Razer: Germaine Greer is ruining the world again

Germaine Greer is ruining the world again. Or, as many conservative or libertarian thinkers currently prefer, the world is ruining Germaine Greer. If you’re not caught up in this latest tempest, consider this both weather report and dismal global forecast. In short: everybody’s thundering but there’s little hope for rain.

Last week, news and opinion sites set about placing Greer at the centre of their ongoing, usually vacant, obsession with “freedom of speech”.

The writer had reportedly refused an invitation to speak at Cardiff University following protest by feminist students unhappy with her past statements on transgender women. It is absolutely true that Greer’s past statements on transgender women hold about as much intellectual value as Alan Jones’ radio editorials. Which is to say, they were discursive stink-bombs empty of anything but foul odour and detonated only to provoke fuddy-duddies into revealing themselves as they held handkerchiefs to their noses.

But now, many people are holding their noses on both sides and taking public opportunity to either say “this is political correctness gone mad” or “I’m finished with Germaine Greer”. Or, even a little of both. Whatever side, or sides, one chooses, the impetus is, in my view, identical. And that is to trivialise the speech of women, whether trans or cis.

This, of course, is a very regular act and one we may only beat, and have been somewhat successful in beating, by ignoring it. I, for example, am dimly aware that my own legitimacy as a writer is diminished by my vag and that criticism of my work engages more often with the “fact” of my biological sex than it does with anything I have written.

So, I don’t listen when she is “angry” or she is “deranged” or she is “contrarian”. “She” is, nearly always, responding to biological, emotional or social forces and is, hardly ever, capable of producing thought worthy of engagement in its own terms. Such attack on thought is terribly widespread and, unfortunately, this Greer business is another case of argumentum ad feminem. Ladies have been shut up all ‘round.

The young women of Cardiff University may have not been unfairly criticised for their public orgasm of tolerance. Sure, they’re naïfs so eager to preserve a “safe space” that they will not hear the necessarily dangerous and, yes, any university student wary of discomfort should probably not be a university student. You don’t become a doctor without first dissecting a few rats etc. But, feminist protest receives an inordinate amount of coverage in press. We can say “political correctness gone mad” all we like, but this conveniently discounts the many injunctions made by conservative faculty and students on campuses worldwide.

When, for example, the prestigious Northwestern University did its level best to ban Palestinian speakers from its campus, the fact gained little coverage outside student newspapers. Feminist or other progressive prescriptions might be common in universities but they’re no more common, nor as powerful, as other attempts to silence. Neoconservatives or libertarians may continue to chide feminist progressives as SuperNanny all they wish, but they’re pretty good at screaming “unasseptable” when it suits.

Having said this, Greer, in this case, might have earned some time on the naughty chair. It’s true that her comments on transwomen were made long ago and it’s true, as she offered to the BBC, “it’s not my issue”. But, gender really is a central issue for Greer and for her to say, even in passing and even more than a decade ago, that transwomen are not “real” women reveals curious, or even fatally unresolved, thinking on the nature of gender itself.

A serious feminist thinker simply cannot go about claiming that there is such a thing as a “fake” gender without calling into question her first principles. If Greer knows what a “real” woman is, then she might want to share this with the rest of the class. Because honestly, we haven’t worked it out yet.

Actually, this is a fascinating matter and one on which I, and many other feminists remain, divided. If you’re at all interested, the two dominant, and possibly incompatible, current views on the matter of “real” gender are, in very flat and hasty terms, (a) the social constructionism of Judith Butler and others which holds that biological sex functions as a social alibi to maintain two different classes of people or (b) the corporeal or difference feminism of persons like Luce Irgaray, Gayatri Spivak and Liz Grosz which holds that bodily experience is defining and that gender difference, although acquired, is also inevitable.

Neither of these views are derived from sociobiology, which — again for the sake of brevity — is that shit Richard Dawkins goes on with. But, actually, in this particular debate, it’s kind of the shit that both the feminists of Cardiff University and Greer herself are going on with. FFS, there’s been thirty years of really complex thinking on the question of gender and the best either side, in this case, can come up with is “there is such a thing as a real woman”.

What Greer has written about transwomen is not so much reprehensible as it is uninformed. What the women of Cardiff University have publicly offered — and I do not doubt that many of them may be privately engaged — is similarly disengaged with the matter of knowledge. Of course, it might be easier in one reading to take their “side” because they seem to be themselves more like “real” women in their desire to create a “safe space” than the not-nice Greer.

But what has happened here is not only the mutual shushing by two groups of feminists, but a failure by press, who has just taken on this “debate” in its most brutally simple terms, to actually talk meaningfully about the transgender experience at all.

We are left with two fairly useless options, here. We can either “celebrate” transwomen by opposing Greer or we can “defend” freedom of speech. What we cannot do, apparently, is engage beyond the point of discussing Caitlyn Jenner where, yes, we all agree that anyone can be whatever they want or we simply dismiss widespread transgender experience in a more obviously cruel way and call this “political correctness gone mad”.

I mean, if you think you know what a real man or a real woman is, good luck to you. It must be very nice to be certain of something, even in the serious absence of any scientific finding that demonstrates biological justification for present social difference between the sexes/genders. But, the rest of us might like to continue a chat about sex/gender that goes beyond the condescension of “celebration” or the cruelty of disbelief that such a thing is beyond question.

What we have in this dismal debate is not only the trivialisation of speech by women, but a trivialisation of feminism itself. I would urge the young women of Cardiff, whom I know meant well, or any other university to carefully consider their protest for fear of its public misapprehension — and, yes, it’s a shame you have to feel so responsible for the general health of feminism. Goodness knows, I had no such obligation as a young radfem and I remain grateful there was no Facebook to document the hairy vaginas I painted on the sandstone walls of the men’s colleges.

I urge these young women, because there’s no way Greer is going to change.

Greer is annoying, but she is not your average blockhead. Rather, she is a blockhead of uncommon sophistication whose public work it has been for more than forty years to give us the shits. Greer, who prefers the thrill of popular debate to the slow and deliberate torture of academic publication, is no longer in the business of making knowledge. She is in the business of consciously destroying it.

In news that will surprise no one familiar with my rot, I remain pretty certain that the destruction of knowledge is not necessarily terrible. To point to a serious flaw in knowledge, as Greer sometimes does, is not just to break ideas, but to make way for their reconstruction.

Of course, in an age convinced of its power to produce everything, including absolute knowledge, at speed, Greer is seen as a sinner. All she seems to do is make a mess and leave the rest of us to clean it. It’s fine to problematise, we say, but you must also “solutionise”, to use the hideous new language of productivity.

It is fine, and sometimes crucial, to leave a mess. It is often revolutionary and it is, in any case, almost always one’s only honest intellectual recourse in popular writing. One does not enable the “forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions”, or even mild progress in thought, without relating in the first place how everything is crap in a popular pamphlet.

What Greer has done in the “debate” on transwomen, of course, is in no way useful. And, to be honest, the integrity of her work on the nature of sex/gender is now called into question by persistent reference to “real” women. Young activists can ignore all this. But, perhaps, what they shouldn’t ignore is Greer’s long term project of making a mess.

Maybe stop trying to tidy things up? Perhaps it’s time to tear the renovated conventions of tolerance and of safe-spaces down. Dissect a few rats, break a few walls and, particularly if you’re a lady, and most particularly a transperson, don’t worry so much about causing short-term offence. You are going to do that anyhow by the very fact of being alive.

I suspect you won’t win anything by demanding safe spaces and acceptable speech. And remember, you have a world to win.

Featured image: Wikimedia commons

81 responses to “Razer: Germaine Greer is ruining the world again

  1. I’m going to let the self-described ‘good looking man’ who reminds us he doesn’t have to pay for sex because he gets it for free–who complains that, even though he doesn’t like BJs, his girlfriends INSIST on performing them on him; who compares women’s rights to control their reproductive health with the ‘choices’ of impoverished women to be coerced into allowing themselves to be raped every day so that they can eat; whose intellectual prowess, he keeps reminding us, far outweighs mine; who so kindly and graciously explains to women they are ‘sexist’ and ‘selfish’ for wanting women to have viable options when it comes to supporting themselves; who explains I am too stupid to understand basic maths (must be my lady brain); who reminds us that, although he has gone to watch women strip, he prefers to converse with them (just as men who pay prostitutes ‘just like to cuddle’)–to have the last word.

    God forbid that I should be a former prostituted woman who’s had life experience working in a brothel and working as an escort. God forbid that I was one of those topless dancers working the floor in London with men close enough to touch me (and who sometimes did), not the least bit interested in the person I am, interested only in my tits and arse. Yes, but you as a man know enough to let me know I know nothing about the subject.

    1. It appears my assessment was at least partially correct. And I am sorry you had to go through that, truly I am. But it is important that you accept that the word is full of men who value you, and would never treat you the way you have been treated by other men, and find that kind of behavior sleazy and abhorrent. Your anger towards men, your opinion of them, has been skewed by your life experience. And I can understand that, and therefore can forgive you for it. But I ask that you don’t lay it at my door–because I haven’t done anything to you. I like to think of myself as one of the good guys.

      I am a good looking man, and I do get sex ‘for free’, I suppose–though I do not like reducing that act to a transaction…t’s not really like buying a bag of skittles, is it? Women enjoy sex too, you know. And it is true that I don’t like BJ’s, and it is true that in my experience, women seem to be overly eager to dish them out, and I have and do find this confusing. *shrugs*. Why does, or why should, this reduce your opinion of me?

      Nothing good can come of hatred Anna. And hatred does not cease by hatred at any time; this is an old rule.

  2. ‘You have made me laugh out loud. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a fine example of mansplaining. It’s a long-winded and torturous (as well as tortuous and nonsensical) attempt to rationalise the exploitation and commodification of women’.

    You have not offered any salient rebuttal to my claim that prostitution is owing to economical, not patriarchal forces. Literally, nothing. You also simply choose to ignore your own role in creating prostitution through your own role as a consumer in a WLCD.You cannot expect to be taken seriously by anyone if you merely make the claim that a point is nonsensical and then excuse yourself from your obligation to explicate why this is the case. I will now refer you to the pyramid of debate; you would do well to study it:

    http://fablegod.com/the-pyramid-of-debate/

    ‘And the progressive men like you back them up, because God forbid their access to a subclass of women to meet their sexual needs be denied’

    Progressive, huh? And resent the implication that I because I might be one, It’s therefore a given that I solicit sexual services from prostitutes. Anna-and I know you won’t believe me when I tell you this–but I am an objectively very attractive man, and I have not, and never will need, to pay for sex. Maybe I should hook.

    Moving on:

    ‘Of the brothels in NSW 75% are illegal. Yes, that means the women working there are flying under the radar: they are not checked for STIs or HIV; they offer unprotected sex; they may or may not be in debt bondage, forced to work 24 days a month with six days off while they have their period; they may or may not have access to medical intervention should they require it’.

