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feminist of the week: anne summers

Anne Summers
Age:  68
Occupation:  Writer and publisher
Hometown:  Sydney

Describe yourself in one word:

What is your feminist philosophy?
I believe that women should be free to play an equal part in all aspects of our society, and should be given the same opportunities and rewards (pay, honours, etc) as men. Simple, really.

When did you have your feminist awakening?
I was in my early 20s (back in the 1960s) when I realised that women were paid less than men and that really irritated me, especially when I found out that women with university degrees were paid less than men with no formal post-school education. I also had an illegal abortion in 1965 that went very wrong and could have killed me, and that shocked me into a life-long commitment of fighting to ensure that women must have access to abortion that is legal, safe and affordable.

How has the feminist movement changed from when you first joined the cause?
It’s much much bigger and more mainstream.  Back in the 1960s, we did not really talk about feminism. We wanted women’s liberation but we decided to settle for feminism –for equality – because that seemed attainable.  Now discussion of feminism is part of everyday conversation and media coverage. And even when there is hostility to feminism, or even ridicule, we are at least still talking about it

Why is feminism important in today’s world?
Because we are not there yet.

What are the main challenges Australian women are facing today?
We still do not have the basic guarantees of equal treatment in the workforce when it comes to getting jobs, getting promoted and getting paid equally. This is despite the existence of anti-discrimination legislation. Women are still punished for having children if they want to continue to have careers outside the home. And, as we saw with the disgraceful treatment of our first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, Australia is still not comfortable with having women in charge.

What does the feminist movement in Australia look like?
It is large and diverse and everywhere. I am encouraged to see so many young women getting active and working to ensure their rights are protected.

What are the differences that you’ve seen between the feminist movements in Australia and the United States?
It is a long time since I lived in the US so my impressions are dated but I used to be surprised at the way different issues had priority in our two countries.  In Australia we were concerned about such services as child care but the American women were more interested in issues such as pornography. These days, American women are fighting hard to protect abortion rights which are under threat in so many states while in Australia we are starting to realise that the same forces are trying to restrict our rights as well.

How are publications like Ms. Magazine important to the feminist cause?
Ms. Magazine is now very much a movement publication, owned by the Fund for the Feminist Majority, and so can be a mouthpiece for the movement. When I was running the magazine, it was still trying to be commercially viable but that was a real struggle because so many advertisers would not consider us because we did not give them sympathetic editorial e.g. articles on fashion and beauty.

Do you think that feminism has a branding issue? If so, why and how do you suggest the movement can fix it?
Feminism means different things to different people. I think, frankly, that we waste too much time arguing about what feminism is and is not.  Time we could more usefully spend just getting on with the fight to get equal pay and equal rights.

What role has feminism played in transforming advertising and what is the next step?
I’d say this is one area where we have had very limited success.

What is the most important feminist cause in your life?
There are three fundamental and irreducible principles that are essential for women: 1. We must be financially independent; 2. We must be able to control our fertility and 3. We must be free from violence.  We need all three if we are to be free.

What is the most annoying feminist stereotype in your opinion? Why?
Bra- burners!!!  Women never burned their bras. They dropped them into a trash bin. Quite different.

Why should men take up the feminist cause?
So they can meet more interesting women!  Seriously, feminism is about equality which means it’s a men’s issue too. We want to be equal with men and we want men to be equal with us. Simple.

What’s your advice to other feminists?
Never give up. And never stop having fun.

You can keep up with Anne at her

One thought on “feminist of the week: anne summers

  1. Pingback: In Brief: Anne Summers Offers “A Few Words of Advice” to Feminist Wunderkind, Tony Abbott | Lip Magazine

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