And that’s by her own definition
There is a controversy going on in the UK over whether feminist author and celebrity Germaine Greer should have been allowed to speak at Cardiff University, Wales, on 18 November.
Greer, now 73, was once the doyen of the feminist movement, whose 1970 book The Female Eunuch, became an instant bestseller and led many women to realise their full potential as individuals. A liberation feminist rather than an equality feminist, in which she believes women’s liberation means embracing sex differences in a positive fashion – a struggle for the freedom of women to “define their own values, order their own priorities and decide their own fate.” (Germaine Greer, “The Whole Woman”, 1999)
So far, so hoopy. That is a very positive goal, which I personally admire and can fully agree with.
Unfortunately, Greer’s attitude to male to female transgender people is far from laudable. Indeed, she goes as far as to deny the very existence of trans people, which has caused the controversy over her intended speech at Cardiff. A petition was started asking her to be banned. In the event, Greer cancelled the talk herself.
The entire debacle started back in 2009, when Greer wrote an article for the UK newspaper, The Guardian, in which she stated that trans women “seem to us to be some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn’t polite to say so. We pretend that all the people passing for female really are. Other delusions may be challenged, but not a man’s delusion that he is female.”
There it is, girls; every one of you trans women are suffering delusions. One can only wonder what Germaine Greer makes of crossdressing genderfluid pansexuals like myself. But then, I don’t even need to ask. For in a speech at Cambridge University in January, she stated that trans women know what it is like “to have a big, hairy, smelly vagina”.
Can we take it from that statement that Germaine Greer defines her womanhood (and every other woman’s) by her genitalia? Excuse me, but isn’t a huge part of liberation feminism fighting the sexualisation of women?
Not for Greer, it appears, for she goes further. She stated both in 1999 and 2009, “No so-called sex-change has ever begged for a uterus-and-ovaries transplant; if uterus-and-ovaries transplants were made mandatory for wannabe women they would disappear overnight.”
This is the oft-repeated transphobic assertion that trans women are not real women, because they can neither ovulate or give birth. The fact that Germaine Greer is unrepentant over these ill-chosen words concern me greatly, and I wonder if she actually realises the full crassness of her statement. For by saying such, she not only deeply insults trans women, but also infertile women. Even if not doing it directly, she is defining what a woman is by her ability to ovulate and give birth.
And given that, I am more than willing to turn that right around on Germaine Greer. For if she wants to define women thus, then given her age I would imagine that she no longer able to menstruate and I would be very surprised if she ever gave birth to a child now. Therefore, by her very own narrow definition, Germaine Greer is no longer a woman.
That is of course, a nonsense. But it is playing Greer at her own game, just like all the other TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists).
And it is an important nonsense. What qualifies this Australian former convent school girl (oh, there’s a fucking surprise), with qualifications in English and French and an honourary doctorate alone, to speak on anyone’s gender except her own? Absolutely nothing. Indeed, even if she had qualifications in medicine or psychology, she still would not be qualified to say who is and who is not a woman. For the only person who is an individual on their gender is that person themselves, whether they have a penis, a vagina (big, hairy and smelly or not), or both.
Now there’s a thing; what does Germaine Greer say about intersex individuals? What does she say pseudohermaphroditism, where the testes do not drop but grow inside the (female) body? Do we even want to know? Probably not. Like trans women, she probably claims they don’t exist.
Amidst all this, Germaine Greer denies being transphobic. Says the woman who made all the above statements, and has also recently accused Caitlyn Jenner of “stealing the limelight” from Kim Kardashian, and that get this, “misogyny played a big part” in the decision of Glamour magazine to name Caitlyn Jenner their Woman of the Year. Of course, Greer’s denial of being transphobic is not akin to the person who says “I’m not a racist, but…”. No, it’s much more insidious, because it is again based upon her complete denial of the existence of trans women. When asked about transphobia, she told The Cambridge Student magazine “I didn’t know there was such a thing. Arachnaphobia, yes. Transphobia, no.”
Really Germaine? Tell that to the trans women who have been shunned by their loved ones, the ones who have been driven out of their neighbourhoods, the ones who daily live with abuse, the ones who have been threatened, the ones who have been beaten, and to the loved ones of the trans women who have been killed. That is the reality millions of trans women (and men) face every day, and to make flippant remarks about arachnophobia are not only not funny, they are disgusting.
Meanwhile, the middle class dahlings of The Guardian are trying to claim that Silencing Germaine Greer will let prejudice against trans people flourish (Guardian, 25 October). In a disingenuous article under the above heading, Zoe Williams of The Guardian tried to claim that “it is precisely because there is still so much prejudice against trans people that nobody should be silenced.” What? In the same way that allowing white supremacists a platform will put a stop to racism? That allowing jihadists to speak will end Islamic extremism? That allowing a fundamentalist Christian to speak on God’s ‘role’ for women will eradicate misogyny. Not a bit of it. Hate speech is hate speech, however it is dressed up, and deserves to be shut down wherever possible. This is precisely why Cardiff University has rules against certain speakers who spread hate, which should have made the petition completely unnecessary in the first place.
Some have claimed that Greer’s talk was to be on Women in Power and nothing to do with trans issues. Given this entire recent debacle – and Greer’s own words against Caitlyn Jenner – it is unintelligent to even imagine she would not have touched on the subject.
Germaine Greer of course is having a grand old time playing the martyr now. “I was going to talk about women and power, because I think there is a lot of triumphalist [sic] talk that masks the real historic situation,” she told BBC News, “And apparently people have decided that because I don’t think that post-operative transgender men are women I’m not to be allowed to talk.” Aww, poor Germaine – not allowed to spread her hate speech, which every TERF on the face of the planet would lap up, and which could end in more attacks upon trans women.
But as we can see, she remains unrepentant, which she made clear to the BBC by stating, “a great many women” who are cisgender think that trans women do not “look like, sound like or behave like women”.
Well firstly, I’m sure most if not all of my readers are only too painfully aware of the ignorance and prejudice which cis privilege affords. That no sooner backs up Greer’s argument. There are many straight people who deny that some people are born homosexual, but that does not mean that lesbians and gays do not exist. Germaine Greer is far from either ignorant nor stupid, therefore when she makes such a crass statement, one can only surmise that she is speaking from pure blind transphobic bigotry.
Secondly, and possibly more importantly, I was unaware that there was / is any particular way for women to look, sound, or behave. Far from it, I say that women come in all shapes and sizes, with many different looks, many different voices, and who follow many different behaviours. That’s what makes them individuals, and one can only wonder what qualifies Germaine Greer – or any these other cis women she claims to speak for – to dictate and define how a woman should look, sound or behave?
But then, I ask that because I am a liberation feminist. Germaine Greer, once one of the most important voices of feminism, is nothing today but yet one more cis bigot, and a sad parody of her former self.