    And? Everyone has the right to self determination. If women choose to enter the sex industry, I am neither obligated nor compelled to contest or consider the multivariate processes which make up individual choices to do so. I have no interest in such things any more than I have an interest in antique refrigerators. There is protective legal recourse for women who have been forced into sex work should they choose to exercise those rights.

    If a woman wants to make enormous sums of money stripping or hooking, it is her choice. One of the few times I’ve been to a strip club ( I don’t really like them, I feel like the world is a tuxedo and I’m brown pair of shoes in places like that) I ended up having a discussion with one of the girls, mostly because I didn’t really know where to look and it was a good out of the awkwardness) and she was level-headed, totally compos mentis, crackling with health and told me it was high-payed work that doubled as cardio, and it fitted in with her studies (Some kind of engineering, from memory).

    I believe in supporting the right of women to make that choice in precisely the same way I believe in a woman’s right to choose in matters of abortions. What you suggest is the opposite–you want to remove that choice. Quite simply, you want to remove the rights of women to do what they wish with their bodies and use them they way they want to. That, excuse me my lovely–is categorically sexist.

    . More than 50 per cent of prostitutes in Australia are Asian, most speaking little English. Most are working in NSW or Victoria–decriminalised and licensed respectively. The NSW government will play at the edges, as it is doing, but until it acknowledges the power imbalance, which favours those who prey on and make money from women, nothing will change.
    ‘And yes, I’m really on a high horse defending women who have to turn a trick to buy their next meal; women who have had their children taken by authorities because of what they are forced to do to survive; women who have become drug addicted to put up with men raping them every day in the name of ‘work’; women locked up and forced to service 10 or 20 men a day’

    The men who participate in sex trafficking are criminals, and they should be incarcerated. That’s not patriarchy. That’s criminality. You might as well say that all men are pedophiles, rapists, and murders because some men are guilty of such crimes.They’re not representative of the broader male population. They are deviants. Outliers.

    What a strange, horrible dystopia it would be if the individual idiosyncratically inherited the collective culpability of others based on irrelevant denominators (such as sex) over which they had no control.

    Sure–it’s horrible, and it needs to be cleaned up. There’s lots of horrible social phenomena in the world. The capacity for human cruelty, absurdity and general depravity is limitless. There are children starving, dying of AIDS in the dirt in Sub-Saharan Africa every minute. There are ‘apostates’ right now having their nails pulled in dungeons. What are you doing for any of them? What are you doing to help the women you cite at all? Doodley squat. How many addict hookers and their malnourished kids have you put up in your house? None, I’d wager. But I guess your rage is justified, somehow, because you’re with them sympatico–in spirit, because you loiter in public comments sections talking about whose fault it all is whilst doing absolutely nothing to practically or meaningfully assist any of these women in any way whatsoever.

    Now, you’ve made some personal assertions about me. It’s only equitable that I’m given the opportunity to do so also:

    I think you’re pretty much a standard three-dollar bill. Probably a young student of the social sciences who has either traveled very little, or not at all. You think what you’ve read is real, all of the time, having either not lived long or broadly enough to have realized that the divide between Academic rhetoric and reality is great. You have not studied science, never will, and will never work in any field of material science. You have no more chance of correctly solving this riddle than a puffin:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7NE7apn-PA

    You have a limited or nonexistent comprehension of methodology and statistics–because nobody trained in either would post dustbowl percentage points and links to the sydney morning herald. You are bad at mathematics. You learn statements made by your Intellectual champions, parrot and recycle them, being incapable of generating any original thought of your own. You don’t really care about helping women languishing under the effects of brutes–or perhaps you do a little, but not enough to actually do anything about it. For you, feminism is simply a dramaturgy; it’s simply a part of your own identity politics, and you wear it like a football fan wears the jersey of his/her favorite team–a team for which they will never play. There is almost certainly some underlying psychological imperative responsible for this which has nothing to do with genuine empathy for the subject itself, but rather some other grievance or complex relative to an experience with one man, or several, and feminism is simply the externalized modicum by which you seek to resolve this for almost entirely selfish reasons.

    ‘Mate, you’re as transparent as a spotless window’

    Thanks for clarifying that the window needs to be spotless in order to be transparent ( has MENSA phoned yet?). And really–we’re not mates.

  3. You have made me laugh out loud. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a fine example of mansplaining. It’s a long-winded and torturous (as well as tortuous and nonsensical) attempt to rationalise the exploitation and commodification of women.

    I’ve no doubt you read not one of the links I provided because it might challenge your ‘progressive’ view. The majority of women forced to prostitute themselves and at the coal front want to exit. Unfortunately for them, the loud few have hijacked the cause and ensured that the voiceless remain so. The sex industry lobby bullies will pounce on any journalist who doesn’t toe the line. I am giving journalists like Razer, Price and Ford the benefit of the doubt. And the progressive men like you back them up, because God forbid their access to a subclass of women to meet their sexual needs be denied.

    If you had bothered to read the links, you would see that the proportion of men selling sex is very low. And even they sell sex to men. As I said, 99 per cent of people who buy sex are men.

    Of the brothels in NSW 75% are illegal. Yes, that means the women working there are flying under the radar: they are not checked for STIs or HIV; they offer unprotected sex; they may or may not be in debt bondage, forced to work 24 days a month with six days off while they have their period; they may or may not have access to medical intervention should they require it. No matter how much legislation is fiddled with or tweaked, decriminalisation and legalisation doesn’t work. And that’s borne out by evidence. If you’d like to familiarise with any of it Rotgut, I’d be happy to provide you with links.

    The Kirby Institute which, along with Scarlet Alliance, denies the existence of any sex trafficking, had to admit during the recent inquiry that they simply do not know about the health of these women who fly under the radar. How can they when they don’t know that they even exist?

    The United Nations report on human trafficking clearly shows the flows of trafficked women, lured from third world countries to more developed countries with legalised or decriminalised prostitution.

    The definition of trafficking is not simply ‘taken against someone’s will’. Trafficking includes those women who know that they will be prostituted but who, upon arrival, find themselves working under conditions not agreed to. More than 50 per cent of prostitutes in Australia are Asian, most speaking little English. Most are working in NSW or Victoria–decriminalised and licensed respectively. The NSW government will play at the edges, as it is doing, but until it acknowledges the power imbalance, which favours those who prey on and make money from women, nothing will change.

    It’s time to lift the lid on brothels and see them for what they are. http://www.smh.com.au/national/growing-up-in-mum-and-dads-a-brothel-a-sydney-university-lecturer-speaks-out-20150728-gim0ds.html

    And yes, I’m really on a high horse defending women who have to turn a trick to buy their next meal; women who have had their children taken by authorities because of what they are forced to do to survive; women who have become drug addicted to put up with men raping them every day in the name of ‘work’; women locked up and forced to service 10 or 20 men a day.

    Mate, you’re as transparent as a spotless window.

    1. Sacre bleu–I am shocked: a man attacks a woman who thinks men shouldn’t be able to make money commodifying and exploiting women.

      I’m still waiting to hear examples of the ‘scholarly research’ and ‘longitudinal studies’ on which Helen has relied to come to her conclusion that the Nordic Model is a failure. There is nothing to support her sweeping statements. The sex industry lobby abhors the Nordic Model because it starves and deprives traffickers and pimps of their lucre. It is on the side of women, even if sometimes women are not on their own side. http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/online-prostitution-soaring-here-363142.html

      1. The Sex Industry, and especially the facet of prostitution within the rubric of this, is complicated. Helen pointed out that the root of it all is Economic–and I am inclined to agree with that, absolutely. Alternative explanations are childish. Perhaps when you travel more extensively, this will become more apparent to you. In much of Scandinavia, prostitution is legal. In Thailand, it is illegal.

        Want to guess which has more?

        Now, this only makes sense if you consider the economics of both states. Scandinavian systems are socially re-distributive; this in fact goes back a long way, to viking society. The region would have been marked by democratic socialism whether Marx had existed or not for this reason.

        Anyhow, the standard of social services, and living generally, is obviously in a completely different league than somewhere like Thailand. And as such, you get more prostitution. This isn’t exactly a revelation without historical precedence I’m talking about here. The sex industry is, and should be though of, in precisely the same way as any service industry. It is something determined, orientated, and governed by, the laws of economics. Which is why you’ll pay a lot less for a hooker in Pattaya than Berlin, London, or Melbourne. It has everything to do with supply and demand, and nothing to do with patriarchy. There is nothing else for women in said locations to sell other than themselves owing to systemic economic failure, and there is a lot of said women in said situation. Therein, the value of that services is virtually permanently redacted. Saying that Prostitution is the result of patriarchy is as absurd as saying that wage rates for chinese laborers aren’t the result of an inexhaustible and overabundant labor supply. It’s just very, very silly and naive. If you imagine that there are men sitting around OLED Screens, hunched around a big circular table plotting to ensure a self-replicating cycle of female sex workers in Asian minor ensues for successive future generations, then you have, quite simply, gone off the deep end.

        Moving on, your analysis of sex work is very narrow. How precisely do male sex workers figure into your grand scheme, precisely? I do not merely mean the kind that service women–but what of gay sex workers? What of female sex workers who only service women? What of ladyboys?

        The world is more complicated than your well worn volumes of Dworkin describe. And perhaps when you see more of it, you will come to accept this.

        And finally, your entire philosophy is itself and ethical trap. It is irresolvable. Because so long as you live in a liberal capitalist democracy, you’re creating prostitution in the developing world. Every time you buy a pair of shoes, or an ipad, or a bag of coffee, or a car, or a keychain, or a mobile phone, or a solar panel, or any commodity whatsoever which relies on the mechanism of outsourced labor at all (about 95% of them at last count )you are paying into–that is, you become the lifeblood of–the system which is responsible for the very social phenomenon that is the source of your anger. If you want to change the rate of prostitution in third world countries, start by not being instrumental in creating it through your consumption choices (good luck with that). And If you want to know where to lay the blame, take a look at the endless stream of human traffic who care for nothing beyond the gratification of their trivial desires. Take a look at the people wearing clothing and sports shoes stitched together by kids in Haiti for 0.four fifths of F-all an hour, who know where said commodities come from, and buy them anyway. Take a look in the goddamn mirror. Unless of course you can’t see it up on that high horse.

  4. Thanks Helen, for your reply. I appreciate your taking the time. I did not endorse Anna’s later comments, which I think are harsh. My rude comment was not directed at you – you had made it very clear you weren’t just mindlessly attacking Greer. However, I do apologise for any offence caused.

    1. Freya, for what it’s worth I don’t think you need to apologise. Most of your comments have been thoughtful and intelligent and a lot of this discussion has been boring Greer-bashing. (I don’t include the article itself in this criticism and I didn’t get the impression that you did either.)

