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|Spectra and binaries|
“”Nowadays we are all likely to meet people who think they are women, have women's names, and feminine clothes and lots of eyeshadow, who seem to us to be some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn't polite to say so.
|—Germain Greer, 2009|
Germaine Greer is an accomplished radical feminist author, journalist and scholar. She wrote the important feminist tome The Female Eunuch, which decried the 1970s ideal of a "stable," suburban nuclear family as repressive of women, and dedicated her life to "women's liberation." She is currently emeritus professor in English Literature and Comparative Studies at the University of Warwick.
During the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses, Greer refused to sign a petition supporting Rushdie because she said it was “about his [Rushdie’s] own troubles”. She went on to say that Rushdie was “a megalomaniac, an Englishman with dark skin."
On September 2006, she wrote a piece in The Guardian concerning the death of Steve Irwin. While many mourned his death, Greer declared that "the animal world has finally taken its revenge." This piece was published one day after Irwin was killed by a stringray.
As with many other powerful voices of the second wave of feminism, Greer has been a frequent and forceful critic of transsexualism and transgenderism, like her contemporaries Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys.
Greer holds views on transgender people that are common for transphobic individuals, but compounded by a grounding in a rather simplistic interpretation of feminist theory. For instance:
“”Governments that consist of very few women have hurried to recognise as women men who believe that they are women and have had themselves castrated to prove it, because they see women not as another sex but as a non-sex. 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. The insistence that man-made women be accepted as women is the institutional expression of the mistaken conviction that women are defective males.
|—Germaine Greer, The Whole Woman, 1999|
This excerpt from her book The Whole Woman is way off base. The procedures she describes are beyond current medical technology; it is literally impossible to meet the standard she arbitrarily imposes. Transsexual women have actually died attempting to have uterine transplant procedures, and it is a common occurrence in post-op trans women to strongly desire the procedure, in some cases resulting in depression at the fact that medical science has not made it safely viable. Uterine transplantation has been performed successfully on at least one cisgender woman, meaning the day might soon come when a trans woman could likewise have a uterus, though this would not justify her bigoted gatekeeping. The first successful operation was performed in Turkey in 2011, but the patient - a cis woman - was not able to carry a pregnancy to term.
Like many of the allegations Greer makes about transsexualism, her assertion that "No so-called sex-change has ever begged for a uterus-and-ovaries transplant" is demonstrably false. Lili Elbe (Lili Ilse Elvenes) was probably the second identifiable individual ever to undergo gender reassignment surgery in a series of operations carried out in 1930 and 1931. The second of the four operations involved implanting an ovary. The fourth involved transplanting a uterus, and was probably the cause of her death in September 1931. Part of the reason she gave for wanting to undergo such highly experimental surgery was her wish to marry a man, and bear children.
Accusations of sexism
In November 2008, Greer mocked Michelle Obama's election night outfit, calling the dress a "butcher's apron" and a "travesty". She also said her daughters' clothes were not "girly" enough. In the same month, she said Cheryl Cole could not be a feminist icon because "there's not enough of her - she's too thin" and that "a healthy girl is a fat-bottomed creature."
Greer was accused of sexism and hypocrisy as a feminist when critiquing Australia's first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard, during a television debate in March 2012. Rather than discuss policy, Greer chose to mock the Prime Minister's fashion sense, and labelled her a "big arse". Interestingly, she believes it is acceptable to insult a woman as a "big arse" while also believing "a healthy girl is a fat-bottomed creature."
- Germaine Greer, Caster Semenya sex row: What makes a woman?, The Guardian, 20 August 2009.
- "Germaine Greer - Biography", The European Graduate School.
- How one book ignited a culture war
- Today everyone wants to defend Salman Rushdie. It was not always like that
- A Fundamental Fight
- Germaine Greer's big mouth
- That sort of self-delusion is what it takes to be a real Aussie larrikin
- World's first womb transplant in Turkey promises hope for women
- Lili: A Portrait of the First Sex Change by Lili Elbe, Edited by Niels Hoyer, Canelo, 2015. Previously Published as Man Into Woman: The First Sex Change, a Portrait of Lili Elbe: the True and Remarkable Transformation of the Painter Einar Wegener; ISBN-13: 9789333656917 (Hardcover). Page three of the introduction has all the pertinent details in one passage.
- If Michelle Obama's such a great dresser, what was she doing in this red butcher's apron?
- Germaine? You lost me at "big arse" …
- Women being mean to women: still sexist