking book Testament of Youth which told the story of World War I and its devastating impact on a generation. She lost her fiancee, her brother and her best friend. Experience is her book about the World War II, the leadup, the war itself and its aftermath. This contemporaneous account from someone who became a reviled pacifist as a result of what she’d witnessed is simply one of the best books I have ever read.’