      I think whether or not Greer used the term “real” matters a lot (certainly as a matter of academic/journalistic courtesy/ethics at the very, very least) and that Dennis nails it when he suggests that this discussion needs to consider what is and is not socially constructed and how gender works.

      1. I didn’t ask for an apology. It was not requested and not, in my view, needed. Freya was not, on a relative internet scale, a total pork chop, but she did become rather demanding, suggesting that it was “strange” that I chose only to answer positive comments (untrue) and had explicitly chosen to ignore her own.
        For mine, Greer (who, again, I spent one third of the article praising for her strategies and whose de facto expulsion from tedious university life of the present I clearly find ridiculous) is very average on gender. She offers nothing of value to the GENERAL gender debate (not just trans gender debate, and let’s be honest, the worst I did was to say “perhaps she should be place don the naughty chair”; hardly a serious prescription) and even though if she were asked “are you a biological essentialist?” she would say no and could offer some of her past writing to bear this out, my point is that her focus on woman as an already defined real thing, whether biological or not, may as well be essentialist. Because she has not thought it through.
        I am not the first person to say this. I am hardly the first to be left cold by her theory on her gender, but otherwise appreciative of her strategies as a public intellectual. She’s just not that good on gender and, yes, I believe that at the core of her thinking on woman, she does have some unexamined idea of the real. And, again, these comments (and the liver spot stuff was pretty full on) bring this to light.
        And why I brought this to light is that her inadequacy is matched, if not exceeded, by the young twits who keep saying “reall woman real woman yes it is so”, as though they, too, knew what a real woman was.
        So, on both sides, we have something that is almost as bad, and in the case of young feminists, identical with, biological essentialism.
        I honestly think you’re going to find little to prove that Greer has something examined to say about gender. And this is not to diminish the cultural impact her person and her popular book had on many persons. And it is not even to say that she does not still retain this power and it is certainly not to suggest that a great deal of the criticism she still faces is actually very sexist in nature. Young women say she is “old” and “irrelevant” without stopping to consider that it is very effing sexist to say that a woman loses currency after a particular (reproductive) age.
        Yes. I think Greer’s thinking comes from her idea of a “real” woman. Yes, I think one’s attitude to gender is often explicated in a very “real” way when one speaks on trans gender. I think this of both sides, in this case, as I made clear.
        And praise to Dennis, of course, But I did, actually, say the same thing. That all this piffle is bad for talk on gender theory and that this is a way to effectively “silence women”. By making feminist debate seem a lot more stupid than it actually is,
        Goodness gracious. That what is an overt plea for better talk above these false oppositions, this has certainly been misread according to the biases of readers. I am either, apparently, intolerant or too tolerant. One one side or another. I am on neither. But I know what I know: everybody in the “debate” described thinks they know what a woman is. Including and especially Greer. Yes. She thinks there is a “real” way of being a woman.

        1. Helen – my comment was not intended as a criticism of you and I’m aware that you didn’t ask for an apology. I was simply offering a kindness to Freya because your response to her seemed quite strong to me.

          I love your work. I don’t always agree with it – particularly around feminist issues – but often you put perfectly and funnily what I’ve been thinking/feeling but haven’t had the language needed to express it. “Marxists are gonna Marx, Marx, Marx” made me happy for over a week.

          I take your word that Greer thinks there is a “real” way of being a woman. When the whole Cardiff University thing started up I read a number of articles, many quoting Greer as referring to “real” woman/women but they all just linked to the BBC interview where she says no such thing. I think it’s reasonable to challenge this, particularly as “real” is such a problematic term. (I also didn’t think Greer – whatever can be said about her thoughts on gender – was stupid enough to use it.)

          I don’t think I know what a “real” woman is. I know what a trans woman is and what a cis woman is. I just think “real” is a dumb-arsed term, which often hides its use to legitimate even more dumb-arsed (often essentialist) positions, shut down discussion and express power. I have a rudimentary compulsory-year-of-sociology-as part-of-a-psychology- degree understanding of Butler. I can imagine gender as a kind of person-by situation, if-then proposition and can see the political implications of that. Personality can be characterised in that way and we seem to manage without referring to some individual personalities as “real” and others not.

          I don’t, however, think we relate to one and other or make political decisions on the basis of gender alone. Whatever, the permutations, sex and probably sexuality are also relevant. I don’t think this has to mean that cis women are “real women” and trans women are not but just that sex is relevant to the discussion.

      2. Thanks Brooke (and Helen, I guess :/ ).
        I apologised because I’m glad there is a Helen Razer mixing it up in the shit fight of public discourse , which is not a very friendly place for women. Also, unlike most writers, Helen is willing to mix it up down here in the comments section too, which I didn’t really appreciate. I didn’t take the narcissism comments to heart because a) I am pretty confident my own narcissism falls within the normal range, b) I think narcissism lurks everywhere in this hall of mirrors and no one is immune to it.
        As for spam bots, I really had no idea bots targeted comment threads. (Why FFS?) Anyway, I agree with you Brooke, Helen’s writing at times touches on the sublime and we would be the poorer without it, regardless of whether or not we agree. So there Helen.

  5. Freya, yes ‘smugfest’ is what it is. Journalists such as Razor should come clean: they are simply anti-feminists hiding under the cloak of feminist garb. It’s like a popularity contest: who can run the fastest to the high moral leftist ground, verbally beat women the most, and then get lauded by men. Men love women like Razer because she does their dirty work for them. They don’t have to lift a finger and can look on innocently while Razer rips women apart.

    I have read Razor’s last three articles. What’s happened to the principles of journalistic integrity and all that it entails; that is, researching, presenting the facts and then presenting both sides? Fallen by the wayside it seems. In the last couple of Razor’s pieces I have read, she has attacked a women’s rights organisation for calling on mental health groups to help women in prostitution and catastrophized about “Germaine Greer ruining the world again. Is this the best you’ve got Daily Review? How about making some space for a journalist who actually likes and supports women?

    1. I agree with Anna and Freya: I cannot for the life of me find where Greer refers to “real women.” That so many commentators are focusing so strongly on a statement that Greer appears not to have made (at least not in this current “controversy”) suggests a bit of a straw man argument to me. As Helen says we haven’t worked out what a real woman is yet, but that’s hardly unique to notions of gender. From an epistemological standpoint we haven’t worked out what “real” is in any arena and introducing the concept into this kind of debate could well be seen as diversionary.

      I’m happy to go with constructivist interpretations of gender, but I thought the idea was that the construction of subjectivities occurs within a social and historical and “world-out-there” context. We don’t just construct our subjective realities in some egoistic void. Doesn’t this construction involve interactions and interpretations that occur with respect to socialisation, enculturation and experience? Even the most qualitative of sociological/social science research requires some kind of grounding or justification if it is to be seen as credible. If not, it becomes – as Freya puts perfectly – “I am because I say I am” or it is because I say it is.

      On one hand I feel really pleased to be part of a society that is becoming increasingly respectful toward individual identity. I buy my cat’s food from a trans man and watched him transition. When I went in there one day and saw that he had grown a moustache, I felt really happy for him and hopeful that my local community is moving past ostracising people that don’t conform to some social norms.

      On the other hand … the politics. I’ve been taking what Greer says to mean that firstly, trans women are not cis women and secondly, that by claiming the identity that is currently attributed to cis women, trans women are advancing a patriarchal agenda. I don’t think the first suggestion is controversial. Irrespective of how a trans woman or cis woman feels with respect to identity, it’s pretty clear that one is different to the other in ways that can be generalised to characterise the difference between other trans women and cis women. As for the second suggestion I can see where Greer is coming from. As a cis woman, who feels quite protective of her space in a patriarchal society I can see problematic power relations in people who have the biological attributes of a male and who have been socialised, enculturated and have experienced the “world-out-there” in that context for at least a part of their lives making claims on that space. I also feel a little suspicious of the insistence of entitlement to that space. Why the space of cis women? Why not another space? Isn’t there a contradiction in insisting that gender is a subjective construct and occurs on a spectrum while at the same time making claims on a space that exists as part of a more empirically oriented and binary definition of gender?

      I really don’t want to disrespect the thoughts and feelings of trans women. I can only imagine that experience and what I imagine is not great. By the same token, however, the experience of cis women in a patriarchal society is not always that great either.

    2. A patently absurd, unnecessarily catty straw-man argument. Obvously the ability to discriminate between what consitutes ethical scrutiny (which is what Helen subjected said women’s rights group to in said article) and arbitrary lambasting is not a faculty you possess. Or perhaps you have drunk so deeply of Greer’s Kool Aid that you have hysterically, and through sheer hyper-sensitivity cocooned for yourself a nexus of feminist apophenia, and subsequently imagine the spectre of patriarchy everywhere it isn’t, even in other feminists, the way a hypochondriac is convinced every bout of indigestion is coronary artery failure. This would explain to some extent, as much as irrationality can be explained, your inane, feeble imploration (à la the soiled victorian charwoman who slowly extended her hand to the sky to plead god for a new bonnet) to the Crikey deities to ‘make some space for a journalist who likes and supports women’.

      That is all.

      1. Captain Rogut, thank you for providing us a perfect example of what we’re discussing. A woman writes an article based on untruths to slur Greer, and she’s popular and accepted by men. A few women point out the article’s inaccuracies and lucidly explain why, and they are set up by a men–yes, you–who makes ad hominem attacks. “Drunk the koolaid” “hysterical” “hypersensitive” “hypochondriac” “inane” “feeble” “faculties we don’t posses”–you are showing your true colours. In fact, I’d suggest you are projecting your own sensitivity and hysteria on those around you.

        Again, no one has been able to show where Greer said “real”, because she didn’t. Greer is a respected academic and author who has fought for the rights of women for decades, and upon whose shoulders women like Razer stand. I don’t agree with everything that Greer says, but that doesn’t take away from her credibility.

        The fact that you so pompously berate and vilify a few women for making valid points is testament to the fact that men hate feminism. It threatens the power imbalance.

        1. Hi Anna, you have a beatiful name.

          A) A woman did not write a smear piece, a woman wrote an opinion piece. It was not by design intended to ‘slur’ Greer, and does not qualify as libel or defamation by any standard or metric which would be recognized or legitmized anywhere. I can assure of ths, as someone who worked in the very recent past in..Civil, type things. I suggest you brush up on what constitutes essental truth and reasonable opinon.

          B) ‘A woman writes an article based on untruths to slur Greer, and she’s popular and accepted by men’

          -A singular case is not representative of a majority, and nowhere is this point more prudent than in the morass of gender dscussions. And the equation you put forth is fallacious; I was, justly I believe, defending Helen from false, and irrational, allegations.

