Another take on Germaine Greer

As folks around here know, I work hard to be kind and civil to everyone even vaguely feminist or possibly sympathetic to feminism. But I’m going to make an exception for Germaine Greer. Stoat’s criticisms are spot-on, but, well, too polite for my taste.

The Feminist Blogosphere has been filled with discussions of whether Amanda Marcotte’s and SEAL Press’s apologies and promises to change are an adequate response to criticisms. Greer, as Stoat notes, belittled the injustices faced by Muslims and racial minorities while at the same time demonstrating her view that the only women (who count) are white and secular. AND SHE IS COMPLETELY UNREPENTANT. As far as I know, she has never in her life apologised for anything, or conceded that she has anything to learn from those who are not her. As Laura Miller from Salon said 9 years ago, Greer’s method is “inflating her own personal trials into theories about the condition of women”. Sounds almost precisely like what Elizabeth Spelman calls the method of White Solipsism. She is totally uninterested in women’s health, as shown by her opposition to PAP smears and the HPV vaccine, and her support for FGM; and she has a long history of transphobia.* Why the hell are we are all being so tolerant of her? Because she wrote an important book a long time ago? Well, a lot has happened since then and she should have made an effort to keep up.

For a much funnier, better-written take on Greer from roughly the same perspective, check out Natalia Antonova. And for another excellent post by someone just as annoyed as me by the FEM 08 talk, go here.

*In general, I think that feminism is enriched by a diversity of views, when these views are backed up by well-reasoned arguments. But Greer’s are not. Instead, they’re based on ignoring the perspectives of those who are unlike her. This does not enrich feminism.

14 thoughts on “Another take on Germaine Greer

  1. Germaine Greer may be the Anne Coulter of feminism. I have often wondered whether either of them truly espouse many of the views they take in public, or whether they just say whatever they have to in order to get on television.

  2. In my view, this sort of solipsism is repeatedly played out in feminist philosophical contexts by feminist philosophers whose concerns about employment equity extend only as far as the ratio of men-to-women getting jobs. One (white) feminist philosopher in particular seems compelled to detail the ratio of m-to-w whenever she advertises a job for her department; but, of course, we are never given any details about the composition of the department with respect to (for instance) the ratio of white people to people of colour, of nondisabled people to disabled people, straight people to LGBTI people. Evidently, these details shouldn’t be a concern for feminists, or at least shouldn’t be regarded as a priority.

  3. I thought her reference to the government being scared of Muslims was totally inappropriate too, along with a few other comments she made (I spoke to many people afterwards who were completely opposed to her views on the HPV vaccine), but I think I got so swept up in ooo it’s Germaine Greer, and I did agree with a lot of other things she said, that I ended up overlooking them. I think that’s probably pretty reflective of my own personal perspective (which is similar to GG’s), and I know I need to work on broadening it so these kind of comments leap out at me rather than fade into the background.

  4. Ah – now i’m wishing I’d been a bit less reserved and restrained in my criticisms!
    at least we’re presenting a (slightly) diverse range of perspectives!

  5. Word. Germain Greer has a huge tendency to be offensive, which is a big problem since she’s seen as some kind of face of feminism and since her views seem to rarely match up with much of modern feminism. Really, she opposes the HPV vaccine? Fucking hell. I think she’s the first feminist I’ve seen to oppose the vaccine in a way that was not coming from a standpoint of skepticism towards all vaccinations (something I also disagree with). But Stoat seemed to suggest that she opposed it for similar reasons as the religious-right — that it encourages and condones pedophilia and teenage promiscuity. WTF? You know, it’s impossible to encourage and condone pedophilia to someone who does not already think it’s okay.

    Anyway, I really don’t even know what to make of her support for FGM (&^*#&^$#*%$#), and the transphobia disgusts me but doesn’t even surprise me at this point. I thought that by now, so-called radical feminists were over the whole trans-hate thing. I’ve learned in the last few months just how terribly wrong I was about that.

  6. It’s so Monty Python, except it isn’t an act, from what one can gather. It is puzzling. I’ve been wondering what sustains her. Obviously, it is pretty easy to value fame and money, but there are often limits to what one will do, especially if it costs one the esteem of people whom one values.

