The case for (?) Diana

I’d hate to see what kind of bile Germaine Greer would dump on my life if it were as scrutinized and well-publicized as the late Princess Diana’s.

Here’s an uncomfortable truth:

Almost everyone’s life is a mess. Perhaps there are monks on Aphon, or totem pole carvers in Alaska who have things figured out – but the rest of us? We’re practically doomed.

The backlash against Diana is somewhat understandable, considering the outpouring of hysteria that began practically hours after her death and lasted what seemed like a billion years. But I feel that people, smart people, are going too far in the other extreme.

I personally find that a lot of the criticism leveled at Diana carries some sexist undertones: we do not attack rich men the same way that we attack rich women, this rich woman in particular. Furthermore, even when people express sympathy for Diana many of them do it in a condescending, belittling fashion – “oh, what a poor lamb Diana was. What a sweet-faced little martyr.”

Diana combined serious agency with tremendous sexual energy. Many people are still uncomfortable with that. Was it fair that this woman hugged lepers to her Chanel suit and went back to her posh pad at the end of each one of her forays into Pauper Land? No. But guess what, the world isn’t fair. The world, in fact, is an ugly place – and so far, utopia-building hasn’t gotten humanity anywhere. Diana, at the very least, recognized her own privileged position. She used her glamorous image to do some good, which is more than I can say for myself, for instance (not that I have a glamorous image). She capitulated on our own screwed-up priorities, our desire for everything that glitters, to draw attention to worthwhile issues. And if she benefited from said screwed-up priorities, so what? She never claimed to be Jesus. You try giving up the lifestyle that you are accustomed to, the lifestyle you were born into.

Even Diana’s failed marriage was a lesson in itself – here’s an inexperienced young woman with no degree, her father unabashedly blabbers about her virginity on national television, and she’s getting hitched to a guy who’s only doing it out of an archaic notion of “duty.” Diana’s public humiliation, and the fact that she came to grips with it despite all the scrutiny, is part success story part cautionary tale. It’s almost like a lengthy public-service announcement, and one that she broadcast to the world with zero shame, no matter how many people have tried to shame her (and still do, a decade after her death).

Greer’s comments about Diana were self-serving at best. “Diana” has become just another buzzword for people to regurgitate whenever they want attention (whenever they come out with a new book, for example). Diana-bashing is easy, especially for people who supposedly have it all together, who have the perfect personal lives, the perfect ideological credentials…

Was Diana a saint? No. But I don’t think she pretended to be one either. The fact that there are plenty of real morons who have practically canonized her is not her fault.

Some feminists (notice: I don’t say “all feminists”) have an uncanny ability to tear into other women. While I’m not a believer in all this fuzzy “world-wide sisterhood” nonsense (perhaps I should be? I’d like to. I just can’t seem to do it at this point in my life.), I am still sometimes shocked by some of the rhetoric that I encounter as part of feminist discourse: “patriarchal whore,” and so on. God forbid you’re a woman who, for example, believes in abortion rights and eradicating FGM, but also, say, has a messy relationship with a boyfriend and wears lipstick when she goes out. Then you’re that creature that feminists of a certain stripe (once again, I don’t say “all feminists”) and patriarchs can easily tear apart: you get slagged by the former for your “conformity” and/or “stupidity,” and by the latter for being a “slut” who just “wants it all” (the amount of creepy men who comment on this blog, and my previous one, is truly astonishing… Although perhaps I should not be astonished).

In this context, Greer’s words are even more depressing.

Now, I’d like to see what the real feminist bloggers (God knows, I’m not “real” – I’m just a cardboard cut-out from slummy Eastern Europe who criticizes the Left, Right, and Center, wears perfume to the grocery store, and thinks the Duke Lacrosse case was a disgrace for practically everyone involved) will make of Germaine Greer’s comments, so I tag them:

Pandagon, Feministe, Laurelin, Bitch Ph.D., belledame222, No Cookies, the good people of Shakesville, Heart (I know she’s got bigger issues to worry about now, but a radfem take on this would be interesting -even if I disagree with it so virulently that I end up spitting up my strawberry juice all over my prissy handbag), Feministing, Vertical Blue, Hedonistic Pleasureseeker (how could I forget?), and Ali Eteraz (yes, I think Ali is a feminist, though I don’t even know if he identifies as one) – what say you?

