SHOW TRIGGER WARNING Rape, Transphobia

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10 Things You Should Know About Germaine Greer

29th Jan 2014

10 Things You Should Know About Germaine Greer
Germaine Greer; journalist, academic and Feminist marmite, turns a stately 75 years of age today. Here are ten things we should all know about her that will no doubt leave us feeling very divided. As she always does…

The Bad

1. Transphobia

Greer’s fame and fortune within the feminist movement has made her unsavoury comments on certain topics all the more dangerous.

In 1996, as a fellow of Cambridge’s all-female Newnham College, Greer famously opposed the fellowship of transgender colleague Rachael Padman, and eventually resigned over the matter.

Since this embarrassing demonstration, she has gone on to describe transgender women as ‘Pantomime Dames’ in The Whole Woman; and grossly oversimplified the motivations for and processes involved in gender reassignment. Greer was glitter-bombed by the Queer Avengers at a book-signing in 2012.

2. Rape survivors

Just when you’re feeling comfortable, buoyed and inspired by Greer’s articulate flare and fight, she says something else to let the sisterhood down.

In a breathtaking show of naivety the academic, whilst being interviewed on the BBC’s Question Time, expressed her desire for rape survivors’ anonymity to be removed during criminal proceedings.

Although the ‘stand up there and give him what for’ approach may be a brave and ballsy concept, it has rightly been pointed out that the reality for victims is a tortuous process and that such insensitivity has no place in the criminal justice system.

3. Genital Mutilation

Another tricky one. Greer firmly supports a woman’s ‘right’ to be circumcised, comparing the decision to that of someone deciding to have their clitoris pierced(!). Both MPs and several World Health Organisations quite rightly rallied against this over-simplified attitude.

For most young women in danger of FGM choice, sadly, does not enter into these transactions, nor does the realisation that this practice, unlike circumcision for boys/men, can be extremely dangerous and seriously affect their future health. To sign the anti-FGM petition and learn more about the campaign, click here.

A large part of Greer’s success has been her uncanny ability to make feminist thought popular4. Contraception as abortion

Most of us out there (myself included) accept the status of the contraceptive pill as possibly the singular most important invention in the history of womankind.

Now we are in full control of our bodies, we can theoretically seize control in our personal and professional lives. That’s an altogether positive thing, right? Well…

Despite acknowledging the importance of managing our fertility, The Whole Woman’s assertion that the pill preventing a fertilised egg from attaching itself to the uterus is tantamount to abortion is at best uncomfortable and inaccurate.

5. Big Brother

Greer’s appearance on the the 2005 installment of Celebrity Big Brother seemed at odds with her status as a widely respected academic.  Behaving in typically contradictory fashion she entered the house, after previously criticising reality TV in the past.

Following a failed attempt at rousing her fellow housemates to anarchy and bemoaning the playground bullying occurring in the house, she left.

Her deep criticism of the Channel 4 show did not, however, stop her from participating in it’s sister shows; Little Brother and Big Mouth.

The Better

1. The Female Eunuch

Although Greer’s body of work has also successfully encompassed the worlds of art history, environmentalism and Shakespeare, The Female Eunuch, first published in 1970, is a seminal work in the history of the feminist movement and a must-read on the lists of every modern citizen with a concern for gender equality.

Laced with Greer’s sometimes unsatisfactory assertions (i.e. that women bring violence on themselves, the nuclear family’s castration of its females, etc) the book can appear rather dated.

That said, this aggressive yet accessible form of feminism and approach to issues such as body image and the media still makes for essential reading. Strident feminism at its most successful.

2. Environmentalism

In Greer’s latest publication; White Beech: The Rainforest Years, we explore a very different side to her personality; a side with the desire to nurture and rehabilitate, using her savings to buy a plot of desolate scrubland in Northern Australia and bring it’s natural forest back to life.

With technicolour descriptions of the flora and fauna of her homeland, she is released from the shackles of self-conscious feminist rants and the reader is allowed a glimpse into where her heart really lies.

3. Support of Aborigines

Following on from her respect for the natural world, Greer’s attitude towards her homeland’s original inhabitants is nothing short of enlightened.

Whitefella Jump Up explores the deep-rooted social problems in modern Australia as the aboriginal people find themselves pushed out on a limb, their habitat destroyed to make way for so-called modernisation.

Referring to the effective separation of the aborigines from the rest of modern Australia as ‘apartheid’, Greer’s strong moral compass when it comes to her ancestors’ clumsy inheritance of this wild land is hugely important.

4. Her wit

A large part of Greer’s success has been her uncanny ability to make feminist thought popular, accessible and even entertaining to all manner of ‘ordinary’ women, particularly at her zenith in the 1970s.

Her big mouth and infamously frequent use of the glorious ‘c word’ assists in making her strong views known, but it also identifies her as ‘one of the gang’.

She is and always has been an academic keen for action rather than a dusty professor content with merely theorising on the emancipation of women.

5. Her Legacy

However you may feel about Germaine Greer, and god only knows, with all these contradictions you probably have no idea how to feel, her reputation (both positive and negative) and the light she has consequently shone on issues that concern women throughout the globe is invaluable.

She is loud, brash, tough and annoying and one must confess that that is the only way to get folk talking nowadays.  Manipulating the media for decades to get her point across, she is the controversial mother of our new wave of feminism, whether we like it or not.

Have we missed anything? Do you think this is a fair representation of Greer or is there anything we’ve overlooked?

Comments

  • Von says:

    We need perhaps to remember she is a survivor of prolonged sexual assault by a woman which will give her a unique perspective. She is also a very balanced participant in programs such as Q&A here in Australia. She is of her generation, an outspoken participant in change during the way of feminism of which she was part.

    • Beulah Devaney says:

      You’re right, it is important to remember Greer’s personal experiences when we talk about her attitude to survivors of sexual assault. Thank you for taking the time to point it out. [Features Ed at FBS]