Work, Babies and Women’s Choices in 21st Century Australia
(Random House Australia, 2003)
Anne Summers’ new book explores the diverse realities of Australian women’s lives today, showing how their economic, political and social well-being has been steadily and systematically undermined over the past 10 years.
“As readable as a thriller, as painstaking as a science experiment and as devastating as a barrister’s prosection, Anne Summers’ latest book proves a crime has been committed.”
Dawn Cohen, Northern Star, 23 July 2005
“The End of Equality serves up a potent combination of official statistics, the views of women of child-bearing age across Australia who participated in specially commissioned focus groups, and Summers’ own slant on the state of gender equality in our nation. In the style of Germaine Greer Meets Xena Warrior Princess, Summers identifies and dissects a dramatic decline in the terms and conditions of women’s participation in Australian society since the early 1990s.” Natasha Cica, Online Opinion, 5 January 2004 Read rest of the review.
“Summers targets this book to women and all people interested to fight for gender equality. The delivery of a highly provocative and clearly presented arguments will encourage readers to consider the validity of the thesis. Guidance on what should be done to fight for gender equality at the back of this book will also attract people to perform at least one of the top ten ways.” Andri Rusta, January 2004 Read rest of the review
“The sisterhood is in strife – well, actually they are not my sisters, but feminists tend to conflate all women into one movement as if we were all of uniform mind and ambition. Anne Summers’ new book The End of Equality (Random House) would have been better titled The Failure of Feminism because realist women have never thought of ourselves as ‘unequal’.” Babette Francis, December 9 2003 Read rest of the review
“We are said by many to be living in a post-feminist world, where women’s issues are passé, where ‘girl power’ reigns and ‘girls can do anything’ and where any talk about equality, let alone feminism, is redundant. To suggest otherwise is so uncool. Women have achieved everything they need. All the battles are over. Maybe there are a few details that remain to be sorted, but they’ll work themselves out. There is no need for any kind of action, especially not political action which is a bit of a turnoff these days. Women are getting along alright, and many women are doing extremely well; you just have to look at all the top jobs occupied by women, and if there are problems these are the result of individual shortcomings or bad luck.
This is simply not true. As I have argued throughout this book, there are real and mostly man-made roadblocks standing in the way of all too many women as they try to reconcile their conflicting ambitions and desires. School-age girls today might look forward to a world that will confer on them power and opportunity, but most young women are sooner or later confronted by a reality that is sadly different. The discrimination is still there, in jobs, in salaries, in promotions and, for all too many women, the crunch comes once they decide to have children. Then, as we have seen, women who have grown up expecting (quite rightly) that they could combine motherhood with having a career, find they are expected to make tough choices about which has priority.
This choice is not made any easier by the failure of our society to organise its policies, such as family support and childcare, and its institutions, such as schools and places of employment, in ways that complement each other and do not financially penalise women for choosing to stay employed once they become mothers.
Many of these practices are so entrenched – school hours and school holidays, for instance, being so out of kilter with working hours and annual holidays – that it is hard to see them changing. Worse, it is far from apparent that the political will is there to make such radical changes. At the moment, while there is plenty of talk from all the major parties about the need for ‘family friendly’ policies, for strategies that make it easier to combine ‘work and family’, you don’t hear much talk about how women fit into all this. Yet if the issue of women’s equality is not restored to a place of priority as well as respect on the nation’s political agenda, it is hard to see how any of these other things can happen. Because central to making the workplace more family friendly is acknowledging the needs of women as women.”
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