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.

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.

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To pay tribute to the emergency and service personnel who helped in Hurricane Sandy, Vogue does a fashion spread inspired by the superstorm. Naturally. [Daily Life]

Apparently young Australians just aren’t into protesting the injustices we face today. Um, hello? Reclaim the Night, the Occupy movement, SlutWalk, the Arab Spring… all activist events started by Gen Y on social media which encouraged Time magazine to name the Protestor as its 2011 Person of the Year. Writer Alecia Simmonds does make a fair point that Aussies are particularly apathetic towards causes, but her assertion that online petitioning, blogging and social media doesn’t compare to on-the-ground activism kind of undercuts fellow Daily Life columnist Kasey Edwards’ argument last week that “Big social changes don’t just happen… Social and cultural change evolves out of a meandering path of small victories. Seeds need to be planted and ground needs to be fertilised.”

The latest trend in labiaplasty: the Barbie, in which the entire labia minora is cut out. [Jezebel]

And, in an attempt to counteract the alarming trend of wanting your vulva to look like a plastic doll’s, check out this (NSFW) Tumblr, Show Your Vagina.

What is it about our twenties that make us who we are? [Slate]

Miss America and race. [NYTimes]

Is freedom of speech overrated? Personally, I think so, as it allows those with abhorrently narrow-minded views to spill hate speech. This article makes the observation that free speech only seems to be defended when people like Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt put their foot in their mouth. [Daily Life]

Lena Dunham thinks that perhaps Rihanna should have been the one to sing “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” to Chris Brown. [TheVine]

American Horror Story: feminist or anti-feminist? [Jezebel]

Jane Roe—of Roe v. Wade fame, which had its 40th anniversary this week—ain’t what she used to be: now she’s an anti-choicer. [Vanity Fair]

Glee‘s Puck is a rapist, allegedly. [TheVine]

Nine of the ugliest feminists. [Return of Kings]

Breast feeding-shaming. [Daily Life]

A photojournalist documents an abusive relationship. Should she have stood by and photographed an incident of domestic violence or does her work portray an important aspect of lower socio-economic partnerships “unflinchingly”? [Fotovisura, Kiwiana (Inked)]

Image via Daily Life.

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

women say something midsumma should we destroy the joint

Prompted by Alan Jones’ admonition that women in parliament and positions of power are “destroying the joint”, which spurred the online feminist movement of the same name, feminist group Women Say Something brought their panel consisting of such high profile Aussie feminists as Tara Moss, Catherine Deveny and Gretel Killeen to the Thornbury Town Hall on Saturday night to ask whether we should, in fact, destroy the joint.

I must say I didn’t know much about Killeen’s feminist credentials prior to the event, but her total rejection of the Destroy the Joint movement, and most modern movements, was the surprise of the night. Killeen said she didn’t really believe in the premise of feminism and that she identifies more as an egalitarian. Tara Moss interjected here, saying that there’s not just one Feminism and that everyone has their own version of what feminism is. While I do support this notion to a certain extent, I think feminism is first and foremost about equality for all, not just for women. And I also take issue with different feminisms for the fact that this allows people like Tony Abbott and Sarah Palin, who are the furthest things from feminism out there, to claim themselves as part of “the club”.

This idea certainly didn’t go undiscussed, either, as Killeen raised the point that modern feminism is always looking for “aggressive marketing terms” like Destroy the Joint, SlutWalk and reclaiming the word cunt to recruit new members, like Abbott, no matter their ideologies and at the risk of offending the general public. Who cares about the general public? They’re always offending me with their sexist, racist and homophobic ways, so why not ruffle some feathers with feminism?

This lead Killeen to ask when feminism became a label that just anyone could apply to themselves. While I agree with this, and it’s the point I tried to make above, it is contradictory to what (my) feminism is about: equality. Moss then raised the argument of who’s more or less of a feminist, which is an issue I struggle with and which I’ve written about before. Someone then said that feminism allows room for discussion and disagreement, which the panellists certainly demonstrated; feminism isn’t a one size fits all movement.

It seems as though Killeen was playing devil’s advocate at first, with all her snubbing of most of the other panelist’s ideas. But as the night progressed, it became clear that she actually has some pretty radical views of human rights. As Catherine Deveny asserted, it’s not about feminism: it just comes down to being an “asshole and not [being an] asshole”. Here, here.

