Book Review: The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers.

anne summers misogyny factor

“Misogyny” seems to be the word on everyone’s lips after newly ousted former PM Julia Gillard’s famous parliamentary lambasting of Tony Abbott last October. It was certainly on Anne Summers’ when she spoke at the University of Newcastle in August last year about the then-Prime Minister’s rights at work and how, “… if she were an ordinary worker, she would have a case for sex discrimination and sexual harassment.”

That quote appears on page five of Summers’ recently released The Misogyny Factor, born out of the above two speeches.

Gillard was quick to be criticised for intimating that Abbott is a misogynist; after all, how can you be a misogynist if you’re happily married and have three daughters? (That line of thinking was employed in a recent Facebook debate I had with a friend over Robin Thicke’s hit, “Blurred Lines”.) While the dictionary definition of misogyny is hatred of women, Summers explains the reasoning behind calling her book The Misogyny Factor:

“… [T]he misogyny factor is that set of attitudes and entrenched practices that are embedded in most of our major institutions (business, politics, the military, the media, the church, academia) that stand in the way of women being included, treated equally and accorded respect… I am not sidetracked by strict dictionary definitions of ‘misogyny’. Sure, it can mean, ‘hatred of women’ and we still see far too many instances of that. But it is more complicated and far more widespread than the prejudices of individuals, which is why I use the term ‘the misogyny factor’… I am talking about systemic beliefs and behaviour, which are predicated on the view that women do not have the fundamental right to be part of society beyond the home… Such views can be, and are, held by women as well as men… Why they defend misogyny is mystifying, yet plenty of women do.” [p. 7–8]

Essentially, “sexism goes hand in hand with misogyny. Sexism provides the rationale for misogyny.” [p. 8]

There is sexism and misogyny to be found almost everywhere you look, but The Misogyny Factor primarily focuses on the realms of politics and the economy. For example, we’re all (well, those who have a vested interest in the pay gap and who don’t buy into the misguided notion that we now have gender equality. If anything, we’ve regressed, and Summers addresses this specifically in the book, too.) familiar with the fact that a post-graduate degree-holding woman entering the workforce today will earn $2.49 million over her working lifetime, while her male counterpart earns $3.78 million [p 53–54]. For being a “young woman in Australia today,” “there is at least a million dollar penalty.” [p. 54]

And for those women who do manage to crack the glass ceiling and rise to the upper echelons of the corporate world, they mustn’t show an ounce of femininity lest they be deemed “too emotional” for the job:

“If women brought onto boards are expected to behave like men, what is the benefit of their presence? It is the worst of all possible worlds: the company is denied the different perspective women directors might bring to its governance…” (emphasis mine) [p. 89]

I’m glad Summers was sure to include “might”, as without it she might as well be buying into the very idea she’s trying to debunk: the belief that women are so inherently different from men that they can’t possibly execute jobs traditionally held by the opposite sex, or if they are granted employment in them, they’ll do a vastly different performance than the menz. They’ll “destroy the joint”, if you will.

Speaking of Destroy the Joint, the feminist social media movement, and now a book, born out of Alan Jones’s comments that female politicians and business leaders were “destroying the joint”, Summers explains:

“[Alan] Jones’s intended insult, that women were ‘destroying the joint’, was turned on its head. It wasn’t the first time that women had transformed what was intended to be a belittling comment into a triumphant battle cry. In 1905 the Daily Mail newspaper in Britain ridiculed the suffragists— those, mostly women, who were fighting to get the vote for women, by calling them ‘suffragettes’. The more radical of the suffragists embraced the term. They started using it with pride to describe themselves, and to differentiate themselves as radicals from those who used more moderate tactics. They created a publication, The Suffragette. More than a century later in another country, Australian women also took the disparagement and created the modern-day equivalent of a campaign newspaper, the Facebook page and the Twitter handle @JointDestroyer. Yes, that’s right, women responded. We are going to destroy the joint. We utterly reject a joint whose sexism and misogyny is so ingrained that far too many people see it as perfectly normal behaviour. We will no longer tolerate a joint that systematically excludes women from its ranks, that insults us as a matter of course when we stand up for ourselves, a joint that sees something wrong with spending money to stop violence against women. If that’s what the joint is, we don’t want it.” [p. 139]

The modern-day equivalent of the suffragettes? SlutWalkers and Joint Destroyers.