And if I didn’t tag you, don’t get pissed at me, let me know what you think (unless you’re a dumbass troll, that is).

*crickets*

P.S. Watch this space for some fun conspiracy theorizin’ on Diana’s death.

P.P.S. You might be wondering how on earth this Diana thing is even a feminist issue at all. Perhaps it isn’t. I think it is, but I’m just a cardboard cut-out, after all.

36 thoughts on “The case for (?) Diana

  1. Although I’d just like to add on the lipstick front, that it’s generally radical feminists who are accused of slagging off women for wearing it, and I personally see this is a misreading of our politics. I haven’t seen a radfem slag off a woman for wearing lippie, but we are critical of the culture and of make-up, with its role in covering women, posioning women (it has icky chemicals in it) and making women ‘acceptable’ (see women’s magazines that tell women not to go outside the house without makeup….). For my part, I think the cosmetics thing needs proper analysing, and that relegating it to the realm of ‘choice’ without examining the context of ‘choice’ for women is politically lazy.

    Sorry if that sounded a bit ranty! Just wanted to attempt to set the record straight on that one (but of course, I’m prepared to be wrong about my no-radfem-said-that thing, I’m just going on my experience of radfems and radical feminism)

    too much typing… when I should be in bed… 🙂

  2. I actually don’t think it’s a radfem thing necessarily, I think it’s a weird thing that transcends boundaries… I’ve met plenty of men who say things like, “you’re not a feminist, you wear lipstick.” Lipstick is really a red herring (no pun intended, har har) in all this – but, and I haven’t really written about this but I have talked about it before, I have encountered a “you’re a made-up doll who’s our enemy” thing in the workplace. From a couple of self-proclaimed feminists, no less. I was literally harassed. My ethnicity was brought into play as well (when they realized I was originally from Ukraine, they decided to pity me). I don’t think they identified as radical feminists either. And they got away with it. It really freaked me out at the time. Needless to say, that job didn’t last long.

    I agree with you that people do unfairly get stuck with the label of “well, you just hate women who wear [insert beauty/fashion item here]!”

  3. ‘Made up doll’??? That’s horrible! Racism and misogyny from people calling themselves ‘feminists’…. ugh. I’m sorry that happened to you. That sucks.

  4. I’m not learned enough on all things feminist or on Princess Diana to attempt a post on this. So I’ll just comment here. I never understood the adulation this women recieved in life and then in death. I’m equally perpexed by the hate. She was a flawed human being like the rest of us. Grier is just trying to generate some buzz.

    BTW, your first sentence has me thinking. Would it be an interesting exercise to write an expose on your own life from the perspective of an attention seeking gossip columnist? I cant decide if it would be a fun exercise, creepy or just boring.

  5. I just want to thank you for the mention on behalf of all my fellow totem pole carvers. We don’t claim to be perfect, but we try to do our part in this rainy northern vale of tears.

  6. We should all just be thankful Greer wasn’t under the impression that Diana was a transsexual. It could have been much, much worse (as Rachel Padman might attest).

  7. I just googled Germaine Greer and Rachel Padman. Holy shit. She tried to get this woman thrown out of Newnham for being a transsexual?

    I can understand having some sort of ideological or philosophical debate about transwomen and transmen and, you know, whatever else tickles your fancy. But going after someone’s ability to put food on the table? Dear Lord.

    You know, I’m glad to say that I wrote about this, because now I’ve also found out that Greer calls certain women “rape fodder.”

  8. She’s quite the character, isn’t she? Positively Pagliaesque at times; channeling Sheila Jeffreys at others. the main common denominator seems to be making a spectacle out of herself.

  9. I normally enjoy people who make spectacles of themselves. But I’ve always had this schoolgirl-ish admiration wherein Greer was concerned. I always took her seriously – I mean, “The Female Eunuch,” what a ground-breaking book!

    I guess I never looked close enough.