    Having thought about this for all too long, I’m afraid all I can think of are unsurprising things: Invitations like that to FEM 08 may well play an important role, but equally I bet she has a lot of access to people she regards as powerful and important. And she’ll give a good performance.

    Which brings in Mr. Jender’s comparison to the infamous AC and onto the unpleasant realization that like AC, GG may well really value the people who find her amusing, despite her espoused values.

    It might be really good ot stop asking her to speak at feminist conferences!!

  7. About the HPV vaccine: There is a population of folks in this country who question or oppose vaccines, and they seem to cross ideological lines. Now, I need to go read Greer’s actual opinion on the subject–if she’s opposing the vaccine for some stupid reason like it makes it easier for women to have sex, then I agree with you that Greer’s opposition is anti-feminist. If on the other hand she has concerns about the vaccine’s safety, well, there are many feminists who have those concerns and some even discourage getting the vaccine for that reason. It isn’t because they hate women, it’s because they’re afraid for women. I have mixed feelings on the subject. Most strains of HPV do not cause cervical cancer, and I’ve heard the HPV vaccine causes little girls to faint after administration and might be causing other problems as well. So… I dunno.

  8. Trans issues? What did Greer say about these? She has a “history of transphobia”? I do think sometimes the label “transphobia” is used very uncritically, or used to simply silence a complex opinion. … I recently saw the lauch of a short film made by a female-to-male trans youth about his experience transitioning. In one part of the film, we see an image of scars from a radical masectomy, as if he had done something necessarily heroic and obviously empowering. I have met and talked to a number of trans people now; and certainly one reason for women transitioning to men is the horrible pressure that “masculine” women are under to conform. Certainly I can understand why one person I knew transitioned to a male; she had been harrassed all her life for her “manly” appearance and behaviour; and so while, on the one hand, I am glad she was able to get surgery and become a man, on the other, I think it so sad that she was never accepted and embraced as a wonderful and powerful woman; and that women who defy heroically the strict gender box risk great isolation and social rejection.

  9. I think you’re raising reasonable concerns. But Greer apparently refers to MTF trans people as ‘pantomine dames’, and fought to get a MTF trans colleague fired from teaching at a women’s college.

  10. Well, I would have to know why she wanted this person fired; was it simply because this person was a MTF trans person? Yes “pantomine dames” is offensive; there seems to be an ugly war going on between some radical feminist theorists and some trans theorists. Some trans theorists dismiss any feminist concern about MTF trans people teaching in women’s studies as transphobic–this is also offensive and silencing. I do know of one case where a MTF trans person and theorist is the head of a woman’s studies department. I think this is inappropriate primarily because this person does not have books published in the field of women’s studies but rather in the field of trans studies, where she discusses issues relating to trans people having affordable access to surgery, housing, etc. In her books she oversimplifies radical feminist concerns about MTF trans people participating in women’s spaces; and insults radical feminists. There is a case of nasty clash between a radical feminist filmaker, Catherine Crouch (she has a web site), and Susan Striker, a high power academic trans person and theorist in women’s studies who castigated her for her film “The Gendercator”, saying it was anti-trans, when it is not even about trans people but about the perspective and viewpoint of a lesbian feminist.

  11. GG is very clear in “The Whole Woman” that to label “sex-change men” as female or women is to perpetual a misused of those term as catch-all phrases for “the non-male”.

  12. JJ: Yes certainly, Crouch says her film does raise issues about transitioning, but she emphasizes that the film is “not about transpeople …but about a lesbian woman” (Interview with Off Our Backs, vol. 37, no. 2/3). … Lesbian butch women of my acquaintance talk about pressures around them to transition to men; in my own experience I have been assumed to be a woman wanting to transition into a man… I could make a film about my personal experience and have a few characters, lesbian butch women, who become trans after enormous pressure and struggle living as women. This would just be an accounting of my personal experience and of others; and in itself would not be transphobic.

  13. Germaine Greer’s open hatred of and discrimination against innocent minority groups such as transfolk sickens me. This woman has no right to call herself a a feminist – she should be jailed for life for hate speech and hate crime. She is the most disgusting, disturbing and deeply troubled homophobe in feminism. When I see evidence of Greer’s bigotry, I am ashamed to call myself a feminist.

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