Some feminists have expressed concern that these movements are too radical and scare off more moderate feminists from the cause. When you look at the fact that “… In 2012… 21 per cent of people in Australia has been sexually harassed since the age of 15, a slight increase the previous report in 2008 (20%) and that a majority (68%) of those people were harassed in the workplace… [and] most of these were women.” [p. 97], it becomes pretty clear why we need such “radical” movements. Personally, I’ve been sexually harassed too many times to count, and a handful or two in the workplace. I need SlutWalk and Destroy the Joint.

Many of these grassroots campaigns occur online, to match the spate of online abuse women on the internet receive. I just received my first rape/death threat for views expressed (about To Kill a Mockingbird, no less!) on this blog: I can now officially call myself a feminist blogger. But when Kickstarter sees nary a problem with raising funds for a sexual assault manual, Twitter is used as a forum to berate women who don’t fit the mould, and Facebook bans breastfeeding photos but keeps rape memes and pages, misogyny is plain for all to see online. For example, former political cartoonist for The Australian, Larry Pickering, who most recently depicted Julia Gillard with a big black dildo, a strap on slung over her shoulder (“It seems that Pickering cannot envisage a Prime Minister without a penis—so he has to five Gillard a strap-on” [p. 125], Summers notes) and animations of the former PM topless, had the latter deleted by Facebook but the strap-on images were allowed to stay. Seems like Facebook has a women (or just female breast-) problem…

It’s not just online, as the sound bites from fellow politicians and menus from Liberal fundraisers will attest, that Gillard experiences sexual harassment. “It says something about our country and about us that we could subject our leader to such vile abuse” [p. 130], Summers writes. Look at the U.S.: while they arguably have more problems with misogyny than we do, at least the Office of the President is viewed with respect, regardless of the figurehead who occupies it.

Still with Gillard, “Can it really be the case that a tax—a carbon tax—could really spur so many people to such levels of hatred? I find that impossible to believe, so I have had to conclude that the persecution of Julia Gillard has to be about something else. Is it just the simple fact that she is a woman?” (p. 130-131)

In the fallout from Gillard’s ousting, and the subsequent gendered abuse I heard and saw thrown her way in the media and on Facebook and Twitter (which lead me to unfriend certain long-time-coming people), unfortunately I think Summers is right. The misogyny factor is alive and well in Australia.

If you’re after some similar content from Summers, check out her recent Emily’s List oration and this Meanjin piece.

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Related: Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

Event: Midsumma Festival & Women Say Something’s Should We Destroy the Joint?

Elsewhere: [Do Something] CEO of Kickstarter: Refuse to Fund How-To Guide on Sexual Assault.

[Jezebel] If Comedy Has No Lady Problem, Why Am I Getting So Many Rape Threats?

[HuffPo] Breastfeeding Photos on Facebook Removed From “Respect the Breast” Page.

[Gawker] Facebook Removes Pro-Rape Pages, Kicking & Screaming.

[Anne Summers] Emily’s List Oration 2013.

[Meanjin] The Sexual Politics of Power.

Image via New South Books.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Kelly Rowland’s latest single is about cunnilingus. Get it, girl!

The threat of James Deen. [Daily Life]

Now they’re gendering cordial! [Feminaust]

In defence of Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna in the aftermath of season two of Girls:

“Lena Dunham has perfected her ability to push her audience past their comfort zones by forcing them to relate to or identify with someone who they’d rather not relate to or identify with. When people react negatively to her work, I think that’s often what it is that they’re reacting against. Her artistic—yeah, I’m going to say it—genius is pushing the viewer from thinking Who would do that? to I’ve thought about that to I’ve done that.”

And I think that sums up the difference between season one of Girls, which was so unabashedly relatable, if not totally likeable, and season two, which stagnated more in the former realm of Dunham’s alleged “artistic genius”. [Jezebel]

Calling all Aussie (and NZ) Gala Darling fans: she’s bringing her Blogcademy brainchild down under. Wouldn’t you know it, the Melbourne workshop takes place when I just so happen to be in Gala’s hood: New York City!

Clementine Ford unpacks the verdicts handed down in the Steubenville, Ohio rape case and why sexual assault is not a “mistake” made by “promising young men” who deserve a “second chance”. [Daily Life] 

New girl crush: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. That woman really knows what she’s talking about when it comes to feminism and women in the workplace. [Jezebel]

Girls, How I Met Your Mother and consent. [Think Progress] 

Porn consumption = more accepting of marriage equality? [MamaMia]

On Taylor Swift, Anne Hathaway and fake humility. [TheVine] 

On the (Rest of the) Net Comes a Day Early—Easter Edition.

