Lynne Segal

Lynne Segal is an Australian-born, British-based Socialist feminist academic and activist, author of many books and articles, and participant in many campaigns, from local community to international. She has taught in higher education in London, UK since 1970, at Middlesex Polytechnic from 1973. In 1999 she was appointed Anniversary Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies at Birkbeck, University of London, where she now works in the School of Psychosocial Studies.

Segal was born in Sydney, and studied psychology at Sydney University, obtaining her PhD in 1969, while immersed in the anti-authoritarian milieu of the Sydney Libertarians (known as 'The Push'), and has always remained within the libertarian wing of Left politics. She emigrated to London in 1970 and for the next decade her main energies went into grass roots politics in Islington, North London, helping to set up and run a women's centre, an alternative newspaper, the Islington Gutter Press, and supporting anti-racist politics. It was a decade in which the extra-party Left was on the ascendant, but divided structurally and ideologically.

In 1979, the three friends, Segal, Sheila Rowbotham and Hilary Wainwright wrote Beyond the Fragments, arguing for broader alliances among trade unionists, feminists and left political groups. Its argument quickly won a large following leading to a major conference in Leeds, Yorkshire, in 1980 and a second edition in 1981. In 1984, publisher Ursula Owen invited her to join the Virago Advisory Board and write an appraisal of the state of feminism, resulting in her first book, Is the Future Female? Troubled Thoughts on Contemporary Feminism (1987). This book reached a broad audience, with its questioning of gender mythologies, whether of women’s intrinsic virtues, or men’s inevitable rapaciousness, which had been appearing in the work of many popular feminist writers in the 1980s.

Reflecting her socialist feminist milieu, Segal argued that feminists always needed to confront the ubiquitous negation of the 'feminine', but women’s battles could neither be reduced simply to battles with men, nor solved purely by revaluing the ‘feminine’. All Segal’s consequent books have argued for a more inclusive form of Left-feminism, arguing for a more compassionate and egalitarian world. Her next book, Slow Motion: Changing Masculinities, Changing Men (1990) rejected the equation of 'male sexuality' with 'male violence', noting the complexity of forces generating very differing patterns of masculinity across time and place. Discussing the volatile fluidity of sexual experience, the same theoretical perspectives appeared in Straight Sex: The Politics of Pleasure (1994). There she deconstructs the notion of male activity and female passivity that underpin normative understandings of heterosexuality, and serve to shore up the language and practices of male dominance. In 2007 Segal published Making Trouble: Life and Politics, a Political Memoir covering her generation of post-war activists, pondering what has become of their politics in the grimmer, more divided world of the 21st century.

Segal is the daughter of Iza and Reuben Segal, who were both medical doctors. Her brother Graeme is a mathematician, her sister Barbara a baroque dancer. She has a son, Zimri Segal, working in design technology. Segal has lived in Islington, North London since she arrived from Sydney. Since 2000, she has worked, as a secular Jew, with Jews for Justice for Palestine, Independent Jewish Voices and Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (FFIPP) engaged in efforts to end the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian land and create a just peace between Israel and Palestine.

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