- Category : Writer
- Type : GE
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Quadruple Split (40,57,58,59)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX The Four Ways 4
Germaine Greer (born 29 January 1939) is an Australian born writer, journalist and scholar of early modern English literature, widely regarded as one of the most significant feminist voices of the later 20th century.
Greer's ideas have created controversy ever since her ground-breaking The Female Eunuch became an international best-seller in 1970, turning her overnight into a household name and bringing her both adulation and criticism. She is also the author of Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility (1984); and The Change: Women, Ageing and the Menopause (1991), and most recently Shakespeare's Wife (2007).
Greer was born in Melbourne in 1939, growing up in the bayside suburb of Mentone. Her father was a leading Australian insurance executive, who served as a Wing Commander in the wartime RAAF. After attending a private convent school, Star of the Sea College, in Gardenvale, she won a teaching scholarship in 1956 and enrolled at the University of Melbourne. After graduating with a degree in English and French language and literature, she moved to Sydney, where she became involved with the Sydney Push, a group of intellectual anarchists, many of whom practised polygamy. Christine Wallace, in her unauthorised biography, describes Greer at this time:
For Germaine, 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.
By 1972 Greer would identify as an "anarchist communist", close to Marxism.
In her first teaching job, Greer lectured at the University of Sydney, where she also earned a first class M.A. in romantic poetry in 1963 with a thesis titled The Development of Byron's Satiric Mode. 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 at the same time, recalled the first time she met Greer, at a formal dinner in college:
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 ... 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 pseudo-masculine solemnity of a college dinner.
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 also wrote a gardening column for the satirical magazine Private Eye, and as Dr. G, became a regular contributor to the underground London magazine Oz, owned by the Australian writer Richard Neville. 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 also posed nude for Oz on the understanding that the male editors would do likewise: they did not. Greer was also editor of the Amsterdam underground magazine Suck, which published a full–page photograph of Greer: "stripped to the buff, looking at the lens through my thighs."
In 1968 she received her Ph.D. in Elizabethan drama with a thesis titled The Ethic of Love and Marriage in Shakespeare's early comedies, and accepted a lectureship in English at the University of Warwick in Coventry. The same year, in London, she married Australian journalist Paul du Feu, but the marriage lasted only three weeks, during which, as she later admitted, Greer was unfaithful several times. The marriage finally 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 travelling 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 words "bullshit" and "fuck" during her speech, which attracted major rallies in her support.
During the 1970s Greer reinvented herself as an art historian, and undertook research for The Obstacle Race, the Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work .
Also in 1979, she accepted a post at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma as the director for the Center of the Study of Women's Literature. She was also the founding editor of Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, an academic journal, during 1981-2.
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 male, 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.
Greer's latest academic appointment is as a Professor in the Department of English Literature and Comparative Studies at the University of Warwick, Coventry.
The Female Eunuch
See also: The Female Eunuch
Greer argued in her book, The Female Eunuch, that women do not realise how much men hate them, and how much they are taught to hate themselves. Christine Wallace writes that, when The Female Eunuch was first published, one woman had to keep it wrapped in brown paper because her husband wouldn't let her read it; arguments and fights broke out over dinner tables and copies of it were thrown across rooms at unsuspecting husbands (Wallace 1997). It arrived in the stores in London in October 1970. By March 1971, it had nearly sold out its second printing and had been translated into eight languages.
"The title is an indication of the problem," Greer told the New York Times in 1971, "Women have somehow been separated from their libido, from their faculty of desire, from their sexuality. They've become suspicious about it. Like beasts, for example, who are castrated in farming in order to serve their master's ulterior motives — to be fattened or made docile — women have been cut off from their capacity for action. It's a process that sacrifices vigour for delicacy and succulence, and one that's got to be changed."
Two of the book's themes already pointed the way to Sex and Destiny 14 years later, namely that the nuclear family is a bad environment for women and for the raising of children; and that the manufacture of women's sexuality by Western society was demeaning and confining. Girls are feminised from childhood by being taught rules that subjugate them, she argued. Later, when women embrace the stereotypical version of adult femininity, they develop a sense of shame about their own bodies, and lose their natural and political autonomy. The result is powerlessness, isolation, a diminished sexuality, and a lack of joy:
The ignorance and isolation of most women mean that they are incapable of making conversation: most of their communication with their spouses is a continuation of the power struggle. The result is that when wives come along to dinner parties they pervert civilised conversation about real issues into personal quarrels. The number of hostesses who wish they did not have to invite wives is legion.