Happy Easter to all Early Bird readers. See you on the flipside (that’s Tuesday!).

On Megan Fox’s old nose. [Jezebel]

Gala Darling is going without TV for a month. Could you do it?

Kate Spencer responds to an insulting op-ed in the New York Post about women who move to New York City only being interested in an image-based, money-obsessed Sex & the City lifestyle. But it’s the Post, what do we expect? [The Frisky]

Still with SATC, five things Carrie Bradshaw failed to mention about NYC. [Bailey Powell]

Is the blowjob dead? [Jezebel]

Sharing your miscarriage on Facebook: do or don’t? [Jezebel]

The racist reactions to The Hunger Games. [Jezebel]

How to be a woman girl. [Jezebel]

Rachel Hills on asexuality. [The Atlantic]

Queensland’s new Premier, Campbell Newman, vetoes the state’s Literary Awards, in the Year of Reading and in a time when 1 in 5 Indigenous children are illiterate. This is why you don’t vote Liberal. [Courier Mail]

How an article about how hard it is to be a beautiful-looking woman written by an average-looking woman entices readers to hate troll. [Jezebel]

Fat-shaming Jessica Simpson for gaining weight during pregnancy. [Jezebel]

Clementine Ford unpacks the widespread need for other people to tell women what they should and shouldn’t be wearing. [Daily Life]

Image via Ask Men.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Glamour models as feminists? On Jodie Marsh, bullying, beauty and being “worthy” and “good” enough:

“This isn’t just a random channel 5 program anymore. Suddenly, this is feminism and misogyny in microcosm.” [Libertarian Lou’s Blog]

The leggings-as-pants debate continues, this time at feminaust. While MsElouise does make some good points about admonishing others for wearing leggings as pants being akin to fat-shaming and sexual harassment, I still maintain that if you’re going to go there, you should go there sans underwear. I’m all for a legging-as-workout pant or legging-as-costume (I regularly wear both options), but please, opt out of the VPL. Or at least wear a really long t-shirt.

And some more from feminaust: female genital mutilation.

The “barely legal” porn phenomenon. [Jezebel]

When Brynne Edelsten makes it onto a “50 Women You Should Admire” list and the prime minister doesn’t. [MamaMia]

Thank you, Sasha Pasulka, for writing this hard-hitting and just plain brilliant admonition of Chris Brown’s Grammys “comeback”. More to come on the abomination that is Brown next week. [HelloGiggles]

Still on the topic, heinous Facebook and Twitter updates from young women defending Brown’s assault on Rihanna and actually expressing a desire for him to hit them, too! What is this world coming to? [The Good Men Project]

“He just has a crush on you” in response to playground harassment of little girls at the hands of little boys is just reinforcing that adult harassment of women at the hands of men means “he just really loves you”. Bullshit! [Views from the Couch]

Is this the end of men’s magazines in Australia? [MamaMia]

Why is Australian TV so white? [MamaMia]

On being a gay black man. [In America]

The horrible reality of being a fashion mag intern. In the U.S., anyway. [Jezebel]

Following on from the anti-abortion controversy of iPhone’s Siri, Android’s ChaCha search engine is “anti-abortion, anti-evolution, racist and even thinks that rape may be justifiable”. [Gizmodo]

Image via Acid Cow.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

“Red Dress, Blue Dress.” What your clothing colour choices say about you. [Final Fashion]

Are you your social group’s/family’s/work place’s “feminist friend”? [Feminaust]

The politics of the facial (yes, that kind of facial). [Jezebel]

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, rape scenes and crossing the line:

“… Our ratings system in this country is so broken that a film that contains a sustained, brutal rape sequence featuring full-frontal female nudity can breeze right through with an R-rating, but if you include a sequence in which two people engage in spirited, consensual sex and we see anything that resembles reality, you are automatically flirting with an NC-17 or going out unrated.  We have created a code of film language in which the single most destructive act of sexual violence is perfect acceptable to depict in the most graphic, clinical detail, but actual love-making has been all but banished from mainstream film.  There’s no ‘almost’ about it; it is disturbing on a philosophical level to realise how backwards the system is right now, and I think one of the reasons many filmmakers will include a rape scene is so they can get some nudity into their movie, and the context doesn’t matter to them.” [HitFix]

Ahh, the inevitable responses you’ll get and the people who’ll give them to you when discussing sexism on the interwebs. [Caphe Sua Da]

Bald Barbie: join the campaign here. [Jezebel, Facebook]

Being called a feminist is a compliment. [Crunk Feminist Collective]

Best “Shit So and So’s Say” video yet!

