Convert or perish: On Germaine Greer

This post is a collaboration with the brilliant Hypotaxis.

Regular readers of our blogs don’t need an introduction to the canonical liberation feminist work of Germaine Greer, nor do they need a recap of what’s happening to her in the news this week. But, to sum up: Greer is under fire for hurting Bruce Jenner’s feels – and by extension, the feels of other men who say they are women – for maintaining that they are not, in fact, women, and that misogyny is the basis of Glamour magazine’s decision to consider Bruce Jenner for its Woman of the Year award, i.e., Jenner’s pretty hair, makeup, nails and fashion make him a better woman than someone who was simply born a woman.

Because of this, Cardiff University – Greer’s own academic institution – will not offer her an honorary degree; nor will it allow her a platform to speak. A change.org petition with nearly 2,000 signatures accuses Greer of  “demonstrating misogynistic views towards trans women, including continually misgendering trans women and denying the existence of transphobia altogether.”

These are lies.

In this six-minute interview clip, Greer makes it very clear she believes male-to-female transsexuals should “carry on,” should do what they need to do to feel comfortable; and that she’s happy to use “female speech forms as a courtesy.”:

However, here’s where she doesn’t bend: Male-to-female transsexuals are men, and Bruce Jenner is angling for the kind of attention lavished on the Kardashian women.

“I’m not saying that people should not be allowed to go through the procedure,” Greer says. “What I’m saying is it doesn’t make them a woman. It happens to be an opinion; it’s not a prohibition.”

The interviewer persists in dragging the discussion into various side alleys – What about intersex, huh? What about someone who has a uterus and testes, huh? Aren’t you being insulting? Some people think this kind of speech incites violence.

Greer, patiently, re-iterates that intersex conditions and transsexuality are two different things; reminds the interviewer that trans has never been her issue (because, guess what, her issue is WOMEN); and then cracks herself up laughing at the recollection of the many times she herself has been insulted.

“Try being an old woman!” she says, and we know what she means: An old woman is invisible; is offensive by continuing to exist long after her beauty and fertility and usefulness to men are gone.

In fact, hey – look at the first comments posted here underneath the interview:

ggreer

No one is accusing these commenters – especially the second – of violent, hateful, dehumanizing speech, as they would if the comment were directed toward, say, Laverne Cox or Caitlyn Jenner: that’s because Greer is female; is elderly; is firm in her unpopular, non-male-centered opinion. So it doesn’t matter what people say about her. She no longer counts.

While older men are celebrated for their wisdom and important insight (think, for example, an entire Oscar-winning documentary, The Fog of War, centered on the musings of an eighty-something McNamara), society does not regard older women in the same way. We do not afford older women the opportunity to be heard – unless they are willing, as say, Betty White, to perform for our amusement.

The liberal feminist movement itself is consumed in a deep, profound hatred of older women who are feminists. “Second Wave” has become a pejorative, principally because what the Second Wave represented was women’s refusal to cater to the needs and demands of men; to emancipate themselves from patriarchy.

Liberal feminists work tirelessly to distance themselves from the women who came before – be they Second Wave or suffragette. Liberal feminists have been conditioned to cut themselves off from their predecessors because their predecessors did not prioritize the way men might feel if women earned the right to vote, take birth control, start a group, publish a book, found a magazine, apply for credit, or get a job.

Second Wave feminists, in particular, were not afraid to say men and men’s needs were the primary cause of women’s suffering – even Betty Friedan, founder of NOW, got freaked out and attempted to distance herself as feminists of the 60s and 70s started to openly, unabashedly name the problem. And though we can’t speak for Friedan, we would hazard that she knew men were the problem, but distanced herself from the claim in order that she not end up, at the tail end of her career and life, villainized the way Greer is being villainized now. (And yes, we are also aware Friedan was afraid of being labeled a lesbian, and saw lesbians as a detriment to the movement.)

Even Gloria Steinem came out in support of the idea of ladybrain – and we don’t think she believes it any more than Greer does. But because the current liberal feminist mandate is that female is a feeling in a man’s head, Greer and Steinem have both been faced with a difficult choice: Say you’ve converted to Genderism (even if you haven’t) or be prepared to have your entire life’s work eclipsed by our culture’s staid belief that hurting a man’s feelings amounts to blasphemy.  

