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 Gillard’s 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 hasn’t 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.
Dr Anne Summers AO is a best-selling author, journalist and thought-leader with a long career in politics, the media, business and the non-government sector in Australia, Europe and the United States.
She is author of eight books, including the classic Damned Whores and God’s Police, first published in 1975. Her other books include The Misogyny Factor (2013), The Lost Mother: A Story of Art and Love (2009, 2010) and On Luck (2009), The End of Equality (2003), Ducks on the Pond (1999), Gamble for Power (1983) and Her-Story: Australian Women in Print (with Margaret Bettison – 1980). She writes a regular opinion column for the Sydney Morning Herald.
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.