Greer argued that women should get to know and come to accept their own bodies, taste their own menstrual blood, and give up celibacy and monogamy. But they should not burn their bras. "Bras are a ludicrous invention," she wrote, "but if you make bralessness a rule, you're just subjecting yourself to yet another repression."
While being interviewed about the book in 1971, she told the New York Times that she had been a "supergroupie." "Supergroupies don't have to hang around hotel corridors," she said. "When you are one, as I have been, you get invited backstage. I think groupies are important because they demystify sex; they accept it as physical, and they aren't possessive about their conquests."
Greer's second book, The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work, was published in 1979. This work details the life and experiences of female painters until the end of the nineteenth century. It also speculates on the existence of women artists whose careers are not recorded by posterity.
Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility, published in 1984, continued Greer's critique of Western attitudes toward sexuality, fertility, family, and the imposition of those attitudes on the rest of the world. Greer's target again is the nuclear family, government intervention in sexual behaviour, and the commercialisation of sexuality and women's bodies. Greer's apparent approval of life styles and family values in the developing world — the world is over-populated, she argued, only by Western standards of comfortable living — and of poverty in preference to consumerism, led her to endorse practices frequently at odds with the beliefs of most Western feminists. Female genital mutilation had to be considered in context, she wrote, and might be compared with breast augmentation in the West.
In 1986, Greer published Shakespeare, a work of literary criticism, and The Madwoman's Underclothes: Essays and Occasional Writings, a collection of newspaper and magazine articles written between 1968 and 1985. In 1989 came Daddy, We Hardly Knew You, a diary and travelogue about her father, whom she described as distant, weak and unaffectionate, which led to claims — which she characterized as inevitable an interview with The Guardian — that in her writing she was projecting her relationship with him onto all other men.
In 1991, The Change: Women, Ageing, and the Menopause, which the New York Times called a "brilliant, gutsy, exhilarating, exasperating fury of a book" became another influential book in the women's movement. In it, Greer wrote of the various myths concerning menopause, advising against the use of hormone replacement therapy. "Frightening females is fun," she wrote in The Age. "Women were frightened into using hormone replacement therapy by dire predictions of crumbling bones, heart disease, loss of libido, depression, despair, disease and death if they let nature take its course." She argues that scaring women is "big business and hugely profitable." It is fear, she wrote, that "makes women comply with schemes and policies that work against their interest".
Slip-Shod Sibyls: Recognition, Rejection and the Woman Poet followed in 1995 and, in 1999, the whole woman, intended as a sequel to The Female Eunuch, in which she attacked both men and women for what she saw as the lack of progress in the feminist movement, and the whole woman. The chapter titles reveal the theme: "Food," "Breast," "Pantomime Dames," "Shopping," "Estrogen," "Testosterone," "Wives," "Loathing," "Girlpower", mirroring the arrangement of chapters in the earlier book. Greer wrote in the introduction: "The contradictions women face have never been more bruising than they are now. The career woman does not know if she is to do her job like a man or like herself ... Is motherhood a privilege or a punishment? ... ake equality is leading women into double jeopardy ... It's time to get angry again."
In 2003, The Beautiful Boy was published, an art history book about the beauty of teenage boys, which is illustrated with 200 photographs of what The Guardian called "succulent teenage male beauty", alleging that Greer had appeared to reinvent herself as a "middle-aged pederast." Greer described the book as an attempt to address women's apparent indifference to the teenage boy as a sexual object and to "advance women's reclamation of their capacity for, and right to, visual pleasure" (Greer 2003). The boy pictured on the cover was Björn Andresen, who has said that the use of his picture is "distasteful", and he was not consulted about its use.
A biography by Christine Wallace, Germaine Greer: The Untamed Shrew, was published in 1997. Greer responded that biographies of living persons are morbid and worthless, because they can only be incomplete. She said: "I don't write about any living women ... because I think that's invidious; there is no point in limiting her by the achievements of the past because she's in a completely different situation, and I figure she can break the moulds and start again."
In 1999, she sat for a nude photograph by the Australian photographer Polly Borland. The photo was part of a National Portrait Gallery exhibition in 2000. It later appeared in a book titled Polly Borland: Australians.
