The Misogyny Factor

By Anne Summers NewSouth Publishing


Anne Summers

Judges' report


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.