Feminism/Germaine Greer

Germaine Greer has stirred up debate all her adult life, identifying herself since the late 50s as an anarchist. The Guardian reported that the writer Angela Carter described her as "a clever fool", while former British MP Edwina Currie called her "a great big hard-boiled prat". Christine Wallace used the terms "grooviness personified", "anachronistic passivity", and "hegemonic heterosexuality" to describe her subject, to which Greer replied that Wallace was a "dung-beetle" and "a flesh-eating bacterium". Stephanie Merritt wrote in The Guardian:

She has been in the business of shaking up a complacent establishment for nearly 40 years now and was employing the most elemental shock tactic of getting naked in public both long before and long after it ever crossed Madonna's mind ... She has repeatedly written about her own experiences of lesbian sex, rape, abortion, infertility, failed marriage (she was married for three weeks to a construction worker in the 1960s) and menopause, thereby leaving herself open to claims that she shamelessly extrapolates from her own condition to the rest of womankind and calls it a theory ... In part, her ability to remain so prominently in the public consciousness comes from an astute understanding and well-established symbiotic relationship with a media as eager to be shocked as she is to shock. [1]

Greer was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1939, growing up in the bayside suburb of Mentone. After attending a convent, Star of the Sea College, in Gardenvale, Melbourne, she won a teaching scholarship in 1956 and enrolled at the University of Melbourne, where she acquired the nickname Germianic Queer, and graduated in 1959 with a B.A. (Hons.). She then moved to Sydney, where she became involved with the Sydney Push, a group of intellectual left-wing anarchists who practised non-monogamy. The writer Christine Wallace describes Greer at that time:

For Germaine, [the Push] provided a philosophy to underpin the attitude and lifestyle she had already acquired in Melbourne. She walked into the Royal George Hotel, into the throng talking themselves hoarse in a room stinking of stale beer and thick with cigarette smoke, and set out to follow the Push way of life — 'an intolerably difficult discipline which I forced myself to learn'. The Push struck her as completely different from the Melbourne intelligentsia she had engaged with in the Drift, 'who always talked about art and truth and beauty and argument ad hominem; instead, these people talked about truth and only truth, insisting that most of what we were exposed to during the day was ideology, which was a synonym for lies — or bullshit, as they called it.' Her Damascus turned out to be the Royal George, and the Hume Highway was the road to it. 'I was already an anarchist,' she says. 'I just didn't know why I was an anarchist. They put me in touch with the basic texts and I found out what the internal logic was about how I felt and thought' (Wallace 1997).

While in Sydney, Greer lectured at the University of Sydney, gaining an M.A. in 1963 for a thesis on Byron. A year later, the thesis won her a Commonwealth Scholarship, which she used to fund her doctorate at the University of Cambridge in England, where she became a member of the all-women's Newnham College.

Professor Lisa Jardine, who was at Newnham with Greer, recalled the first time she met Greer, at a college formal dinner:

The principal called us to order for the speeches. As a hush descended, one person continued to speak, too engrossed in her conversation to notice, her strong Australian accent reverberating around the room. At the graduates' table, Germaine was explaining that there could be no liberation for women, no matter how highly educated, as long as we were required to cram our breasts into bras constructed like mini-Vesuviuses, two stitched white cantilevered cones which bore no resemblance to the female anatomy. The willingly suffered discomfort of the Sixties bra, she opined vigorously, was a hideous symbol of male oppression ... [W]e were ... astonished at the very idea that a woman could speak so loudly and out of turn and that words such as "bra" and "breasts' — or maybe she said "tits" — could be uttered amid the psuedo-masculine solemnity of a college dinner. [2]

Greer joined the student amateur acting company, the Cambridge Footlights, which launched her into the London arts and media scene. Using the nom de plume Rose Blight, she wrote a gardening column for the satirical magazine Private Eye, and as Dr. G, became a regular contributor to the underground London OZ magazine, owned by Australian writer Richard Neville. [4] The July 29, 1970 edition was guest-edited by Greer, and featured an article of hers on the hand-knitted Cock Sock, "a snug corner for a chilly prick."

She received her Ph.D. in 1968 for a thesis on Shakespeare's early comedies, and accepted a lectureship in English at the University of Warwick. The same year, in London, she married Australian journalist Paul du Feu, but the marriage lasted only three weeks, and ended in divorce in 1973.

Following her 1970 success with The Female Eunuch, Greer left Warwick in 1972 after flying around the world to promote her book. She co-presented a Granada Television comedy show called Nice Time with Kenny Everett and Jonathan Routh, bought a house in Italy, wrote a column for The Sunday Times, then spent the next few years traveling through Africa and Asia, which included a visit to Bangladesh to investigate the situation of women who had been raped during the conflict with Pakistan. On the New Zealand leg of her tour in 1972, Greer was arrested for using the word "bullshit" during her speech, which attracted major rallies in her support.

In 1989, Greer returned to Newnham College, Cambridge as a special lecturer and fellow, but left after attracting negative publicity in 1996 for allegedly "outing" Dr. Rachel Padman, a transsexual colleague. Greer unsuccessfully opposed Padman's election to a fellowship, on the grounds that Padman had been born a man, and Newnham was a women's college. A June 25, 1997 article by Clare Longrigg in The Guardian about the incident, entitled "A Sister with No Fellow Feeling", disappeared from websites on the instruction of the newspaper's lawyers.

Sources edit

Wikipedia article on Germaine Greer