Convert or perish.

Young liberal feminist women have been given terms like “queer” and “cis” to confuse them into believing that their suffering is not real or, if it is real, it does not result from being born female.

When older sisters, like Greer, speak, when they say, “Listen! Women and girls have real, actual problems that have nothing to do with a man’s ability to craft the visage of ‘woman’” we, as a society, are quick to censure them, to call them “mad,” to infer they are insane with old age.

This is a trope, a motif. We see this in countless so-called “classic” and “beloved” tales: Great Expectations, Sunset Boulevard, Snow White, Macbeth, to name a very small few. We see this pattern, too, in our pop culture, in our politics: an aging woman is an angry woman, is jealous, is insane, is a being (not quite human, not quite woman) bent on evil.

The only “good woman” over fifty is one who is silent, deferential, nurturing, OR willing to make a fucking fool of herself.

But if one was to actually listen to a single word Greer has said on the topic, one would hear that hers are not the belligerent ravings of a madwoman, but rational, intelligent responses to a lunatic conversation she has been relentlessly dragged into despite the fact, as she has repeatedly stated, that she has zero interest whatsoever in discussing the matter, or thinking about the matter.

Here’s the bizarre reality: this interviewer is seated across from Germaine Greer – brilliant scholar, feminist icon, a woman who has nearly eighty years of experience and insight – and the best she can do is ask her about Bruce fucking Jenner?

But we, I suppose, are in the minority in that we value older women; we have friendships with women who are twenty, thirty, forty years our senior; we look to our elder sisters for advice, and are eager to hear their perspectives. We do not see women like Greer as freakish “others.”

Cardiff will not give Greer her earned and deserved honorary degree because she, unlike Steinem, refuses to espouse a belief in ladybrain. Greer will not betray a lifetime of scholarship and activism, she will not disappear her convictions, in order to cradle the fragile male ego, in order to pander to bullshit liberal feminism, and to perpetuate what we all know is a gigantic fucking lie.

But you know who wasn’t denied an honorary degree? Mike Tyson, a man who raped and beat women. Mike Tyson, who BIT ANOTHER MAN’S EAR OFF ON LIVE TELEVISION.

Who else; who else. Oh, yeah: Kanye West, author of immortal rap lyrics including  ”We got this bitch shaking like Parkinson’s,” “Black dick all in your spouse again,” and “I keep it 300, like the Romans/300 bitches, where’s the Trojans?” has an honorary doctorate.

So does Kermit the Frog. No shit. From Southampton College.

Roman Polanski anally-raped a female child. He gets LOTS of awards and makes LOTS of speeches.  

Hurt feelings — hell, hurt bodies —  in no way jeopardize a man’s public career. Very few men are maligned for talking shit about women, and absolutely no man is shamed for speaking, as Greer has, in simple, verifiable facts.

Go back a second, though, to Kanye’s Trojans, because this whole Greer thing forcibly reminds us of the ancient Greek myth of Apollo and Cassandra.

Despite his good looks, Apollo didn’t have such a great reputation with the ladies. He had a history of attempted rape (which, in ancient mythology, is not regarded as too great a transgression), and of bribing women for sex.  For Apollo, a figure who is supposed to represent the “perfect man” in form and intellect, all women could be bought, and when they could not be bought, they could be forced, and if they could not be bought or forced, they would be cursed.

When he offered Cassandra, a Trojan woman, the power of prophecy in exchange for sex, she gave it some thought but ultimately rejected him. Apollo, in turn, cursed her: she would have prophetic gifts, but never be believed.

In fact, she would be thought a liar and a madwoman.

And so, when Cassandra foresaw the Trojan War, no one listened.

When she insisted, “The Trojan Horse is full of men hiding!” people laughed at and insulted her.

Finally, she grabbed an axe and a burning torch and ran toward the horse, in an effort to destroy it before it destroyed Troy – but the Trojans stopped her, therefore ensuring their own destruction.

The men hiding in the horse were tremendously relieved.

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