Has Germaine Greer Become A Ghastly Parody?

GermaineGreer_cJonathanRing  I’m feeling pretty damned good about ground gained in western culture by transgender people. I was there at the beginning of this loosely-knit yet somehow united movement, and things are a whole lot better for trans people today in Western culture than they ever have been.

There are many people who are claiming and living lives far beyond man or woman. There are many people who live fluidly gendered lives.  There are many people who know the dangers of gender when it plays itself out as an unconscious social binary. 

It’s not Mission Accomplished, not by a long shot. But talented trans people are scaling the walls of political power and artistic genius. There are deeply compassionate trans people who are religious scholars and clergy. Transdora's box is wide open and we're never going back. I am tranny, hear me frakking ROAR! 

And then along comes Germaine Greer—genuine warhorse and goddess of feminism—on 20 August, 2009 with an Op-Ed piece in The Guardian she calls Caster Semenya sex row: What makes a woman? In this new piece, Ms. Greer refers to transwomen—me and my brave sisters and mothers and daughters—as “ghastly parodies” of women. 

I’m not going to talk about Caster Semenya’s dilemma beyond saying that she’s being treated with intolerable rudeness and disrespect by the media. It’s the same savagely uncaring journalistic strategy used against Dr. Renée Richards when she was so rudely outed to the world in the 1970s and 1980s.

Yes, yes. Ouch. It hurts to be called a ghastly parody. And that kind of talk feeds transphobia across the world. So, shame on The Guardian for printing these hateful words. But who is Ms. Greer to be hurling these invectives, and why? Greer is no one to dismiss as an idiot or complete jerk. Through her relentless work, Ms. Greer has raised the volume of women’s voices in the world. She got people around the world to start taking women more seriously. 

And here's the problem: all the time she was doing that great social activism, Greer believes to the core of her being that woman is an essential identity. The gender battleground on which Germaine Greer fought and learned her political strategies was gender-as-man-and-woman-only. On that battlefield, it's easy to attack transgender people as freaks.

The good news is that Germaine Greer's transphobia is more the exception among todays scholars, artists and activists. They work as tirelessly as Greer herself on issues of gender rights, freedoms, parameters, and dignity. Postmodern gender theory has been taught in colleges and universities around the world for over fifteen years. It's over-spilling the walls of academia. The battlefield/playground has shifted. Nothing is essential any more. 

Germaine Greer's tragedy is that she has not considered as even possible the theory of gender fluidity. For her kind of activism to work, MAN and WOMAN can and must be essential as well as easy to tell apart from each other. Greer is a fierce warrior, but to nail down the gender binary, she concludes her op-ed piece by saying,

“People who don't ovulate or menstruate will probably always physically outperform people who do.” 

Ms. Greer is claiming that biology is, in fact destiny.

The price of being a writer of vitriol is that it reveals your most private fears, which you've penned in the form of an attack on someone else. And sadly, that makes Ms. Greer a ghastly parody of herself. What she wrote was painful and destructive. But the loss of her fierce presence on the front lines of feminism is more to be mourned than scorned.

And the point of all this is to assure you: it really has gotten a lot better for transgender people. There's a long, long way to go. But it's much, much better. I promise.

Kiss kiss,

Your Ever-Loving Kate

8 Comments

  1. “People who don’t ovulate or menstruate will probably always physically outperform people who do.”
    This includes people, like me, who she’d consider women, by the way. & Apparently, also from this jack-ass quote, post-menopausal make superior athletes.

  2. “Yes, yes. Ouch. It hurts to be called a ghastly parody…”
    This is why I try to promote civil rights as human rights. Whoever we are, however we identify, we are most human when we work to end all kinds of oppression.
    I guess I would identify Germaine Greer not as a ghastly parody of a feminist, but as a ghastly parody of a human being.

  3. What a horrid woman.Someone had to say it.

  4. Greer once again shows us that her thoughts are never germane. When She writes:
    “Nowadays we are all likely to meet people who think they are women, have women’s names, and feminine clothes and lots of eyeshadow, who seem to us to be some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn’t polite to say so.”
    she could just as easily be writing about *any* woman who has an over-the-top femme presentation.
    Are they not women because they don’t measure up to some androgynous feminist ideal?
    of course Greer makes her own concept clearer when she writes a couple sentences later:
    “Other delusions may be challenged, but not a man’s delusion that he is female.”
    Well, the un-germane Greer seems to make sense only if we define “who is a man” in such a way as to mean only male-identified individuals. Then it doesn’t make any sense at all, since a “male-identified” individual wouldn’t think he was female unless he was delusional.
    Picture the burly bearded male-identified construction worker being worried about his period being late, or imagining he’s having one, despite having the wrong plumbing. I would agree, the poor thing would nearly as delusional as Greer.