  10. And by saying that, I don’t want to diminish the effect that this book had on an entire generation (or, for that matter, on me – although I’ve only read about 1/4 of it).

  11. Have you reread it lately? Apparently it doesn’t hold up well, at least for some people. I don’t remember if I ever did read it, probably not. I always kept mentally mixing her up with Erica Jong, somehow.

  12. “…so far, utopia-building hasn’t gotten humanity anywhere.” Rubbish. Try the abolition of slavery, the United Nations and Live Aid, for a start. Dreams of a better world have brought about some great changes in the world.

    Diana was a dumb blonde who found herself way out of her depth and flapped about like a trapped butterfly. I suspect her love for suffering humanity was dreamed up by someone’s PR department to try to give her, and the British Royal family, a more acceptable public image.

  13. Utopian thinking is behind the very worst humanity has to offer, from the more obvious figures like Stalin and Hitler to the slightly less so like Muslims who feverishly imagine a global caliphate, Neocons who want to make the whole world a reflection of American “democracy”, and the anarchists downtown who will slag off a “liberal” for trying to do some real world good if he’s not ready to totally tear down the system and start over as peace loving nature children. Of course, cynicism is fucking up the world too. It’s a slippery middle way and most of us suck at it.

    I’ve had to overcome a certain instinctive dislike of Diana because my parents’ generation loved her (I’m 26), and I of course had to loathe everything they were into, with a certain amount of dislike for the boomers also thrown in for good measure although they and Diana were a few years younger. I have my own sexist tendencies (and hey, don’t we all), but I don’t think my unfair disdain was based on misogyny, just the same fermenting psuedo-Marxist sour grapes I had for everyone rich and famous as a younger man. I still despise the monarchy as an institution but hey, I’m not a British subject and haven’t lived in the UK since 2003 so really, who cares? Diana was probably not much better or worse than the rest of us. She could be an irresponsible, messed up human being but I reckon she never got into a drunken spiral because of a bad breakup that got her into a fistfight with a friend and ended up with her losing an apartment; can’t make that claim myself, can I?

    The one area in which Diana was special (in my eyes) was that she broke the British tradition of royalty having to act like machines and refuse to admit to humanity and fallibility in public. Would a man have been pilloried like she was? Well, maybe not for the same reasons but damned if he wouldn’t have gotten it as bad or worse for not being manly enough. Anyway, cheers to her for this; it’s an almost criminal abuse of human beings to expect them to constantly act like supermen.

    I have no idea whether I’m a feminist. I don’t even know what the word means; my rather conservative Aunt in a somewhat unequal relationship considers herself a feminist as does a friend I used to date who is now a Womens’ Studies major who believes all gender is a plot to oppress humankind through divide and conquer techniques. I used to have a shirt from hijabman that said “This is what a radical Muslim Feminist looks like” that a friend gave me, and I stopped wearing it because I became unsure that when a man was wearing it he didn’t look like one of those white guys who constantly need to prove to you how many black people they hang with and how down they are with black culture. I’ve also known several guys who become heavily involved in feminist issues and seem to be (ironically) trying to get laid. It’s hard to say, and this is already getting a bit long so I’ll avoid my rant on the different waves of feminism.

    Thanks for coming by my site, by the way. The spam filter nabbed your comments for some reason but I pulled them out.

  14. …who believes all gender is a plot to oppress humankind through divide and conquer techniques

    Ah yes, the old gender as a construct chestnut. I used to buy into that myself, but I don’t anymore, not really. I still think that there are some pretty screwed up roles that get assigned to people because of gender, and that it goes for both men and women alike, but neither do I think that gender is some illusion that we must through ourselves at like hungry tigers at a piece of meat.

    Thank you for returning the visit. You should be on my blogroll. I think I’ll go ahead and take care of that now…

  15. Would a man have been pilloried like she was? Well, maybe not for the same reasons but damned if he wouldn’t have gotten it as bad or worse for not being manly enough.

    It’s always been my belief that sexism hurts men too. A lot of the guys I know who are screw-ups had fathers who’d slap them around, call them “sissy,” scream that they weren’t “man enough” to do x, y and z, for example. Mothers can be terrible abusers as well in that regard. And society finishes the job for them.