Belinda Luscombe in Time Magazine called Greer "the ultimate Trojan Horse, gorgeous and witty, built to penetrate the seemingly unassailable fortress of patriarchy and let the rest of us foot soldiers in." Angela Carter described her as "a clever fool", while former British Conservative MP Edwina Currie called her "a great big hard-boiled prat".
" mind provokes us like no other, but for all the wrong reasons," journalist Catherine Keenan wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald.
In early 2000, Greer claimed at a press gathering in London that she never set foot in Australia before receiving the permission of the "traditional owners of the land" at Sydney Airport. New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council spokesman Paul Molloy later claimed that she had never asked permission, despite visiting Sydney several times in recent years, and in any case there was no single group of elders that could give such permission to enter Australia.
On April 23, 2000, Greer was harassed in her home by a 19-year-old female student from the University of Bath who had been writing to her. The student broke into her home in Essex, tied Greer up in the kitchen, and caused damage to Greer's home. Dinner guests eventually found Greer lying in a distressed state on the floor, with the student hanging onto her legs. BBC News reported that the student was originally charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and with false imprisonment, but those charges were dropped and replaced with the harassment charge. She admitted harassing Greer and was sentenced to two years' probation and ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment. Greer was not hurt and told reporters: "I am not angry, I am not upset, I am not hurt. I am fine. I haven't lost my sense of humour. I am not the victim here." This incident is the initial plot premise for Joanna Murray-Smith's play The Female of the Species (2006); the main character's name in that play is Margot Mason.
In 2001, she attracted publicity again for a proposed treaty with Aboriginal Australia. In 2004, Australian Prime Minister John Howard called her "elitist" and "condescending" after she criticised Australians as "too relaxed to give a damn" and derided her native country as being "defined by suburban mediocrity." Howard called her comments "pathetic".
Since 1990 she has made eight appearances on the British television panel show Have I Got News For You, a record she holds jointly with Will Self. Her most memorable appearance was in 1995 when Ian Hislop quoted Greer's spat with a fellow broadsheet columnist, Suzanne Moore, which included a reference to Moore wearing "fuck me shoes".
Greer was one of nine contestants in the 2005 series of Celebrity Big Brother UK. She had previously said that the show was "as civilised as looking through the keyhole in your teenager's bedroom door". She walked out of the show after five days inside the 'Big Brother house', citing the psychological cruelty and bullying of the show's producers, the dirt of the house, and the publicity-seeking behaviour of her fellow contestants. However since then she has appeared on spin-off shows Big Brother's Little Brother and Big Brother's Big Mouth.
In September 2006, Greer's column in The Guardian about the death of Australian Steve Irwin attracted criticism for what was reported as a "distasteful tirade". Greer said that "The animal world has finally taken its revenge on Irwin". In an interview with the Nine Network's A Current Affair about her comments, Greer said "I really found the whole Steve Irwin phenomenon embarrassing and I'm not the only person who did" and that she hoped that "exploitative nature documentaries" would now end. Former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie labelled her comments "stupid" and "insensitive", one of a number of Australian political leaders to make similar comments. While several Australian newspapers reproduced part of her column they also published letters from readers incensed by her comments the following day. Other Australian commentators, such as P. P. McGuinness, a past editor of Quadrant, supported her comments. In a mixed newspaper opinion piece, she repeated her criticism of Irwin, while saying that it was "disgraceful that it has taken the Australian national portrait gallery six months to" exhibit a portrait of "this most famous Australian".
In October 2006, Greer appeared twice in an episode of Ricky Gervais' Extras playing herself.
In the same month she presented a BBC Radio 4 documentary on the life of American composer and rock guitarist Frank Zappa. She confirmed that she had been a friend of Zappa's since the early 1970s and that his orchestral work "G-Spot Tornado" would be played at her funeral.
In July 2007, Greer attacked the then Australian Prime Minister John Howard over his indigenous intervention policy, saying the crisis would be turned into "proliferating catastrophe".
In August 2007 Greer made comments regarding Princess Diana, calling her a "devious moron", a "desperate woman seeking applause", "disturbingly neurotic" and "guileless".
In popular culture
Greer is the subject of a song called "Mother Greer" by Australian band Augie March.
Greer is quoted in track one of Sinéad O'Connor's album Universal Mother. The track is called "Germaine" and quotes a Greer oration about matriarchy and fraternity.
The 2008 Beeban Kidron film Hippie Hippie Shake, based on Richard Neville's memoir, features Emma Booth playing Greer, who expressed her displeasure at being depicted in the film in The Guardian.