On language and HIStory. [Feminaust]

My second article on The Good Men Project. Check it out.

Sydney VS. Melbourne? I’m a Melbourne girl all the way, baby. Which do you prefer? [The Age]

Benjamin Law on gay stereotypes. [MamaMia]

And a heartwarming story about how Glee’s Kurt and Blaine are just like this little six-year-old. [And This Is My Blog…]

Maggie Gyllenhaal sticks up for reproductive rights. [Glamour]

An Open Letter to the Transphobic Girl Scout.” [Jezebel]

The mystery of the clitoris, revealed (SFW). [io9]

Cynthia Nixon: gay, straight or bi? Is being gay a choice or is it biology? Who cares? [Slate]

Images via Hits USA, Facebook, The Good Men Project.

12 Posts of Christmas: Slut-Shaming as Defence Mechanism.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th.

This one’s about the good ol’ slut-shaming most girls experience at some stage in their life and how it is often, at the hands of other women, a defence mechanism. Original post is here.

A good male friend of mine has recently started dating someone new.

When I asked him how it was going, he said fine, blah blah blah, but that one thing she said really offended him. I was intrigued, so I asked him to tell me more. She must have been looking through his Facebook photos, and came across several in which we’re tagged together. She confronted him about it, saying, “Who’s that Scarlett girl, huh? She looks like a bit of a skank.” He proceeded to set her straight and defend my honour.

Upon going through the photos we’re tagged in myself, I have to say she made a fair call! They’re mostly from costume parties where my skank switch is on full throttle.

But, more than that, it is not uncommon for me to be called names like this. I’m not going to deny it, because if SlutWalk taught me anything, it’s that denying you’re a slut means that you’re acknowledging that other women are. What is a slut/skank, anyway?

But I know why she called me that: she’s jealous. Instead of asking nicely who I was and why my friend looked so chummy with me in the photos she saw, she was threatened by our relationship, so in lieu of admitting this, she questioned the relationship by insinuating that he shouldn’t be hanging around with someone (who seemed) so skanky.

I don’t begrudge her for this; I kind of think it’s funny and a bit sad. In this day and age, people are going to have to start accepting that men and women can be platonic friends. This is why I wrote on my online dating profile that if a man wants to date me, they have to be comfortable with the other men in my life. Especially since my new roommate come Saturday is one of my closest (male) friends.

What to you think? Have you ever experienced this kind of jealousy from another woman, manifesting itself as slut-shaming?

Related: Slut-Shaming as Defence Mechanism.

When Girl-Hate Turns Into Obsession.

’Tis the Season…

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] SlutWalk.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

Post of the week: Catherine Deveny on body love. [MamaMia]

On sexual harassment and “nightclub feminist success”. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

Atheists are just as bad as rapists… and feminists. [Jezebel]

Lingerie football. What do you think? Personally, I’m not a huge fan of playing sports in underwear, but I don’t have much of a problem with it. [MamaMia]

“The Problem with My Week with Marilyn.” [Jezebel]

All long-term monogamous relationships are a transaction, says Ms. Elouise, so what’s the big problem with “paying your wife for sex”? [Feminaust]

Facebook, girl-hate and “I’m a better feminist than you” tête-à-têtes. [Howling Clementine]

XOJane on the message Breaking Dawn sends to virgins.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope extends to indie films, too. [The Atlantic]

iPhone 4S’ Siri is pro-life, apparently. [Gizmodo]

When hemlines rise, so does bitchiness. [Jezebel]

Stella Young on the disability pension myth. [MamaMia]

Former Wordsmith Laner Sarah Ayoub-Christie tries to reconcile her modern marriage with her traditional Lebanese upbringing. [MamaMia]

“Teaching Good Sex” in school. What a novel idea! [New York Times]

Men in porn:

“The straight male performer must be attractive enough to serve as a prop, but not so attractive that he becomes the object of desire. As [porn publicist, Adella] Curry puts it, ‘No one wants to alienate the male audience’.” [Good]

Image via MamaMia.