Some current pop cultural issues came up during question time, such as Beyonce’s recent underwear-clad GQ cover and accompanying article in which she espouses some feminist ideals, without actually saying the word itself. (Let’s remember in 2011 that she neither confirmed nor denied that she was a feminist, instead she suggested we create a new word for the movement.) Moss again reiterated the notion of many feminisms and that “if one of them happens to be in their underwear then that’s great,” which I wholeheartedly support (even if I don’t support feminism being thrust upon an undeserving pop star).

If Abbott’s declaration is anything to go by, seemingly every Tom, Dick and Harry are clamouring to get a piece of the feminist pie, what about all the damning of feminism as a “failed” movement? Deveny insisted that, as many a book, blog post, feminist or historian will tell you, feminism is the most successful human rights movement alongside the black civil rights one. Without feminism, we wouldn’t have the Pill, childcare, pay advances, or the vote, amongst a myriad of other rights.

So, should women destroy the joint? As one panellist said (who it was escapes me now), movements like Destroy the Joint and SlutWalk are “training ground[s] for activism”. Killeen suggested, again, that they’re just angry marketing ploys and that they don’t do anything to further our cause. Facilitator Kate Monroe and fellow panellist Casey Jenkins insisted that primarily social media movements are vital in “chipping away” at the patriarchal zeitgeist, and we need that as much as the “fireworks” of Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech, for example.

On anger, Gillard managed to harness hers at her treatment by pretty much the whole of Australia and turn it into one of Aussie feminism’s most important moments heard ’round the world, regardless of her personal or political beliefs. Many of the panellists (except, again, Killeen) agreed with an audience member’s assertion that anger is an important virtue when it comes to feminism. Far from the archetype of the angry, man-hating, hairy pitted feminist, anger can be fermented into passion which is essential for any feminist and feminist movement, wouldn’t you say?

What do you think? Should we be destroying the joint or do you think there are less radical ways to bring people around to feminism?

Related: Why is Feminism Still a Dirty Word?

Image via Facebook.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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Think many rapes are reported falsely and the few actual rapists are punished for their crime? As this graph shows, you can think again. [Daily Life]

Interested in Melbourne’s gay culture and history? Go on this walking tour of Melbourne’s beats as part of Midsumma next weekend.

And while you’re at it, book tickets for Women Say Something‘s “Should We Destroy the Joint”, as Alan Jones so misogynistically termed women’s involvement in public life, panel featuring Gretel Killeen, Tara Moss and Catherine Deveny, on Saturday 19th January. [Midsumma]

Yay! Finally a famous female who identifies as a feminist. Although I wish it was someone I actually liked, beggars can’t be choosers… [Daily Life]

Where did all the African American rom-coms go? As a lover of black rom-coms like Two Can Play That Game and The Wood, I can certainly empathise with this author’s plight… [HuffPo]

Here’s a smorgasboard of articles attempting to unpack the now-defunct Nice Guys of OKCupid. [Jezebel, The Pursuit of Harpyness, The Atlantic, Daily Life]

What the modern incarnations of Sherlock Holmes get wrong about Irene Adler. [io9]

Abortion facts infographics. [Jezebel]

For those of you unfamiliar with the Steubenville High School Big Red football team rape and cover-up scandal, here’s a history of the town’s corrupt ways. [The Atlantic Wire]

Boycotting Chris Brown’s music is all well and good, but are we at a point where Rihanna’s blatant disregard for the impact her very public decision to get back with her abuser has on her impressionable fans and fellow battered partners alike means shunning her, too? Or is it just victim-blaming? Interesting piece. [The Peach]

Why does Tony Abbott keep ducking the “MamaMia crowd”? [MamaMia]

Is Gina Rinehart a feminist? [Daily Life]

A breakdown of exactly what you can afford when you live on $35 a week as a family of four on the Newstart Allowance, as Families Minister Jenny Macklin asserted last week. [MamaMia]

Is Les Mis anti-feminist? [Daily Life]

Image via Daily Life.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

“What It’s Really Like to Wear a Hijab.” [Daily Life]

While the mainstream media is not always the most tasteful industry, its coverage of Jill Meagher’s disappearance was invaluable in helping catch her killer. [MamaMia]

