What Germaine Greer and The Female Eunuch mean to me | Books | The Guardian
Yet I have a better understanding of why Greer's polemic continues to leave me cold: When I was a child, my feminist mother had explained that the inability to control the wheres, whys and hows of reproduction was an inability to be truly free; as a result, my righteousness about the restrictions put on women started, and ended, with abortion.
Some of this was, of course, my own unsophistication and tendency towards single-issue preoccupation, though I had good reason to worry — the [US] supreme court's upsetting Planned Parenthood v Casey decision came inwhen I was just But 23 years on, The Female Eunuch's absence of anything substantial about the importance of abortion rights and access feels more disappointing than ever: With all the assaults on reproductive rights currently taking place in the US, The Female Eunuch feels like a relic.
Bidisha, human rights journalist and broadcaster Germaine Greer is a defining voice in western feminism, alongside Susan BrownmillerAndrea Dworkin, Kate Millett and others. No doubt these women would say that their ideas are the movement's ideas and that feminism's strength is that it is a leaderless, powerful mass movement.
With her charisma, cleverness and game, media-friendly grainy humour, she has gone beyond polemic to attain cultural national treasure status. Yet there is much more to Greer. She is a distinguished academic of many decades' standing, equally adept at subtly debating classical cultural representations of boyhood, breaking apart the patriarchal Freudian nuclear family, considering contemporary art and, in her latest role, conserving land in her native Australia.
She does all these things with her signature zeal, commitment and fearless determination. In The Female Eunuch, Greer said what women had previously been too polite, too nice, too deferential and basically too afraid to say, even though it was obvious: And that it comes from hate, not fear.
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It was crystallised in the famous line from that groundbreaking book: Without a doubt, she has had a significant impact on feminist movements in the global north. Her unapologetic boldness, in itself, offered another way in a time before "behaving badly" became a common way for women to be heard. Her insights, too, while not always strictly accurate, do offer revelatory analysis, and in a language so searing it galvanises us to reflect more deeply on the status of women and the nature of gender relations.
And of course her persistent attention to the role of sex in reinforcing unequal power between women and men remains one of her most important and abiding contributions. But like lightning, though brilliant, she has also been painful and damaging to feminist movements even as she forced them to turn towards her and react to her flash.
Her politics promise a welcome radicalism, a feminism to fight for: Yet this promise has been betrayed. Her arguments on care work and the role of women in families are at times underdeveloped and unhelpfully simplistic. She tends to privilege gender over any other social identity as the source of oppression in women's lives, which does not fully speak to the way patriarchy works for "other" women. And her culturally relativist approach to human rights violations such as female genital mutilation, as well as her transphobia, are abhorrent.
As it goes with pioneering figures, there is much to doubt and dismiss; yet we are still indebted to them, as we are to Greer, for taking risks in the first place. I'd side-eyed him with disbelief. I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I've never read The Female Eunuch in its entirety. Instead, I've dipped in and out of Greer's books and, I imagine like many young feminists, had the rest dripped into my veins intravenously through conversations with my mother.
In fact, the reason Greer had come up in conversation that particular time was because the nation had just witnessed her magnificent guest appearance on Never Mind the Buzzcocks. When writing about Greer's influence, many feminists will, I imagine, feel a need to outline the aspects of her work with which they vehemently disagree. I've never understood this. No writer of opinion expects universal consensus. Just as many of Greer's arguments are dated, her thoughts on transgender people, especially others are incredibly prescient — particularly the way she relates the oppression of women to consumerism.
Greer's powerful use of language is still echoed in mainstream writing today. So many feminist texts are, I'm sad to say, unutterably dull. Greer has beaten a path for the witty and the defiant. She uses words like "tits" and "arse", yet her tongue remains sharp, her arguments cogent.
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What Germaine Greer and The Female Eunuch mean to me
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