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She Leads: in conversation with Dr Anne Summers, AO

Emma Grey

“The more successful we are,” explained feminist author and thought-leader, Dr Anne Summers, “the greater the opposition”.

She was contrasting misogyny in the social-media age, with what she’d observed at the beginnings of the Women’s Liberation movement in the late 1960s, when she was a student at Adelaide University.

Dr Summers recalled a time when a group of male engineering students trailed after her, tearing down posters she’d placed about an American pamphlet she and some others had republished called, ‘The myth of the vaginal orgasm’. The males students had wanted to stop her from speaking, which is much the same motivation behind the incessant trolling against Dr Summers and fellow feminist commentators on social media today — except with the added protection for modern trolls of optional anonymity.

Dr Summers is guest speaker at the upcoming She Leads In-Conversation event, hosted by the YWCA in Canberra on 10 May. Her Women’s Manifesto, launched this year on International Women’s Day will provide inspiration for the discussion. It outlines the four basic principles of women’s equality which, as Dr Summers explains, are surprisingly simple:

  • Financial self-sufficiency
  • Reproductive freedom
  • Freedom from violence
  • The right to participate fully and equally in all areas of public life

By 2022, 50 years after the election of the Whitlam government which was the first to make women’s equality part of its national program, Dr Summers aims for significant reforms, some of which are so simple to enact we could have them this week if our politicians wanted:

  • Legislated equal pay for all women in all jobs
  • Decriminalisation of abortion in New South Wales and Queensland
  • Specialist domestic violence courts in every state of Australia
  • Gender quotas dictating that women make up 50 per cent of all parliamentarians, all cabinets and other ministries, and directors of all public companies and government boards.

Asked what individual families can do to help further progress towards women’s equality, Dr Summers was clear: childcare must be the responsibility of both parents – not just the mother. “A lot of women won’t let go of the power,” she explained. “Decide, before having a child, how this will work. Have a detailed understanding that his life will be as disrupted as yours. Women have to change as well.”

Some of the reforms Dr Summers works towards are relatively simple. Others remain complex, which is why conversations like She Leads continue to be so valuable.

the essentials

What: She Leads In-Conversation with Dr Anne Summers, AO
When: Wednesday 10 May 2017 from 6pm-8pm
Where: Ann Harding Centre, University of Canberra
Tickets: $45 YWCA Canberra members / $60 non-members
Tickets and more information: ywca-canberra.org.au/event/leads-conversation-dr-anne-summers-ao


Emma Grey

Emma Grey is the Canberra-based author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and ‘Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band’. She’s director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and co-founder of a fresh approach to time-management, My 15 Minutes. She lives just over the ACT border with her two teen daughters and young son. More about the Author