          C)’ A few women point out the article’s inaccuracies and lucidly explain why, and they are set up by a men–yes, you–who makes ad hominem attacks’

          -I am not men.
          -The explanatons given, although lucid, were baseless, misrepresentatve, and false.
          -Spare me your latinates, I’ve had enough for one lifetime. I would at this point request that you plainly articulate the point at which a post evolves from an observation to an attack–because from where I stand, the suggeston that Helen should be excised from Crikey utterly for merely performing the role she is paid to perform looks to be well into the territory of vindictiveness. Surely, I think, this is a precious metal standard.

          D)“Drunk the koolaid” “hysterical” “hypersensitive” “hypochondriac” “inane” “feeble” “faculties we don’t posses”–you are showing your true colours. In fact, I’d suggest you are projecting your own sensitivity and hysteria on those around you.

          – *dry laughter* unfortunately, Anna, cherry picking terms and reframing them outside of their contextual and direct orientation in order to recalibrate their usage, meaning and intent is an opaquely craven, and scurrilous practice.This is spoliation; the ugly, desperate swansong of the intellectually defeated or the criminally liable.Striking from hell’s heart , perhaps? At no point have I attacked a ‘few’ women. At no point did I direct any statement towards the female gender as a whole. You will retract that ‘we’. Do you have any idea what doing ths kind of thing would buy you in front of a bench and little wooden hammer?

          E) ‘you are showing your true colours. In fact, I’d suggest you are projecting your own sensitivity and hysteria on those around you’

          -By all means, tell me who I am.
          -Thankyou for the psychoanalysis, but I would no more trust you to make that diagnosis than I would trust a duck to successfully perform an appendectomy.

          F) ‘The fact that you so pompously berate and vilify a few women for making valid points is testament to the fact that men hate feminism. It threatens the power imbalance.’

          Again, I am not representative of the male gender. The very suggestion is absurd. I have not villifed anybody. I have commented on the opinons of one particular woman, not the women herself, in an effort to defend another woman from a pernciously nasty, irrational muckrake.You are being hysterical.

          And perhaps you might be right on the meso level–perhaps some men do hate feminism because it threatens the ‘power imbalance’. I happen not be one of them, and cannot comment on this, not being able to access it. In the words of Ruth Stone, ‘That is a sealed universe’.

        2. Yes, Anna. It’s much nicer to personally discredit a writer on the basis she is in the service of men.
          FFS. Did you actually read the piece? Did you actually read the piece on sex work? Just because scholarly opinion has it that the Swedish Model doesn’t work to do anything but (a) deny sex workers (who are not exclusively women) an income and (b) imperil the health of both clients (who are not exclusively men) and workers, and I reported these findings, doesn’t mean I hate my own gender.
          I just hate bad policy.
          I also dislike poor argument, such as that you have provided. FFS, the things you have said.
          Take a step back and try to see what you have done. Aside from misreading my article.
          You have said, basically, that I (a person who happens to be identified as female) am writing not form reason, but by my desire to be approved of by men. You also say that I deserve to be sacked on the basis of my enslavement to the phallus.
          This is absurd behaviour. I know it’s now quite common behaviour on the internet and we have become so hyperbolic and “entitled” to our opinions, that we do not temper their expression. It doesn’t make it okay.
          I really can’t talk and thereby produce better knowledge with one who accuses me of actively hating women, doing my job poorly and being an apologist for the patriarchy.
          I am not saying your ideas don’t merit response. I am saying that your mode of expression makes these ideas near indiscernible.
          The world has gone mad. Sometimes, I fantasise about going into workplaces of readers and calling them misogynists and demanding their dismissal.

          1. I can imagine only that my remarks ring true for you to be so rabid.

            You still don’t answer the question: did Greer say ‘real’ or not? Because you have alluded to it more than once. If she didn’t, you have misreported her and not provided the facts. You talk about her persistent reference to “real” women. Would you like to cite them, because I cannot find any?

            You have Rotgut staunchly defending you. And he’s pretty close to an MRA. That should give you an idea of which side you’re on. I’m sceptical when men like your brand of feminism, but I do understand the need for women to maintain the status quo: you get the attention, you don’t offend the men–in fact, they applaud you.

            I did not say you deserve to be sacked. I suggested that The Daily Review make some space for a woman who actually supported women. I don’t see you supporting women; I see you throwing them under the bus. In this one piece you have denigrated Greer continuously; you have accused her; you have belittled her. And now you have your feelings hurt? Come on.

            You say Greer’s “past statements on transgender women “hold about as much intellectual value as Alan Jones”. Greer hasn’t spoken much about trans issues; they don’t interest her; that is not what she was due to speak on at Cardiff. It’s like someone criticising you for your past statements on flying fruit bats–they wouldn’t hold much weight either.

            You then say that Greer is “hardly ever, capable of producing thought worthy of engagement in its own terms”. Talk about sticking the boot in and making a blanket statement. They are pejorative statements about a woman, as I said, whose shoulders you stand on.

            Greer made a simple statement: trans women are not women. Why do you consider that not useful? What exactly do you want Greer to say? I can only assume you wanted her to say that trans women are women. Because she hasn’t said that, you’ve gone a long-winded and tortuous tirade about her failings. You have accused her of “consciously destroying” knowledge. You deride and attempt to discredit her, yet when I question your fact checking, you practically have an apoplexy.

            Recently GLAAD (organisation representing LGBT) started a petition to take the T out of LGBT. Even they are tired of transactivists haranguing and threatening gay and hetero women; invading their spaces; doctors pushing hormones into children who don’t need them. As I said, do some research.

            Your piece on Grace Bellevue transparently revealed your internalised misogyny. It’s not *empowering* for impoverished women to suck men’s dicks for money. Sure, maybe the few, white sex workers that you know actually chose the profession, but most don’t. And most want out. Why doesn’t your feminism take those women into consideration–the Asian sex workers doing 20 hours a day and held in debt bondage; the street workers hoping to make enough money for their next meal or to feed their drug habit and who are lucky to turn a trick once every few days; the Aboriginal, the Indian, the Asian? Where are they in your feminism?

            The article which mentioned Normac was not an ‘obituary’ especially written for Grace; it was simply an article, and its author was giving both sides of a story (something which you seem incapable of doing).

            Why are you so vehemently opposed to sex workers accessing mental health programs? Again, it’s not exactly woman-friendly. You are in effect saying that you don’t think prostitutes should have access to mental health services–instead of being grateful that someone, anyone, out there is doing something for women, some of whom might be in distress. Again, would you call that taking a feminist position?

            The Nordic Model is not a failure, as you insist it is in your article (another example of not checking your facts). Not one woman in sex work has been killed in Sweden; as opposed to Germany where it is legal, where more than 50 women have been murdered by johns. You say you are on the side of women, but you say zero women being murdered is a failure? A government report states street prostitution has halved. Here’s the source: http://www.government.se/articles/2011/03/evaluation-of-the-prohibition-of-the-purchase-of-sexual-services/ Sweden has nowhere the near of number of trafficked women that neighbouring countries like Denmark and Germany have, where more than 90 per cent of sex workers are foreign. And yes, trafficking increases wherever prostitution is legalised or decriminalised. That’s what happens when you decriminalise prostitution: the demand increases and foreign women have to be sourced. If it’s such an empowering job, you’d think educated and wealthy women would be clamouring to enter the profession, but they’re not. It’s women from third world countries who are trafficked, because they’re desperate.

            Have you ever spoken to a counsellor or social worker who works with sex workers? Did you know that most have been sexually abused as children and turn to sex work in an attempt to ‘work out’ their trauma? Is it a choice for those women, when all they think they are good for is being a body to fuck?

            Why do men feel entitled to have an underclass to service their sexual needs? Where’s our underclass? We don’t have one. Why? Because we don’t have ‘entitlement’.

            You should speak to a few women who have exited prostitution. A bit of space can give you great objectivity. They tell the truth.

            This is what Swedish social worker Cewers (who initially opposed the Nordic model) said: “It’s true: There are no happy whores. Most of the ones I’ve met here over the years were sexually abused by relatives when they were young and have serious emotional problems,” she says. “Not much of this is about choice.”

            Those who have been doing it for a while, says Cewers, take drugs or sedatives. “This is not a normal profession,” she says. “I wish all of them could get out of it.”

            It’s not a matter of morality; it’s a matter of wanting what is best for women–that’s ALL women, not just the white ones.

            Did you know that most sex workers rights organisations don’t help the women? They are there to grow the industry; benefit the pimps. Recently the heads of two sex worker rights organisations have been found guilty of pimping and trafficking–that’s right, exploiting and abusing the very women they’re meant to protect. They were not the first. Many brothel owners are founders of sex workers rights orgs.

            Perhaps it’s time for your interest to be not in the few empowered sex workers, but in the overwhelming majority of disempowered.

            Anyway, I hope that you do some research on trans issues. By the way, I can offer some good reading: http://aoifeschatology.com/2015/10/26/whos-afraid-of-germaine-greer/
            And this one: http://mirandayardley.com/transgender-ideology-noes-not-support-women/

            And I do understand why most female journalists pay only lip service to feminism. True feminism isn’t popular, and it’s better to keep paying the rent than to get ostracised and threatened with rape.

          2. No, Anna. My comments were not “rabid”. They were a description of your very hyperbolic language and demands that “another woman” who tallies with your own views come to replace me. Which is odd, as I don’t necessarily think of myself in competition with other women and I rather suppose that a wide range of women, and others, can write about a wide range of things. But this is by-the-by.
            What is not by-the-by is that you are absolutely carrying on like a pork chop. Sure, we don’t agree. Sure, you have a particular perspective and mine differs. You are a feminist of a particular sort and I choose to view the world through different filters. Personally, I think trafficking of any body, female or not, is the result of a system which produces exchange value and not of patriarchy. I believe in the case of the Swedish Model that this is borne out by research and I personally think that safe conditions for sex workers (who, according to most longitudinal studies represent exactly the same sort of turnover regardless of whether the work that they do or the procurement of it is legal; i.e. you’re not gonna stop it, and why should you want to other than “I think sucking a dick for money is wrong”? Who says it’s wrong? I think making the clothing that we all wear for a few cents a day is wrong and just as demeaning as sucking a dick. This doesn’t mean I can hope to make the practice illegal without creating working conditions that are even less safe) is a worthwhile fight.
            SO, you know. We don’t agree. That’s okay. What is not okay is you telling me that my argument is based entirely in some sort of ruling class apology. I mean, knock yourself out, of course. It’s your entitlement to believe as you do and every time you place some retro-feminist, anti-sex nonsense on a web page I have created, we can be guaranteed of a few more page impressions, and I am grateful for that. I welcome all readers, including hate-readers.
            But, you know. Your argument is just naff. And I answered the “real” woman question multiply in the comments above if not in the article itself (again, to claim that Greer provides anything like a rich description of gender is to misread much feminist thought of the past thirty years). And you are not even actually arguing with anything but your belief that I should be replaced by another woman. A more worthy woman. I mean, no one is going to heed your instruction and I am not personally hurt by it but I am very frustrated by the way you do the argumentum ad feminem thing. You are NOT engaging with my argument. You are saying I am a bad woman. You are entitled to this view, but you can’t expect anyone to take it seriously.
            Please. Soothe your language and construct your argument to be more than “you just want to be liked by men”. Read it again and you may find that it is quite extreme. And read my response and find that it was not “rabid” but an urging, such as that I regularly provide in such forums, that people not prefer to reveal imagined personal motivations or character flaws rather than look at the argument.
            I do not criticise Greer in the way you say I do. Read the article. I say she is a very god thinker and I do not malign her in the way you seem to think I do. She is not above criticism, however, for her argument. Which is not much an argument at all. But, you know, a lot better than “you just want male approval and you don’t like women”.
            Geez, Anna. Stop with the personal insults. For no reason other than they work to prove nothing bigger than the fact that you don’t like me personally and you think that there is a “right” kind of woman and apparently only one woman in any news organisation who is entitled to write about gender.
            You’re not arguing. You’re being a dill. Stop it.

