Friday, August 15, 2008

so tell me. do you fear the greer?

this is a post i've had sitting in drafts for about 2 years. i confess i was reluctant to post it back when i wrote it (shortly after steve irwin died) because i didn't want people criticising me for being a greer fan-girl. but two recent commenters have let me know that they too admire her, so with the numbers of support, and those two readers at my side, i want to open it up a bit. it's timely because she's here, and i'm going to see her keynote speech on rage at the mwf very soon. and also there are news articles creeping out of the woodwork each day it seems.

last night i watched germaine on channel 2 at 9.30. i can't remember the show - q and a?? - but there was bob carr, a murdoch-suit from the australian, julie bishop, and some young dude who was the only one that germaine really nodded in agreement at during the entire thing. they talked about a lot of different things, taking questions from the live audience.

i swear, it was like the germaine show. the audience clapped her several times, and while the others were so tightly held and robotic (and particularly bob carr with his fruity, snotty, pompous voice and self-serving attempts to be political towards the end of the show, bishop also tried this), germaine was reactive, animated, facially expressive, moving her body back and forward trying to see people's faces as they talked, rolling her eyes, gasping, laughing explosively at one point. and oh, the words out of her mouth were sublime. she was, quite simply, mesmerising. she was self-deprecating, referring to the female eunuch as just a book, a product of the times and that she wishes it were a better book, that it was too scholarly (i think that's what she said, i have the show taped and haven't watched it again) and that she wishes there were other books after that picked up the tempo and carried things forward. she said it wasn't the book that was important, it was the era and what was happening. and she was gracious - refusing to bite when the newspaper-turd insulted her by calling her old. while any old hack knows they can be guaranteed a good germaine quote, ie a controversial one, if they only ask the right question, she was remarkably restrained when provoked a couple of times on this particular occasion. she didn't bite, even though people were placing their metaphorical prodding fingers quite close to her sharp teeth.

and it made me think - who will we have when she is gone? i can't think of another smarty-pants in her league, who is such a light in the intellectual world. of course, there are brilliant, brilliant people everywhere. but there is no one quite like germaine.

anyway, i found this old draft and here it is. look her up on youtube. read her stuff. it's awesome.

* * *

in a world which seems to detest germaine greer, i wish to raise my hand, and say that i find it amusing, and slightly puzzling, that this one woman, who lives over the other side of the world, can arouse in all of us such a maelstrom of reaction.

let me state upfront: i admire the greer.

but then i have a habit of kind of going against the flow. while she's no underdog, i do tend to support underdogs. and while i don't agree with everything she says, i like the way she says everything. loudly and controversially. she calls it as she sees it, without seeming to have any real personal agenda. she seems to be a truth-seeker, trying to understand and to disseminate the products of her fierce intellectualisation of everything she comes across.

there are some reasons why i think she really affects people in such a visceral way. and you can't deny that she does.

with the whole steve irwin thing, the tone of the commentary at the time revealed the hate for this woman. it's funny to me that while she said something about him that many others had also said to that point, once germaine greer said it, the reaction was immediate and deafening. and let's be honest - she wasn't the only one who might have made an ironic connection between his pursuit of certain dangerous members of the animal kingdom, and his dramatic, watery end.

lying in bed this morning, i was thinking of reasons why greer affects people so strongly. this is what i came up with:

1. she is a woman and she is opinionated and she is outspoken. now before you get all femmo on my arse, think about this. while there has been a little sub-dialogue of whether we still need feminism, with the apparent thought that we have equality of the sexes, there is still a lot of inequality in many areas of society. but going beyond that, the fact remains. alot of people tend not to like an outspoken woman. what is forceful in a man, is perceived as somewhat less than attractive in a woman. and women like that are often targeted to be taken down.

2. she is not conventionally beautiful. fact: if germaine greer were typically beautiful, she would be easier to ignore. or easier for people to give what she says some credence. beautiful people have a power that others don't. people like to look at them, and they like to be friends with them and they like the beautiful person to think kindly of them. people want to be close to beautiful people. and i've got the idea that not only did greer not trade on her beauty in her youth, she railed against the conventions of beauty and challenging women and men to look at themselves and each other a bit more closely. i might have this bit wrong, about her and beauty. i think she was beautiful when she was younger, and she's still a looker in my opinion. and i'm still working out for myself my ideas about beauty and power.

