Germs Greer was about to give a talk at Cardiff Uni but has come in for a lot of criticism about her views. Her own thesis in Female Eunuch is complex: basically it says women in a patriarchal society feel inauthentic and artificial. Her most recent addition to this was that she felt it no surprise that men were better at appearing as women than women themselves. Perhaps the recent phenomenon of transgender competes with her idea. We all know how possessive academics are of their territory.
When she says she has never wished harm to a transgender M/F person she is being dis-ingenuous. She was teaching at another university recently where a M/F person had an issue about lavatory facilities. Greer certainly sounded as if she was making the situation as difficult as possible. Added to the internal complexities such a person might experience was Greer’s assessment that such a person exemplified the idea that you could cut a portion off the male anatomy to create a woman (rather the creationist scenario).
Greer’s idea of a M/F person is a cynically successful drag queen, while the clearest idea of trans people is babies whose genitalia were so unidentifiable their obstetricians made arbitrary decisions about which gender they should be and performed the appropriate surgery. Today, trans people are being courageous the way gays and lesbians were in the 1970’s. They are simply demanding the basic right of self determination.
Why she should want to continue to lecture bewilders me; she has established herself in a beautiful rainforest part of Australia, adjacent to a very counter-cultural region. She has warned that if Cardiff Uni cannot guarantee that things will not be thrown at her during the speech she will not attend. The throwing of shoes was directed at US President Bush during the Iraq war; it is a symbol of deep psychic helplessness. Perhaps Greer needs to take into account that she speaks from a position of strength and power and many in her audience may well feel themselves helpless. She notes plaintively that things were thrown at her during a talk she gave in NZ.
I seem to remember somewhere in her book or in one of her contemporaries’ it is said that not all men are more powerful than all women; that a rich white woman is more influential than a working class uneducated man.
Finally, it needs to be noted that a 1970’s Australian contemporary of hers, Dennis Altmann, an academic and activist for gay rights, was asked what he thought of transgender, he said he did not understand the condition and so was unwilling to judge. Perhaps Greer needs to see transgender as more complex than her current ideas allow her.