  16. “Look up the definition of the word “utopia” before you go around calling other people dumb.”

    I don’t need to look it up – I know what it means. If you choose to see a dumb blonde as a feminist icon, that’s not my problem.

    FWIW, Germaine Greer seems to have a lot more sense, more intelligence and more wisdom than you. Perhaps you should cultivate a little humility and try to learn from her; at least she’s not a dumb blonde.

  17. If you knew the definition of “utopia” you wouldn’t be on here telling me all about Live Aid.

    “Feminist icon?” Reading comprehension is your friend.

    “Dumb blonde” is not an original or clever insult, toward anyone.

  18. Your patronising response seems based on inaccurate presumptions of my level of knowledge and learning and indicates an inability, or an unwillingness, or both, on your part to deal with the points I raised.

    I don’t feel a need to appear original or clever; you appear to be neither.

  19. Dude, I’m going to quote your own words back to you:

    “…so far, utopia-building hasn’t gotten humanity anywhere.” Rubbish. Try the abolition of slavery, the United Nations and Live Aid, for a start. Dreams of a better world have brought about some great changes in the world.

    For someone who appears to take great pleasure in eviscerating others for their presumed lack of intelligence, you have some seriously confused notions as to the definition of utopia.

    Also, you haven’t raised any points. You’re just on here spewing bile.

    Now, for all I know you’ve fifteen PhD’s and Stephen Hawking and Harold Bloom simultaneously lick your boots each morning.

    I wouldn’t care either way.

    “Go sell crazy somewhere else, we’re all stocked up here.”

  20. FWIW, Germaine Greer seems to have a lot more sense, more intelligence and more wisdom than you. Perhaps you should cultivate a little humility and try to learn from her; at least she’s not a dumb blonde.

    Anyone who can say this about the bigoted Germaine Greer is not someone worth talking to. Germaine Greer is just another so-called “feminist” who believes that feminism is about shouting misogyny to the rafters.

  21. And honestly, anyone who can talk about “dumb blondes” like you just did has nothing worth hearing or reading when it comes to any feminist or feminism in general.

  22. Well, I seem to have upset a few people – there’s an absence of reasonable debate here but it doesn’t matter much to me.

    The assertion that “…utopia-building hasn’t gotten humanity anywhere” is rubbish. Some great positive changes and some terrible things have been brought about by people trying to build what they saw as a better society – that’s “utopia-building” in my book and humanity has been there many, many times.

    Diana was a media target because she was a reasonably good-looking young woman in a high-profile situation. She’s still an issue simply because the media and others want to keep the story going: it sells.

    People who can on one hand call Germaine Greer “a so-called feminist” and in the same breath claim Princess Diana as some kind of exemplar of enlightened modern womanhood are significantly out of touch with reality, in my opinion.

    Anyway, enough of this – the real world is calling. I won’t be back.

  23. that’s “utopia-building” in my book and humanity has been there many, many times.

    There’s your problem – you’re only reading from your own “book”. Raising money for AIDS patients is not utopia-building. In fact, you haven’t the slightest idea as to what I meant when I said “utopia-building.” You just decided to do a little drive-by commenting, while simultaneously opining on a “dumb blonde” who was “out of her depth”. That was richly, gloriously ironic – thank you.

    Also, you seem to be under the impression that I have been comparing Diana to Greer. Once again, you’re commenting offhandedly without reading anything I actually said, content to blame others for lack of “reasonable debate.” More sweet, succulent irony.

    Anyway, enough of this – the real world is calling. I won’t be back.

    Thank the good Lord for small favours.

  24. Natalia, if your picture is to be believed you seem to be a young woman. So here is some advice from a decidedly not young woman. Germaine Greer has nothing to offer you. You should think of her as a 60s version of a radio shock-jock. Like Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, or Camille Paglia, she has stupid opinions that, for reasons that escape me, other people take notice of. Rachael Padman on the other hand is really smart as well as very sensible and capable. If you have a chance to interact with either of these women, there is no doubt you should choose Rachael.

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