  5. Hi Kate,
    Delighted to find your blog. Gender outlaw was a real revelation when it came out here. Thank you….somewhat belatedly but better late than never..
    What I admire about you is that you are an intellectual rather than academic. Greer is an academic; she is mean spirited, cruel, ignorant and worst of all boring.
    She made a very unpleasant attack on April Ashley in The Female Eunuch and there is an appalling chapter in ‘The Whole Woman’ in which she attacks virtually everyone who doesn’t fit her criteria of ‘woman’. This clearly reflects an anxiety on her part about whether she fit the criteria for ‘woman’. Let’s all ask her about the kids!
    In the Hell Woman,she remarks that it may seem cruel not to accept automatically as women and people need to consider what it does to other womens (ie her) self esteem when doctors assign sexes to people.
    Only insecure incompetent people bully people with less power than them. She had a go at the very cool Tracie O’Keefe and when I asked Tracie about it during a talk she gave a few years ago, Tracie responded gracefully, ‘Oh Germaine’.
    I am looking forward to reading your book on avoiding suicide. That is what Greer does to women like me; makes you want to kill yourself. When I was at university doing English at Southampton, England, I spent a lot of time in a state of fear because of ‘feminists’ like her.
    I was not allowed to allowed to do a research masters in ‘gender studies’ critiquing the idea of ‘gender’ and particularly Transsexualism, Technology and the idea of Gender by Bernice Hausman. Dismantling Herman Rapaport,the supervisor of this pack of lies, resulted in kind of gang rape by academics and the destruction of the career I intended.
    My personal tutor, Dr Bella Millet advised me that I shouln’t even bother trying to have an acaedemic career…because of Germaine Greer..
    Another ‘feminist’, DR Nicky
    Marsh told me that I had to listen what feminists say about ‘gender’ and quote from Judy’s ‘Gender TTrouble’. Professor Peter Middleton has now admitted tthat it does not really make sense! It is a cunning plan to make the undergraduates feel stupid.
    I told them I was planning to use Gender Outlaw and also ‘The Wise Wound: The meanings and and myths of menstruation’, by Peter Redgrove and Penelope Shuttle.
    In November 1988, I met Peter Redgrove, one of the authors, in Falmouth Cornwall and told him the story. He gazed into the corner of his study and said, ‘I think you will go through hell and then you will be a wise woman and you will be able to do the same work I do; on the principle of the wounded healing the wounded’.
    It is typical that a Guardian critic suggested that Redgrove was sometimes ‘unfairly seen as an old warlock going crazily on about menstruation’.
    It was only when I read the book in 2004 that I realised that he was suggesting that I would one day be a witch!
    We have a real problem in the UK with some of these people using ‘gender’ as a stick to beat other people with. Especially sad sour cruel cows like Greer who ‘outed’ Rachel Padman in all the newspapers.
    Even the president of the press complaints commission responded with humanity to a letter I wrote to him in 2004 about the effect that this kind of hate speech has on people. It was subsequently published without permission by our self elected ‘Trans politician’ Christine Burns who told publicising a letter about Human Rights and privacy did not matter. Burns made feel like killing myself but Beales asked me for advice.
    I have a bit to say about Greer and her bottom in this letter. PP39-40
    http://www.pfc.org.uk/files/Transsexual_People_and_the_Press.pdf
    We are currently organising a rebellion in Britain against the tyranny of ‘gender’. Dr Anthony Storr wrote of me on 18th November 1982, ‘I am not quite sure why his rebellion against the authorities started.’
    This time I intend to ensure that everyone knows. I have recently sent an email to Professor Keith Hawton, director of adolescent suicide research at Oxford with a picture of me with a Bren gun wearing a short kilt and congratulating him on correctly identifying me as a ‘primary transsexual’ when I was seventeen in 1982.
    I have also sent him a post card with the observation that the best way of avoiding adolescent suicide is to stay away from psychiatrists. No reply. I thought he would like copies of my medical records for his research.
    I was attacked and bullied to death by a man who is now a spokesman for gender reassignment in the uk. I have put up my suicide diary and police statements here:
    http://katemiddleton-lsu.blogspot.com
    My project is to prevent further adolescent suicides: a shared interest. Please spread the word…it’s important for the kidd
    Just one final thought. Greer could learn a lot from my intellectual mentor. I met Big Bird at The White House in 1969 when I was 4 year as a diplomatic child. Pat Nixon was there too but I was more interested in Big Bird: I haven’t changed my mind.


  6. “People who don’t ovulate or menstruate will probably always physically outperform people who do.”
    ‘Ms. Greer is claiming that biology is, in fact destiny.’
    You’ve basically pointed out that in this one sentence, she’s completely invalidated her own years of work.

  7. Oh my
    I so adore you Kate
    I’m female, though I was at one time labeled a transsexual man. A comment in one of Kate’s early writings punctuated the start of my journey to self-affirmation.
    Kate once wrote of her childhood, the pain of an innocent young “boy” who felt that something was terrible wrong with “him”. Twisted, sick. I knew something of what Kate felt back then, for it was how I felt. It is so tragic that young people, any people, should feel wrong just so others can feel so right.
    Yes – we have come far. Civilization may yet be a possibility!
    Now decades later, I have affirmed “me”. My condition has been faced, embraced. I have been treated by those that know and care. My quality of life immeasurably improved. My body now matches the always-and-forever, innate “me”. There is nothing WRONG with me. I truly wonder what all the fuss was about. I am now married (10 years) to a lovely & loving man. Together we raise his beautiful daughter – happiness & fulfillment – “normality” (tongue in cheek) is mine.
    _________________________
    EXCLUSION
    OUR desperate LONGING to BELONG
    requires that SOME DO NOT
    To feel GOOD
    some require that others appear BAD
    Logical Captain !
    _________________________
    GERMAINE GREER
    A woman who did much for all woman – along time ago.
    Who has since shown herself to be full of bitterness, hate – insecurity.
    Incapable of an intimate relationship with a man (or a woman) or anyone else. Who once said that penetrative sex – the union of man and woman – was a disgusting thing.
    How totally sad.

  8. Well, the un-germane Greer seems to make sense only if we define “who is a man” in such a way as to mean only male-identified individuals. Then it doesn’t make any sense at all, since a “male-identified” individual wouldn’t think he was female unless he was delusional.

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