There are few names that ruin a dinner party as quickly as ‘Germaine Greer.’ That’s something she should be proud of right there.
Germaine Greer is one of those women that people just love to hate. This is perhaps, in part, because most people find radical politics threatening (in general). It may also have something to do with the fact that she is a woman, ever-unabashed and outspoken. Yes, she can and does ‘put her foot in it’ on occasion and yes she does say stupid things in public every now and then – but one of the things I admire most about her (in addition to her feminist politics), is that she has never allowed her mistakes and social faux pas to silence her – nor the glaring disapproval of a whole country. She never shut-up – and that – is unspeakably courageous and admirable. Who else with her public audience/influence do you hear saying things like this:
‘The way out of the predicament in which we find ourselves, I suggest – guilty inheritors of a land usurped by our deluded, desperate forefathers – is the simple admission that ours is an Aboriginal country. All of it. Every single bit. Try saying it to yourself in the mirror. “I live in an Aboriginal country.” Even the obvious cannot be recognised as true until somebody says it’ (Greer, 2003 ‘Whitefella Jump Up: The shortest way to Nationhood’).
And what young woman could ever forget reading ‘The Female Eunuch’ for the first time in their late teens (or ever thank her enough for writing it).
I am currently revisiting ‘The Female Eunuch’ (along with a few other classic feminist texts), in order to consolidate my thoughts and write a pamphlet. Something along the lines of ‘Another relationship, another dynamic is possible: A manifesto against proprietorial attitudes toward women.’ I’m revisiting Greer, Emma Goldman, Virginia Woolf, Voltairine de cleyre and a handsome few others because I owe it to them to review their body of writing and genuflect to their legacy (in a taxonomically hierarchical kind of way, of course).
‘The Female Eunuch’ has certainly dated in some ways, but it remains powerful in others. The following are a few excerpts from the introductory chapter where she gives an overview of the books structure:
‘The Middle class Myth of Love and Marriage’ records the rise of the most commonly accepted mutual fantasy of heterosexual love in our society, as a prelude to a discussion of the normal form of life as we understand it, the Family. The nuclear family of our time is severely criticised, and some vague alternatives are suggested, but the chief function of this part , as of the whole book, is mostly to suggest the possibility and the desirability of an alternative. The chief bogy of those who fear freedom is insecurity [….]’ (p. 17).
‘Revolution does little more than ‘peep to what it would.’ It hints that women ought not to enter into socially sanctioned relationships, like marriage, and that once unhappily in they ought not to scruple to run away. It might even be thought to suggest that women should be deliberately promiscuous. It certainly maintains that they should be self-sufficient and consciously refrain from establishing exclusive dependencies and other kinds of neurotic symbioses. Much of what it points to is sheer irresponsibility, but when the stake is life and freedom , and the necessary condition is the recovery of a will to live, irresponsibility might be thought a small risk’ (pp. 18-19).
One last tangential aside – the incident in 2000, when Greer was ambushed by an obsessive student. I only read about it a year or two ago but it is an intensely crazy, sad story. Greer was ambushed in her own garden, taken hostage in her own home, tied her up and physically assaulted. Dinner party guests arrived to find Greer tied to a chair, the obsessive student clinging to her legs crying “Mummy, Mummy don’t do that Mummy!”. Whoa. Finally final note – I cannot STAND her book on rage. Seriously.