          3. And this
            “You then say that Greer is “hardly ever, capable of producing thought worthy of engagement in its own terms”.
            Did you read the article?
            Read that passage again. I am not talking about Greer. I am talking about the way in which writing by women is most commonly understood. I am saying, very plainly, that this is a bad thing. I say it really, really obviously. I fear that a lot of your responses are based on misreading.
            Which, is the shape of the internet.

  6. Thanks Anna, for putting that so clearly and addressing the actual issue. It was beginning to look like one predictable, boring Greer-bashing smug-fest.

  7. Did I miss something? Nowhere in the interview did Germaine Greer say ‘real woman’; she simply said ‘woman’. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Greer was never going to speak at Cardiff about trans issues; she is due to speak about women in power. And it was not ‘the feminists at Cardiff University’ that started a petition. The event was sold out even before one student started a petition accusing Greer of ‘hate speech’ and ‘transphobia’–more hyperbole.

    I see nothing controversial in what Greer said. Unfortunately, the Regressive Left is so concerned with ‘feelings’ and is so entrenched on its moral high ground, that it can’t tolerate any debate, discussion or questioning. When you add ‘phobia’ to any word, you are simply attempting to stifle debate.

    I know what a woman is; to me it’s pretty clear–someone who, because of their genitalia, is raised as a girl with all its implications and burdens.

    Are trans women women? No, I don’t believe so. Does that mean that they are any less human? No, of course not. Personally, I believe that most trans women are like Josie–good, decent members of their communities. In fact, I’d venture to guess Josie is one of the lucky ones. Many trans women are struggling to survive, unable to find gainful employment, losing friends and family because of their transition. I think they deserve to be respected and they have the right to be safe.

    I think you’ll find that people don’t have problems (unless they’re homophobic men) with trans women; it’s the misogynistic transactivists who are the problem.

  8. great piece Helen!: at some point we can figure out where we might disagree, but let’s not this issue take over the need for serious discussion the difference between transphobia and a questioning of how gender works and what is and is not socially constructed X

    1. You know, Professor, that we are in accord. This dispute is ridiculous and produces no productive thought.
      In this largely imagined “TERF war” we have on the one side a small group of first-wavers who feel that their territory is being impacted by men and/or being colonised by an issue they see as marginal/not completely “feminine”. On the other, we have a bunch of fourth-wavers who feel that their territory, which has been largely freshly established by the new embrace of trans issues, is under attack.
      It gets so brutally simple. You are either with us or against us. You are either an old “transphobe” or a young “misogynist”.
      I understand both motivations. I know that older women feel that their hard-won spaces are under attack and that younger women feel this, too. But neither thing is really true. The real “enemy” in looking at gender/sex (and despite what another commenter has said, this is not a distinction that is any longer at the heart of feminism. It has been problematised by all the scholars I have mentioned) and, therefore, at feminism is a lack of willingness to explore knowledge.
      To anyone reading this who does not immediately recognise Dennis’ name, well (a) you should correct that immediately and (b) you oughtta know he has been examining sexuality and gender identity carefully for forty years. He has never been afraid to explore our knowledge and even though I may not concur with some of his views, I respect that his long-term project of creating knowledge and his unwillingness to listen when any idiot calls him “politically correct” or “a tool of the right/patriarchy”, often for the same piece of work, produces invaluable thinking.
      This is how we do it. We think. We think again. We consider the first principles of particular kinds of thinking and we see, as in this ludicrous TERF war where people imagine enemies and barely stop to consider ideas, that some of this thinking is not worth engaging with.
      I welcome the comments here, even though I consider some of them to be very thick. We have a good range of “you hate women” and “you have trans women” and it’s useful, if painful, to see that there are so many who define themselves in terms of this stupid battle.
      The questions are : what is gender? How is it made? Can we or should we escape it? Are the categories of masculine and feminine absolute, and do they need to be? What can psychoanalysis help us learn? What can Marxism help us learn? Do we need to apply multiple filters to our understanding, or just one?
      The questions ARE NOT “Is Helen Razer a misogynist?” or “is Germaine Greer a transphobe?” or even “is no-platforming a silly thing?”
      Not for me, here, in any case.
      If we keep fixating on who is or is not a good person and truly devoted to The Cause, then what we miss is everything.
      I loathe this battle. I am bored by it and the erasure of feminist/gender theory it has already achieved.
      It is nice that you guys care. But if you don’t care enough to think (and I am not expecting that you think as hard as Dennis, who is a professional thinker) then your care is useless.
      Of course, knock yourselves out. Make a list of all the people who are and are not on your side. Continue to imagine that “transphobic” old ladies are responsible for the destruction of everything or that “misogynist” or “politically correct” young ones are at fault. It’s fun and it is very efifng easy to keep on thinking in this stupid way.
      You could continue to do that. You probably will. But know that this question of gender is very irresolute. And your belief that your ideas, or your gender, is inflexible doesn’t change the complexity of the knowledge that people like Dennis have offered us.
      Feminism is difficult. It’s not easy. But, of course, A TERF war is. Knock yourselves out pretending you know what is right and what is wrong. Meantime, thank goodness for people like Dennis who know that the real prize is not being thought of as “good” but in daring to create good new knowledge and destroying bad ideas.
      THINK AND READ SOME STUFF.

      1. Helen, I find it strange that you don’t directly respond to any of us who disagree but choose to critique us in an aside to other more agreeable respondents. I’m sure that you have every right, and perhaps you want to avoid some tedious argument. But I comment here in good faith, genuinely interested in your opinion because I have a lot of respect for your mind and your work. But, Your whole criticism of Greer hinges on the claim she used the description ” real woman”, which she did not. However, letting that slide, you are a communicator, it is hopefully part of your goal to communicate ideas we may not have come across ourselves. Frankly, you’re now just sounding elitist. Moreover, dismissing us as a bunch of old feminists and just shaving past calling us TERFS is pretty offensive. This is a vital question to feminists now for reasons I have stated elsewhere re identity and the right to speak. Re the sex/gender issue, you may airily claim the debate has changed but I see no evidence of this in the trans lit I have been reading. I would love to be enlightened otherwise, only you won’t engage with your critics.

        1. I shouldn’t feel I have to even say this but in my defence I want to add that I have actually read Butler, Grosz, Kristeva and others (not Irigaray herself, but about her, but whatever ). I Have also read a lot of Marxism and far more psychoanalysis than is good for me. In addition just about the entire canon of so-called second wave feminism. I just don’t agree with you about Greer. And I am agnostic on the transgender as woman question, pending further thought and research.

          1. I am reluctant to address your questions because frankly, you descend into abuse very quickly. Further down the page, you take trouble to agree with some commenter who says I hate women, am a poor journalist and that I am building a straw man etc etc.
            SO, you know. Think about how likely you might be to interact with someone who has praised calls for your immediate dismissal and called you the femal eequivalent of Uncle Tom. What value would there be in that, for you?
            I don’t find these exchanges useful. I detect from your tone (and I am not “policing”, I am just making hitherto silent assumptions about the sort of turn such exchange is likely to take) and your eagerness to answer replies of all kinds, even those that are obviously made by spam bots, that this will not end well.
            But. To staunch this flow of demands for answers and (actually quite narcissistic) assumptions that YOUR comments are the only ones I am not answering (there are plenty) and that I am not, in fact, quite busy filing a late return to the ATO, here goes.
            Greer has been at explicit pains to point out that “you cannot become a woman”. She has said it over and again. She has said it very explicitly on a BBC radio interview. She chose to compare the transition from man to woman to the transition from human to dog.
            Further, as I am sure you would know from your extensive reading, Greer has talked largely from her fundament on gender. Her thoughts do not come from scholarship and I venture your ideas on the creation/inevitability of woman are more advanced than hers. Although, I would say that your comment earlier that the distinction between sex and gender is at the bedrock of feminism shows either ignorance of or a refusal to engage with Grosz, Butler and others. They explicitly criticise this distinction.
            If we entertain the possibility that an individual becomes a woman and is not “born” a woman (and somehow or another, you seem to think that I have committed to a particular view on the matter, which I have not) then we must entertain this possibility when talking around trans. Greer does not. Her writing is poor and whether or not she used the actual word “real” (I can’t be bothered checking, I have read enough of her to know that she is, although a marvellous writer, very 101 on gender itself) she is certainly question begging. She does not establish an idea of gender. She contradicts herself not just over time but even within particular works.
            I am not saying she is an essentialist. I know that she is not. But I am saying that she is failing intellectually JUST AS I AM SAYING THAT HER ENEMIES ARE FAILING EVEN WORSE.
            For me, this TERF war is appalling. On both sides. I said this. Several times. You get a bunch of youngsters who feel terribly proud of their tolerance (sometimes I wonder if there are not quite a few trans people tired of millennials who want to befriend and champion them to prove their moral superiority) and a bunch of older women (largely, although not exclusively) who feel their struggle is being quashed but what has, frankly, become a new commodity. “Trans tolerance” is often more about the reification of an object of feminist exchange. (You’ve read Marx. You’ll understand that.)
            As I have said, to people who have offered comments that do not threaten to end in calls for my immediate dismissal, I am not here talking about trans men or women. I am talking about the current idiocy of feminism that I see here reduced in this TERF war. What we have first is a very real “silencing” of actual women. First, of Greer by protest. Second, of her protesters by “free speech” bores. I say this clearly. I think this actually shuts women, whoever they are, up and reduces very complex thinking to very brutal and simple debate. It’s not good for feminism.
            MY intention was, and I think it was realised, was to say that (a) gender is complex and we haven’t decided anything yet but we should certainly keep talking about it (btw, Spivak has since rejected strategic essentialism) and (b) a good way to talk freely is to observe the way in which Greer talked.
            I am a great fan of Greer. I think she is a very fine stylist and a great performance piece. I LOVED her Irwin thing, even though it shocked me at the time, and I think her Quarterly Essay was extremely courageous. I love that she could not give a hoot what anyone writes about her. I adore her perverse and delightfully corrupting marriage of zine writing with academic cant. I think she is a very great popular thinker.
            But I think she has sweet FA to say about gender and that her handling of this trans question shows this. Which is what I said.
            She has no theory of gender. Perhaps an early lifetime of being brighter than everyone in the room has inured her to reading. I don’t know why, but she has really left the question alone to die in her mind and is no better than Camille Paglia (who has gone straight to sociobiology) in her thinking on woman or man.
            So, if you want to argue with someone who is eager to show that they are “trans positive”, you can find plenty. Aside from the fact that I think being mean to people on the basis of their class is dumb, I am not interested in offering moral injunctions or looking like a really super tolerant person in public.
            This is not about that. It’s about the need to create the conditions for discourse that aren’t dumb. Read the piece again, maybe, and you just might see that you have fixated, to the point that you are rah-rahing someone who calls me a crap journalist who hates women (pretty serious charges), on something I didn’t actually say.
            Greer is just not very good on this stuff.