3. she doesn't live here. she has abandoned this country so what right does she have to make comments about our affairs? greer has been an expat for yonks. some of our expats we like, for example... um. well, we like kylie. and barry humphries. but we love to hate germaine. she probably made a good decision to leave and go somewhere where people didn't hate her. i wonder how they feel about her in england.

4. she is childless. older women who haven't got children and who haven't done an interview with new idea moaning about their barren wombs are suspect. the thought that she might be voluntarily childless is even more confronting to us, and absolute proof that she is suspect. that there is something wrong with her. that she is nutty. what woman doesn't want a baby all of her own?

5. she is stubborn. greer, in addition to being outspoken, also seems to be impulsive. she talks without thinking, perhaps. maybe she makes statements that she would later revise, maybe not. but the fact that she sticks to her own party line, would annoy the shit out of a lot of people. other strong personalities like to be able to score points off a rival, but you can't score points off someone who won't engage.

6. she is fiercely intellectual. greer is a thinker, on which she has based her entire intellectual life and academic and journalistic output. this is what we have come to expect from men, but not women. again, she is bucking the system, and not behaving.

7. she is successful. quite simply, she has a voice. when germaine publishes an article, the whole world listens. perhaps this is because it is usually controversial, and contrary. contrariness seems guaranteed with germaine greer. there would be a lot of people who envy her reach, her audience (an audience which while mixed in its response, at least hears her).

8. she has never really fallen. apart from the incident when she was sat upon by a disgruntled student for a couple of hours and held hostage at her house, she has not really shown vulnerability. she is tough, rock hard, yet at times shows a weird tendency to do the unexpected, like appear on celebrity big brother.

9. she is a bit kooky. the aboriginal stuff fits in with this. she steps on people's toes. she gathers to her chest certain causes, appropriates them in perhaps inappropriate ways, such as saying she never steps off the plane when she travels to australia, never steps onto the tarmac without an express invitation by the local indigenous traditional landowner. if this isn't kooky, i don't know what is.

but as kids are saying these days, who gives? [in my youth it was who gives a shit? i'm glad to see the young are using cleaner expressions in some instances these days.]

people who take themselves too seriously give. and this is another thing germaine is guilty of. she seems to have little or no sense of humour. she will scoff at people and roll her eyes when she disagrees with them, or thinks them fools, and she will laugh loudly (and sometimes inappropriately) at something she thinks ludicrous. but is it funny? is she pleased and entertained or just thinking how the fuck can i exist amongst such idiots?

7 comments:

Pepsi said...

Clap, clap, smile & nod

People forget sometimes that people that look like idiots now, actually changed the world a little bit for the better, long before the world was like it is now.

Another Outspoken Female said...

I'm in the GG fan club and will also be at the talk on rage on Friday. It was funny reading this today as last night surrounded by friends (the usual feminist suspects :) there was talk of her appearance on Q&A, her new essay on rage and "who will there be to fulfill her role when she is gone".

Her public talk at the Jane Austen conference last year was my first experience of hearing her talk in the flesh. I was left having no doubts that she is one of the wittiest speakers I have ever heard and with a brain the size of a planet - her intelligence was astounding. Yet there was this gentle side that emerged when she talked protectively about some of her young students but also how she dealt with a very emotional audience member with a loaded agenda in her question from the floor.

The snatches we get of her on TV don't show the real Greer and deliberately misrepresent her - and yes, I agree with many of the points you make; our society dislikes overtly intelligent, non-conforming, outspoken, self-sufficient women. She ticks all the boxes of being burnt as a witch in another era (a time when just living without the physical or financial protection of a man was enough to be drowned or burnt). These days the flames that lick her come from the media.

We've come a long way baby but there is so much further we need to go!

Another Outspoken Female said...

PS off to watch the program online. The abc i/catch up has it on their menu for those in Aus who haven't seen it.

squib said...

Couldn't agree more with you. I still can't believe she had the guts to say what she did about Irwin

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Mex said...

i love the greer too! i think she is totally fearless fabulous and downright clever and brainy. we need MORE people like her, more women like her and less of the ignorant frightened people that dont like her type. im off to watch that ABC thing now.

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