And here’s an amusing take on the sexist comments thrown women’s way after the Jill Meagher tragedy. I’ve been experiencing some of these “restrictions” myself since then, preached to me by well-intentioned but misguided friends, which I’ll be writing more about next week. [Feminaust]

Why fur is back in fashion. [Jezebel]

Instead of petitioning the fashion magazines, should we be making love instead of porn? [TheVine]

The perils of getting a hair cut as a black woman. [Jezebel]

Two of my favourite writers and unofficial mentors, I guess you could say, are in the midst of writing books. Rachel Hills and Sarah Ayoub-Christie detail their struggles with the process. Keep ya heads up, girls! [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman, Chasing Aphrodite]

“Reverse Photoshopping” a “too thin” Karlie Kloss isn’t any better than Photoshopping away cellulite or blemishes. [Daily Life]

Famous writers throughout history reimagine Cosmo’s sex tips. [McSweeney’s]

Why are all the feminists these days funny? Um, because we wised up to the fact that our ideals are better digested by the mainstream through less-threatening humour than shoving it down unwilling throats. Though we still do a lot of that!

“[Sexism’s] existence at the moment requires a tougher, wilier, more knowing, and sophisticated stance.” [Slate]

Clementine Ford’s full Wheeler Centre Lunchbox/Soapbox address on the equality myth.

Incorporating part of her speech, Ford elaborates on Alan Jones’ misogynistic comments about the Prime Minister and women in general. [Daily Life]

On the male-male-female threesome. [XOJane]

Why isn’t Mitt Romney being questioned about the way Mormonism treats women? [Daily Beast]

TV: At Home With Julia—Funny or Disrespectful?

 

After watching last Wednesday night’s third episode with my hard-to-please comedy-wise housemate who hadn’t seen the previous installments, it certainly wasn’t funny.

I did enjoy the first two episodes though and, as Mia Freedman mentioned on MamaMia TV a couple of weeks ago, it did make the Prime Minister seem more “human” and relatable, if that’s even possible coming from a scripted, comedic version of Julia Gillard.

But why is a comedy show that mocks her living arrangements with her de facto partner Tim Mathieson, amongst other things, being made about a prime minister in office? Would this shit fly if John Howard—or even Kevin Rudd—had a show made about them whilst in office?

Sure, there were comics of Howard with his bushy eyebrows and his morning walk, and Rove had a weekly segment about K.Rudd and Wayne Swan’s prime ministerial faux pas, which came to be my favourite part of the show. But they dealt with their public lives, not their personal ones, which seems to be all the public can focus on since Gillard ousted Rudd.

Gillard has been disrespected in the past because of her gender. She is constantly referred to as “Julia” instead of the courteous “Prime Minister”, was berated by Alan Jones for being a few minutes late on his talkback radio program (which, incidentally, was the same day she was also called “Ju-liar” by the shock jock), and cops it in the press for the way her hair is styled and how she dresses.

On that, there is a heavy influence on At Home with Julia about Tim’s “house-husband” status and how he’s a sad hairdresser who just wants to marry the independent Julia. While I’m not sure the show seeks to contribute to the status quo, but rather critique it, I do have a problem with the fact that in this society, an unmarried couple is an unhappy one.

Despite my problem with the fact that there is a comedy show about a sitting prime minister, it is an accurate and (mostly) funny satire of Gillard’s time in office. I voted for her, and regret doing so because of the way she’s blundered the carbon tax and the asylum seeker issue. I hope At Home with Julia seeks to delve more into these issues, instead of portraying sex—an act the show asserted it would never do—under the Australian flag in the Prime Minister’s office. As Anthony Sharwood wrote on The Punch:

“Yet somehow, it was deemed OK to make sexual jokes about an incumbent prime minister in her late 40s, whose love life has never had the tabloid quality of, say, Bob Hawke’s. Even if you dislike Labor and Gillard, the nookie scenes were cringeworthy and savagely inappropriate.”

What do you think? Much ado about nothing, or wildly inappropriate and disrespectful?

Related: Not Quite Out of the Woods: The State of Australian Politics.

Elsewhere: [The Punch] Why is the ABC Screening This Crap?

[MamaMia] At Home with Julia: Love or Loathe?

Image via News.com.au.