      2. Helen, again, you are still not able to cite any sources for the grand statements you make and the articles built around those grand statements.

        Again, I ask: where is the ‘scholarly research’ that says the Nordic model doesn’t work? All you can respond with is, ‘I believe in the case of the Swedish Model that this is borne out by research’. What research? I really would be interested to read the ‘research’ you’re talking about. I notice you have not provided a link to the ‘scholarly’ studies on which you based your comments.

        I have given you evidence that the Nordic Model saves lives, but you are entrenched in your view that it’s not ‘safe’ and are able to provide nothing to back up your statement.

        Then: “I personally think that safe conditions for sex workers (who, according to most longitudinal studies represent exactly the same sort of turnover regardless of whether the work that they do or the procurement of it is legal; i.e. you’re not gonna stop it, and why should you want to other than “I think sucking a dick for money is wrong”? Who says it’s wrong?”

        To which ‘longitudinal studies’ are you referring? Again, I would be really interested to read them. I might even change my mind if I see some–even a little–evidence for what you assert.

        When the women are not doing it eagerly and willingly, there is nothing wrong with sucking dick. But many do it do it out of desperation, not because they want to. You can’t see anything wrong with that?

        And your argument that ‘you can’t stop it’ doesn’t make sense. Do we give up on the issue of rape because we ‘can’t stop it’? In any event, you can stop it and evidence has borne that out. Take a look at Sweden and Ireland.

        I truly sorry for not being so widely read in feminist theory as you are and for being a ‘dill’. But for all my ‘naff’ arguments I am at least willing to look at facts; as opposed to write whole stories based on my feelings on a subject.

        You have been rude and condescending to readers such as Freya, who has been nothing but polite to you. You have made the accusation that I wanted you to be fired. You simply say things that are not true and not based on fact, and you can’t back them up. And then you get angry when someone points it out.

  9. Well, I for one don’t really get the whole brouhaha. To my mind there are differences between a woman who was born female and some one who got there via the trans-gender route. Has to be, given who we are is significantly determined by our lived experience.

  10. This is probably the best article I’ve read on GG’s most recent circus. And the line about Richard Dawkins made me lol for real.

  11. And a little more. In this small town people are judged not by what they are but by what they do. We fight bushfires, floods, droughts.We run – as volunteers – many of the things city folk take for granted and expect to be paid for if they work at them (art festivals, theatre, music, etc). People don’t want to know what theory supports your state of being but whether or not the can count on you when the firestorm hits.

    Funny thing is I once helped a heat-struck, addled Germain Greer find her way to a publisher’s party at the Adelaide Writers Fest. She was very grateful for my help, but when we got there someone must have told her ‘what’ her helper was as she spent the rest of the event glaring at me. Such is life!

    1. Wow–What an ingracious, snooty bitch. You should have upended a platter of Hors D’oeuvrs on her head. I wish someone had thrown stingray shit at her at the airport after the way she slandered steve Irwin –almost immediately in the wake of his death, no less–for no other reason than to get herself back into the newspapers. She’s pretty much a buck standard narcissist, from what can see.

      Anybody so deluded by (and therein so far removed from) the average person, via their own celebrity, shouldn’t have their counsel sought on any subject at all.

  12. Thank you! I’m a 68 year old transsexual woman. I now live in a small country town. I am an honoured member of that community and there is no concept of gender difference in any interaction within this community. In fact I’ve been asked to give several public talks on various issues, including the above. I think it was Camile Paglia who remarked that people don’t see an actual trans-woman, they see through them to whatever it is they want to see. But getting to this point has seen me lose family and friends. I’ve seen suicides of those caught up in the gender web and this is why I dislike Greer’s words on the subject. We don’t ‘choose’ to affirm femaleness or maleness as a trans-person. We have no fucking option other than to go through the process or die. (Sidebar. Why is this ‘debate’ only about male-female, if there is a theory of gender it needs to incorporate the guys as well. Failure to do that seems, to me, to negate politicised gender theory.) But I aint a scholar. I used to be a writer. I now make furniture and occasionally edit the local newspaper. Do I identify as a woman? Yes, and with great pride.

    1. Josie, I think trans women are spoken about more frequently than trans men because those most “qualified” to write about feminist and gender issues are usually feminists and usually grappling or have grappled with the history of “women’s only” space.
      I would also say the fact of a trans man is one very many people are not ready to compute. Part of this has to do with the the very marginal documented history of men who have transitioned in the past. Part of this has to do with what makes a publishable image in the present. Women’s bodies are more frequently photographed and published than men’s bodies and so, Caitlyn Jenner is far more likely to make the cover of Vanity Fair.
      Like a lot of topic raised in media and popular discourse, this comes down to what sells and who is doing the selling.
      I understand, of course, that all this fancy pants theorising has nothing to do with the way in which you and other trans people live their lives. And I totally get that what a French feminist might say has no immediate, or even distant, impact on whether or not your life is endurable.
      But, I am explicitly not in the business of advising people how to behave when I am in print. So, I tried to write, in this case, about how Greer’s argument is intellectually broken, not about how she might break people’s lives. This is a decision I made a while back in this age full of writers saying “don’t do this”. I mean, of course I would prefer that people were not bigoted violent idiots, but I know very well that telling them to just stop is both pointless and, in my view, actually morally reprehensible. So while I am personally moved by your account, and welcome it absolutely in the comments, I just wanted to say that I didn’t want to chastise Greer, or anyone, in anything other than the broadest terms of argument.
      For mine, she just hasn’t made a good argument. That’s all I feel qualified or entitled to say.
      None of this means that I don’t go a bit personally crazy when I hear or read people treat transitioning as though it is a choice. It’s what you are, not something you might select from a catalogue of identity specials. I didn’t choose my identity. I don’t think anyone does. (I should say that there is a strong tradition in feminism of consciously choosing to be a lesbian. And there are those who might choose to refuse a gender identity or see themselves as trans for conscious political reasons. But, this doesn’t mean that anybody truly gets to choose how they live.)
      Anyhoo. Thanks!

      1. We’re on the same side of the barbed wire fence on this. As a working writer all my working life I’m committed to freedom of expression – especially when I disagree with it. I’ve tried to stay out of this particular argument but the blood’s been getting a bit hot. Your little essay and your community of responders seemed the most rational and for me, the safest, place to vent a little. Thanks for the time and space.

  13. “It must be very nice to be certain of something”

    Yeah, doubt is unpleasant, but certainty is ridiculous.

    As for gender, perhaps it is a spectrum rather than a duality. Doesn’t make sense to think of it as an either/or option, even if our physical appendages tend to make that so (but not for everyone, even there there are unusual dual gendered persons)

    I suspect it is important that we really delve into this gender identity issue so that we can finally come to the place where we decide it doesn’t matter much.

    Captain Rotgut, as a male, enjoyed your thoughts although don’t necessarily agree with them or always understand them, but the ‘everything is phallic’ school of academia needs to be dissed for its inanity, and you have done well there.

    Although now getting to the stage where sex itself doesn’t have that same demented appeal, the giving and the receiving were/are always pleasurable acts for me. I could understand why a women may want to pleasure a man, because I enjoyed doing the same back. I worked on the assumption that women aren’t all that different to men in the great scheme of things, in spite of ubiquitous evidence to the contrary.

    1. Well I’m happy that I made any sense at all to someone on some level, really.

      As for the giving receiving thing, I’ve considered that, and ultimately I think women need to ask themselves whether they are indeed the Pietho’s they believe themselves to be, or whether the phenomenon observed is really just attributal to men being comparitively very easily pleased, extremely sexually simplistic beings.

  14. Greer, was all part of the quest in the male controlling ideology, now she is still important on TV platforms, she is now very up front and not shy, the controllers men are still here in terms of the Melbourne Cup, a female won this race usually a men’s only game? the liberal party of Australia is still dominated by men, and many men speak as authorities on a vast number topics that is to much authority from the culture of a past age.

  15. Ka boom Helen – brilliantly put.
    Germaine has a big brain but has always been a contrarian and often unreasonable.
    I witnessed this while she was visiting just after the “Female Eunuch” was published.
    At a push party she turned and slogged the bloke I was talking to across the kisser.
    He was a pretty good fellow and clutched his cheek “what was that for” he enquired.
    “You pinched my arse”.
    “Not me, it was D”, a luminary of the punting push, who had the deed as he was sailing past – well said Germaine, “you smack D”.
    Rattling the cage is her shtick and she’s done it again.

  16. Why particularly a transperson?

    Maybe stop trying to tidy things up? Perhaps it’s time to tear the renovated conventions of tolerance and of safe-spaces down. Dissect a few rats, break a few walls and, particularly if you’re a lady, and most particularly a transperson, don’t worry so much about causing short-term offence. You are going to do that anyhow by the very fact of being alive

    Either there is a definition of female and then, feminism or there isn’t in which case the idea of feminism is redundant.

