The Misogyny Factor

Anne Summers

The Misogyny Factor
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The Misogyny Factor

Anne Summers

In 2012, Anne Summers gave two landmark speeches about women in Australia, attracting more than 120,000 visits to her website. Within weeks of their delivery Prime Minister Julia Gillards own speech about misogyny and sexism went viral and was celebrated around the world.


Summers makes the case that Australia, the land of the fair go, still hasnt figured out how to make equality between men and women work. She shows how uncomfortable we are with the idea of women with political and financial power, let alone the reality. Summers dismisses the idea that we should celebrate progress for women as opposed to outright success. She shows what success will look like.

Review

In August 2012, Anne Summers delivered a speech at the University of Newcastle titled ‘Her Rights at Work: The Political Persecution of Australia’s First Female Prime Minister’. The speech detailed the sexist treatment that Julia Gillard has received in the media, in parliament and more widely on the internet. A little over one month later, the Prime Minister gave her now legendary ‘misogyny speech’ in which she urged Tony Abbott to ‘think seriously about the role of women in public life and in Australian society, because we are entitled to a better standard than this’.

The Misogyny Factor is an extension of Summers’ original speech and a deeper analysis of the status of women in Australia today. In it, Summers defines the ‘misogyny factor’ as entrenched attitudes within major institutions that ‘stand in the way of women being included, treated equally and accorded respect’. I was dismayed to read that in Canada 80.2 per cent of women aged 25 to 54 are in full-time work, but in Australia the figure is 66.2 per cent. Summers contends that we still have a culture that disapproves of working mothers and, despite progress made by the women’s movement, an increasingly large number of educated women are choosing motherhood and domesticity over a career.

I personally don’t agree with Summers’ criticism of stay-at-home mothers. Until full-time parenthood is respected as much as a career (coupled with a transformation of our economic system that presently only unevenly rewards certain types of ‘work’), women will continue to do the lion’s share of child care, and gender inequality will persist. However, I’m thankful for Summers’ book, because although the internet and social media helped Julia Gillard’s speech reach a wide audience, there’s something comforting about an analysis of its context and impact being preserved here in book form, ensuring the issue remains one to debate well into the future.


Kara Nicholson is from Readings Carlton.

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