      1. I think the following line explains it, Eliza. “Because you’re going to offend people anyway”. I do not, at any point, say that trans women are more deserving of feminist attention than cis women. Nowehere do I say or imply that. I am simply stating that trans women are going to have a harder time, on average and statistically, than cis women. This is a fact.
        To be very clear, stop worrying about causing offence. Stop worrying about defying convention. You’re doing those things anyway by being alive so stick it to convention, whether its your own little orthodoxy or the world’s orthodoxy. Use Greer’s behaviour as an example.
        Honestly, I think this is plain.
        As for your “what’s a woman” question and your claim that unless this can be answered, then feminism should be abandoned: balderdash.
        Re-read the brief part where I try, very quickly, to document dominant ideas on gender. No one has an answer. No one is decided on what makes a woman or a man. No one. Not science, not philosophy. Not any of the human sciences. There is no answer.
        You can still have feminism so long as the idea of gender persists in the world. That’s all that’s required. You don’t need to “believe” in gender. You just, at a minimum, need to say that there are two groups of people. Whether you categorise these as social classes or natural categories is irrelevant. So long as gender can be observed, it can be discussed.
        If you wish to believe that you know what man or woman is, that’s fine. Good on you. Go on believing it utterly. I am simply stating that there are many who do not believe they know what it is or where it came from or, importantly, if it is inevitable.

        1. I am still not convinced that Greer has used the term real. After all, the distinction between sex and gender has been a foundational tenet of feminism for a very long time. As you say, none of us, not even science, is able to determine sex definitively. Therefore any discussion of it is by definition contestable and political. Greer has always been a political activist in her speech, it is easy to dismiss her as a contrary ratbag, but there is usually a solid and subtle intellect behind it. Woman is a political class to Greer and it seems to me that that is enough of a definition. Trans activism tends to reinforce the gender binary it claims should not exist by insisting on the existence of a feminine essence which they “feel”. This is the fundamental contradiction of gender studies orthodoxy taking us down a rabbit hole of relativism and disempowering women from owning their very name.

    1. Ha! Nice point!
      Definitions and meaning get washed away in postmodernist deconstruction leaving us in-operative and confused and purposeless.

      A Prada bag is a Prada bag. There could be another bag in imitation of a Prada bag – a “Vrada”. There could be a bag inspired by a Prada bag. There could inspired by a Prada bag and a Guci bag.
      Now copyright is a load of BS! It is a government forced system that gives special privilege to the benefit of corporations. Fraud however is another thing. Stealing of identity is something we wish to avoid. Nobody really wants to have their credit card used on their behalf etc.
      Creativity however does not exist in a vacuum. We are inspired by the past and build upon it. Our human species thrives due to genetic diversity. All the bags are useful (valid).The imitation Prada bag could be acceptable – as long as it is not claiming to be the original. This would be fraud.
      If one hired a woman prostitute but got a transgender/cis person then this could be considered fraud too – or vice versa.
      Let people be and do as they wish. They can call themselves a woman if not by the strict traditional definition but as soon as they contract with another they should be clear on the terms and conditions.
      Women’s rights are human rights are private property rights.
      Otherwise live and let live!

  17. I was made to read one of Greer’s Books as a younger man by a girl I was dating. I think it was the complete woman–or total woman. Or there was something in the title about the essence of woman being therein absolute. Or maybe I’m just not remembering correctly at all.

    Anyway, I do remember that at some point she suggested that no woman can be a feminist until she has tasted her own menstrual blood. Which isn’t lkely to be a flavour Black Swan will pursure for a new line of dips, in my estimations. She also put forth the proposition that chocolate bars are deliberately pressed into phallic shapes to…I don’t know, kind of subliminally indoctrinate women into wanting to perform oral sex. Which is insane.

    Segue: I am not a big fan of the BJ. I don’t know why. Just not my thing. And yet I have never dated a Girl who hasn’t been eager to dish them out. I can’t understand why any woman would want to perform fellatio on a man. If you look at a prima facie, there’s just nothing in it for them whatsoever. Realistically, you’d be hard pressed to conjure a less sexually satisfying act for a woman. I had assumed early on in the game that not wanting them would have more greatly endeared me to the opposite sex. Not so–I have been told on numerous occassions, that it is annoying, frustrating and confusing. And that I may be broken.

    50 bitcoin to any lady in this comments secton who can explicate this satisfactoraly. Or a Gay. A gay will do too.

    Moving on, I brought these ponts up with my girlfriend at the time, and made the observation that from a logistical perspective, it doesn’t really make sense to have non-bar shaped chocolates, because any other shape would mean that less bars could fit inside a truck, which would increase shipping costs–and that it would be pretty awkard to eat a chocolate bar shaped like an apple. I also suggested that although I hadn’t seen another mans penis since under 14’s rugby league, I’d never seen one that looked anything lke a toblerone or a curly wurly.

    She told me that I wasn’t getting it. I agreed, which was the truth. I didn’t get it, and do not get it now.

    And that’s the Germaine Greer feminist milkshake for me; three parts insanity, two parts conspiracy, 5 parts hate. An ultimately bewildering and patently disturbing concoction that leaves me wondering who could ever take anything away from it–not even laughter.

    1. The book is The Whole Woman. Nothing particularly absolutist about that. It’s a reference to women being whole people, rather than part-objects for the use and convenience of others. The menstrual blood was “on her lover’s penis” if I remember rightly. I should just mention that women don’t like to be called girls, but then I’m sure your girlfriend would have told you this.

      1. Freya,

        on point A, I have to disagree; whole is, by definiton, an absolute term. Literally. Anyway, it’s just semantics.

        I generally refer to women as girls, because I have noticed that now, at 30, the women in my life who are also in there thirties, seem to prefer it. And I guarantee that if I had made any statement beggining with the collective noun ‘women’ someone would have blasted me for having done that, too. It’s not easy.

        Here’s the thing Freya; I don’t believe that the Boogeymen Greer asserts as Archetypes of patrarchy actually exist in society–not now, anyway. This isn’t Victorian England after all. I suspect mostly, they exist in Academia. That’s the thing about social science; you can get away with positing pretty much anything, and since there are no clinical trials for sociology, social hypotheses cannot ever be absolutely validated the way they can in the rmaterial sciences.It’s a situation which produces a lot of hocus pocus and flim flam for this reason.

        Maybe there are a few ultra-mysogynists getting around in the terrarium, but I’ve never met one–and they probably occur at the same rate that people with vomit fetishes do, which is to say a very low one.Those men are outliers, not aggregates. And to suggest that chocolate bars are pressed into phallic shapes to train women to perform fellatio is, excuse me, absolutely nuts. Anyone who can be made to believe that the board at Nestle is sitting around plotting such thngs can be made to believe anything at all. They aren’t. They’re thinking about what additives they can use to stretch out the amount of coco used in per gallon of chocolate to decrease outlay and boost production.

        I suppose the main problem I have with Greer’s work is that it is spectacularly boring, and unromantic. Honestly, I don’t want anything to do with anything that Academicizes Love. If love were to be subjected to the litany of protocols, checks and balances of Germian Greer, who would even want it?

        I just DNGAF whether or not what I do for, or towards, my girlfriend is sexist or chauvanistic or gendered if it makes her happy, because my ultimate and only objective is to make her happy, and everything else is commentary. And I’m not remarkable. Certainly all my male friends are like this. Naturally we don’t talk about it, but yeah– it’s the standard MO. We all want to have a good time, but you have to ‘check with the boss’ first. Forgive me; I don’t read this as female subjugation.

        I don’t think a man can really be happy without a woman (well,not straight ones) and mostly, what I see amongst my own mates is men who are very aware of this and work hard to keep the ones they have– having a lot of anxiety that they might not be managing it. Where are these guys represented in Greer’s work? They are excluded because they do not fit the discourse, because they are not the drunken, bottle-swinging brutes she needs to validate her theories. There’s plenty of vile slobs in her work; men who spend their weekends fishing and come home and complain the chicken is undercooked or whatever, but where’s the guy who goes to work in a black mood, feeling like a failure because he didn’t manage to make his girl come last night , despite having given her multiples the week before, and wondering what he can do to make it up to her somehow? Completely absent. Yes, women have a lot of pressures, but being a boyfriend/husband isn’t all beer and skittles either.

          1. Rotgut: “But what about hte menz!” whose girlfriends didn’t orgasm last night. Really, men need to get over themselves.

        1. Captain R,
          Thanks for your response. I think Whole is less absolutist than Total or Real Woman, and contains a different shade of meaning but, yes, you are right I admit.
          I’m sorry you think that Greer and possibly feminists in general have such a poor view of men, many of us, including Greer, believe that most men are oppressed by patriarchal structures too. After all, there are only a few rich white middle aged men who get to the top. Binary gender stereotypes limit men’s options too. But ho hum. I should point out that whilst your girlfriends, and perhaps many western women appear to have it very good, there are millions of women in the world who live in poverty, violence and oppression, and conditions as bad, or worse than, Victorian, because they are women.
          I agree with you about the social sciences, and it is a particularly rigid and esoteric orthodoxy of academic gender studies which has led to the current impasse between Greer and some parts of the trans community. On which this whole circular argument about real woman is based.
          As for romance, well Greer was a leading advocate for women owning their sexuality so we can all thank her for that.
          I can’t really remember the phallic chocolate thing, But why do chocolate ads always have women lounging on sofas and swooning over it. Just weird really!

          1. Chocolate ads have women swooning over chocolate bars because marketing has understood that tethering sex (not subliminally, but suggestively) to any product at all tends to increase sales, because we tend to associate the object itself with an increased probability of securing sex.It’s something very well understood to psychology. If buy this, I’ll indirectly get that.
            This type of thing is most specifically targeted at men ( for example, there’s an infamous 50’s chrysler ad in which a woman seductively strokes the car and proclaims in breathy excitement that ‘It’s a full two inches bigger than last year!”).

            If it didn’t work, it wouldn’t happen–and It does happen. A lot. A good example would be the Carl’s Junor & Hardy commericals getting around now. Google those and see if I’m wrong. There used to be timber mill in QLD that ran ads which featured bikini girls carrying planks of wood. What do bikini girls have to do with wood? ( I’ll let a pundit go begging there).

            Irregardless, I will not be convinced that chocolate bars are pressed into phallc shapes to deliberately encourage women to perform oral sex. You’d have to be an utter pillock to believe that, frankly.

            I strongly recommend this very short (50 seconds) video, featuring Bll Hicks.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pylbi-rRxhs

  18. In the interview Greer did not use the term “real” and she also stated that she does not really know what a “woman” is. You say she has used the term ” real women ” repeatedly, I’m not sure if that is true? I have always read Greer as a non essentialist, in the line of “women as a class”. Nevertheless, I think that whilst I am an anti essentialist myself, as a political position, It seems that gender theory has been coopted to erase women altogether and make it impossible for them to speak. Thus we see men like Timothy Laurie feeling comfortable dictating, in the most repressive terms, what women can and can’t talk about. All oppressed groups must first identify as a group in order to speak and represent themselves. I believe this has been called “strategic essentialism”. The erasure of “woman” by gender theory is as you say, a very convenient way of silencing women altogether. We may not be able to determine what woman is and I am not convinced That Greer’s position is as essentialist as you say. The very clumsiness of this debate is reflected in the contradiction of Laurie’s , and I think your(?) position is that if gender and sex don’t really exist, in which case as everyone keeps telling us, there is no such thing as “woman” why then do transgender women insist on calling themselves such? It comes down to : “I am what I say I am” a position that sounds very nice and liberal, but becomes more obviously problematic when you transpose the argument onto race, In which such cultural appropriation is often considered offensive and belittling. I am just falling over terminology here and it seems everyone is in this debate. We have to be able to talk about ourselves in a way that allows us to define our own boundaries.

    1. Social (gender) constructionism apparently creates more problems than it solves.

      You have to admit Greer’s line about the cocker spaniel was pretty funny, though. I admire her gall, she is a true eccentric it seems.

  19. Helen, if you had been of age in the 70s when Germaine Greer first burst onto the scene, you would know that she was a challenging and focused warrior for feminism, who was a powerful force in awakening a generation of women (and some men) to the reality of gendered intolerance. That the “integrity of her work on the nature of sex/gender is now called into question by persistent reference to “real” women.” is, in essence, wrong: Greer has always been a champion for women and for those suffering discrimination at the hands of the worst aspects of a dominant male culture. It is indisputedly true that only those who have been born as women, grown up as women and live now as adult women can know what being a female means. The fact that Greer stated this, does not mean that she is oblivious to, or uncaring of, the realities of transgender/cis people. In reality, we should perhaps look to other cultures who have always recognised more than one sex, rather than forcing transgendered/cis people into one or other of the two western ‘normative’ sexes of male and female: take for example the cultures which recognise 3,4,5 or 6 sexes, and we can perhaps then appreciate both the complexity of human experience and the futility of trying to force it into too-narrow categories. It will be a sad day when those who have the courage, borne out of wisdom, to speak out are silenced, because we will all be the poorer.

    1. I may not have been born when Greer was preparing her work, but I can read and I do know precisely how important that work was in engaging many people with the idea of liberation.
      But, just because Greer, always a better stylist that she was a thinker, inspired people, doesn’t mean she got it right.
      She is clearly unfairly bright and, from what I am told by people who know these things, is A1 on Willy Shakes. But I will say, even as I am far less bright, that she never theorised gender in a way that is stable or meaningful enough not to have it called into question by her ideas on “real” women.
      Questions like “is gender real?” or “is gender unavoidable?” are, or should be, at the very foundation of feminist studies. While TFE was a good deal of rousing fun and while Greer managed to “call out”, in the modern parlance, unjustified acts of hopeless sexism, she never really got to the base matter of “what is the nature of a woman or a man?”.
      This is important stuff. She has chosen not to engage with it. She doesn’t have to, of course. But, if she wants to say some stuff about who is a man and who is a woman, she kinda does. She doesn’t. Her past theory will suffer for her pronouncements. Just as the young Hegelian Mars haunts the older scientific Marx and vice versa, Greer has clouded her earlier works. And she’s not coming out of it looking one tenth as prescient as Karl.
      She did not so much get it wrong as she failed to theorise it. I’m afraid lazy thinking can impact even the most inspiring legacy.
      BY no means do I undervalue the importance of this woman, whose style I greatly admire.

      1. HR, I agree with most of what you say, but the demands made of writers or thinkers to have been able to conceptualise beyond their own time, and beyond their own profoundly necessary focus on what contemporary issues within their culture most needed addressing is a flaw.

        Yes, Greer ‘needs’ to rethink basic notions of male versus female within the context of today’s debate. But to demand that she should have addressed this forty years ago is simply ridiculous. And that’s what keeps being thrown up. That her original work, groundbreaking and revolutionary, and effecting real and constructive change in the lives of hndreds of thousands of women, is deficient because it doesn’t address issues that someone now thinks should have been.

        If you want to attempt an understanding of the context of TFE then look at the emerging evidence of the brutal child sex abuse of the 60s, 70s and earlier, spread throughout every level of Australian society. There is clear evidence of a massive cultural hatred of children. Now apply that contextual thought to the position of women at that time. Do you have any doubt that women’s position in relation to sexual violence, and violent hatred was on any less of a scale? I’ve heard from several women that in many country towns it was considered normal for a father to ‘deflower’ his daughters, to make sure it was done ‘properly’. What does that tell you of the context in which Greer’s TFE and her powerful popular persona was a powerful force for change?

        This revisionist approach is the same logic that wants to amend the language of oppression in history books. Not using the ‘n’ word because its a term of abuse, when the issue of the historical truth of that abuse is the greater truth being addressed. Revisionism really is a futile exercise, and it destroys the facts of history that we need if we’re going to track progress. The fact that Greer is still alive may be the problem. Dead writers seem to acquire a sheen of historical context that allows them their human flaws, their lack of awareness of what are in retrospect key issues. Perhaps her true crime is having outlived the perceived value of her primary work

      2. Waffle and piffle. It’s understandable that some people adhere to the view that people who were born with the male reproductive organs (and not the female) cannot be truly accepted as female just because they have the male bits cut off. It may be a wrong view to others but it’s not some sort of thought crime to think it, as some would appear to have it.

        Me, I don’t care how people want to dress or surgically change themselves unless or until they are within my personal orbit.

        1. You are arguing with an argument that was not made.
          I really don’t give a crap if someone is a biological essentialist until, as you say, they are withing my orbit.
          Greer, by making presentations, is within my orbit.
          You can try to do the thing I described in the article, which is to say “political correctness gone mad!”, and charge me with being some sort of moral totalitarian who charged people with “thought crime”. But, I didn’t do that.
          I am not, by any means, saying “you must accept this”. If I were, then I would not have devoted one third of the article to praising Greer’s central project of shit-stirring and about an eighth of it to describing how there are competing theories on gender and saying that I, and feminism, is undecided on the matter.
          God. Please. Read before commenting. I am not the lady policeman you try to counter. You want one of those? The internet is full of them. Go and find a tedious little cow who has nothing to say but “transphobia is terrible” now, as though this were a meaningful or a theoretical act.
          Geez.

    2. Germaine started being controversial in the 1950s, having enrolled at the University of Melbourne in 1956. She has been controversial all her life, and 60 years on she hasn’t changed. As far as I am concerned it is the individual’s choice to listen to her or not bother. I tuned out many years ago.

      Germaine thrives on boycotts and bans

  20. Then on Monday (26 October), Greer responded to the outrage over her comments in an expletive-laden statement read out on BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire.
    ‘Just because you lop off your dick and then wear a dress doesn’t make you a fucking woman,’ she said.
    ‘I’ve asked my doctor to give me long ears and liver spots and I’m going to wear a brown coat but that doesn’t turn me into a fucking cocker spaniel.
    ‘I do understand that some people are born intersex and they deserve support in coming to terms with their gender but it’s not the same thing. A man who gets his dick chopped off is actually inflicting an extraordinary act of violence on himself.’

  21. Thanks Helen. Perhaps all sides can agree on 1 thing though: that male cultural studies academics should butt out and not presume to no-platform Greer and excommunicate her from contemporary feminism, as Timothy Laurie has done in a recent piece in New Matilda – and yes, in this context perhaps I shouldn’t assume that Tim identifies as male, but perhaps that illustrates the complexity of the issue you raise?

    1. I’m a bit dull on/unmoved by the entire “mansplaining” issue. Sure, it might personally annoy me if someone strives to translate my meaning or intention. But I don’t think it annoys me too much more if the critic is a man.
      This whole “can men be feminists” thins is very tedious. Of course, anyone can be interested in the interesting question of gender.
      The problem for mine with Tim’s article was not that he has no right to speak as a man etc. It was that he treated Greer’s de facto rejection by students as though it were done on academic grounds.
      He is right to say that Greer is not resolutely academic in her approach to gender in this case. I said the same thing. It’s not a matter of sex that allows one reader over another to come to the conclusion, as Tim and I did, that she has not adequately theorised “real” gender to the point where she can convincingly talk about it.
      But, she wasn’t teaching a course. And the women of Cardiff University weren’t exactly responding in an academic way. They may have come to a similar conclusion that Tim and I might, which is that “real” women is an impossible category or at least something that needs loads of explanation. But, they didn’t get there in an academic way. So that, for me, was the flaw in Tim’s piece. Universities have popular idiots present non academic talks all the time.

  22. Making a mess, or just drawing a clumsy line under a well established one? I dunno, I preferred when her messes were erudite, substantial and ground breaking.

    1. I think I was pretty clear that this particular one was a bad mess, no?
      “What Greer has done in the “debate” on transwomen, of course, is in no way useful. And, to be honest, the integrity of her work on the nature of sex/gender is now called into question by persistent reference to “real” women.”
      I hope I was otherwise clear that her long-term project of shit-stirring was instructive.
      I was really at pains to criticise Greer’s sloppy thinking and nos-constructive destruction in this case and dunno what I coulda done to make that clearer?

      1. You were very clear. I’m being precious. I’d like to see her do more for elucidating the mess, rather than becoming a banal part of a shitty one.
        I was thinking yesterday, well WTF *does* it mean to be a woman?? Is my mentality or emotional life any more or less ‘woman’ than any other woman, trans or otherwise? Probably less than some, probably more than others, but does that make me more of a ‘real’ woman than a trans woman? Does it matter for anything other than sociopolitical reasons?
        Can I thank Germaine that I was asking myself those questions? Not really. You, Helen, have said much more thought provoking things about gender politics than G has lately – especially the economics. I’m disappointed she hasn’t used her status and her formidable intellect to engage, and say something – as you beautifully pointed out – ‘useful’.

        1. That I could be said to say more provocative things about gender than GG is less testament to my own greatness than her intellectual failure.
          She is very bright and very funny and like you, Esther, I wish she’d produce the dazzling work we’ve all expected from her for so long, but only glimpsed in our darkest moments.
          I suspect that if she does write a very great thing, it won’t be about gender. She is a great stylist and humorist but her refusal to engage with feminist thought makes her just a much more literary version of most feminists, who only seem to read Laurie Penny or tumblr. She has been talking about labour a bit. Maybe it will be that?

          1. Very thought-provoking article, thank you.

            Here is another interesting take that acknowledges Greer’s inestimable contributions, while maintaining a critical attitude a la the current stir:

            http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/57/winant.php

            I started losing interest in Greer at (albeit well-meaning and well-researched) ‘The Obstacle Race’, and (the objectifying and borderline) ‘The Beautiful Boy’, which I dismissed as clever potboilers. But I lost all respect upon her public support of the Australian child photographer and her public comments about Julia Gillard. (Dat no felt like da sisterhood). Thus it seems to me that Greer’s increasingly apparent narcissism (e.g., to be in the limelight as Feminist Grand Dame, to comment on anything that moves, etc) occasionally overtakes her intellectual integrity.

Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Newsletter Signup