Contrary to all manner of vile rumour, I am perfectly capable of saying nice things about culture warrior and battle-hardened crusader against all things pink, otherwise known as Germaine Greer. I think she is an incredibly clever woman who expresses even the most insane opinions with tremendous flourish. I also think she’s damn fine; say what you want about aging, her face is as haughtily glamorous as ever, she has the stare of Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen, part glacial, part beguiling.
This is precisely why I have to pause and make sure I have not accidentally ingested some paint thinner with that Bloody Mary (stranger things have happened) when I see Germaine referring to Madonna as an “elderly mother,” among other things. Uh oh. I think the paint thinner is in YOUR Bloody Mary, Germaine. Step away from it before more people get hurt.
Now, you might wonder, what the hell is wrong with pointing out that Madonna’s getting on in years? By itself, nothing much. But I can’t stand this little barb, which amounts to “you had your children too late, Madge.” I honestly think this is even worse than Camille Paglia’s gleeful slut-shaming and snide dismissal of Madonna’s looks: “hard-bitten face lolling its tongue like a dissolute old streetwalker,” – really? People have complained that Camille Paglia always talks about the same damn thing, which she does, but the real entertainment is observing just how low she is willing to go for the sake of attention.
Still, I think there is something even more vile in taking someone else’s parental role and turning it into a cheap little insult. Madonna’s kids are not adults, they didn’t ask for this attention, and she’s their mother, no matter what. Way to take a giant dump on someone else’s family and age, Germaine.
Alas, it gets worse. Germaine Greer is not to be outdone by… Germaine Greer.
Behold! Germaine thinks that domestic violence in Aboriginal communities is a-OK!
“Now, now, Natalia,” Jezebel’s commenters would say. “Germaine is NOT saying that. All she’s saying is that white folk cannot self-righteously jump in to fix this problem of domestic violence.”
Yes, I get that she does in fact say that, and I agree with her. However, she also says this:
What is obvious is that when the Aboriginal man was dispossessed by the white intruder, he lost his moral authority over his family…Aboriginal people do not discuss this, but that in itself should not be taken to mean that it is unimportant.
Interestingly, in the Madonna article, she mentions that Guy Ritchie probably views his wife as “uncontrollable.” You see a pattern emerging here? (I’m not even going to get into the assumption that “Aboriginal people do not discuss this,” I’m sure some do, and some don’t, seeing as they’re human beings and all)
The Aboriginal man and the white man are the default human beings here. The Aboriginal women are not dispossessed at all, according to Germaine, rather, they are possessed, first by the Aboriginal man, and then by the white man. It’s the same argument as the one this guy once used to get me to shut up about instances of (dis)honour killing in Palestine – “well, the men just don’t have any authority! How DARE you say they’re guilty?!?!?!”
These are murky waters for me, because I don’t deny that, in one way, Germaine Greer is simply stating basic facts. We all know that when white folks set about “bettering” the “evil savages,” chaos and tragedy ensue. And, let’s face it, the idea of Aboriginal women as possessions is not exactly a new one – Germaine Greer didn’t make it up.
And yet I also see a deliberate refusal to treat Aboriginal women as human beings here. I see the idea that “those funny brown people have their traditions, and so what if a few women get hurt or killed?” Germaine is right in asking white folks to get a little perspective and stop being so self-righteous, but she is dead wrong to attempt to excuse, as opposed to explain, the situation.
She’s done this before. She thinks that FGM is perfectly cool, as long as it’s part of your culture (and if it isn’t? Not cool, I guess. How does that make any sense? Buggered if I know.). Her efforts to get white people to show a little humility, noble as they may be, have lead her to believe that them funny brown folks are incapable of dissent and debate within their own ranks. To her, they’re like statues in a museum – perfectly still, unmoving, good to gape at, impossible to actually engage. Or else they are just receptacles for the thoughts of white folk, their every move mapped by a white person’s hand. Or else they are the Borg, a mass of perfectly identical parts.
How would she attempt to explain the high instances of domestic violence in Russia, a country that colonized instead of being colonized? I suppose she’d just write it off on our savage, barbaric culture, making sure to throw in a few words on wee-wittle men who just HAVE to hit “their” women when said women have shown some interest in running off with rich foreigners, or whatever.
This isn’t surprising. In The Whole Woman, Greer essentially compared women to mindless receptacles as well. Much like Janice Raymond, she claims that birth control and abortion are simply male tools, used to control and exploit women’s bodies. It’s an interesting argument, and I’m sure it is perfectly applicable to some women, but when extrapolated to the whole of the female population it erases agency so thoroughly and completely that one has to wonder whether these two feminists LIKE women at all.
You might say, “well, Germaine insulted Steve Irwin too, and after he was no longer around to defend himself, no less, so she’s an equal-opportunity hater.” Perhaps. But she was insulting his career. When it comes to women, Germaine strikes at the very essence. It isn’t just Madonna’s career that she goes after, she goes after her status as a mother, her personal life, etc. She ponders the feelings of Australia’s Aboriginal men, but acts as though Aboriginal women have none.
She plays dirty. Specifically, she plays dirty with women. Not in the fun way, har har, but in the “I’m gonna get you, you bitch” way. And she particularly likes to go after women who are, for whatever reason, getting more attention that Germaine Greer.
Thank Batman I’m just a lowly magazine editor, right?
29 thoughts on “The Germaine Greer Clown Car Pulls Into Town Once More”
I’m boggling at the idea that 50 is an “elderly mother”. The xCLP’s dad is a few months older than Madonna, and I doubt anyone would call him an elderly father. Ohhhhh yeah, it’s different for men, isn’t it.
Germaine sure has changed from the days when she was banging Warren Beatty, Norman Mailer and Jimi Hendrix.
I liked her lots better back then… sigh.
I am going to go puke now.
Over at Racialicious, we’re discussing this exact thing, but passing over Greer and looking for strategies to advance Aboriginal women’s safety.
“What is obvious is that when the Aboriginal man was dispossessed by the white intruder, he lost his moral authority over his family”
woah, wait. huh?
what’s all this about men having moral authority over their families?
do aboriginal families even work like that, in this theoretical ideal pre-colonized state?
I find it bizarre that someone as seemingly well-read and clever as you are would prefer Madge over Germaine Greer.
You seem to embrace anti-intellectualism in the manner of well-behaved middle class children eagerly embracing “chav culture” to show daddy how wicked they are being.
“300,” Madonna, porn – a young woman of your caliber ought to reconsider such fixations, or place them in the appropriate context. You have a lot to learn from Harold Bloom, whether you would admit to it or not.
Pompy? Like the football club?
I think this ought to be the part where I say, “but Pompy, I’m not anti-intellectual! I embrace A, B, and C, not just X, Y, and Z!”
Except I’m not going to do that. Why should I bother? I don’t need approval from you, even though I appreciate you calling me clever and well-read.
If you’re ever in Moscow, please do let me know and I’ll buy you a bloody mary or three (no paint thinner included).
Joy, I will *totally* take you up on that. I haven’t been to Moscow in a while, but I am due for a visit.
To pick a quote and discuss it outside its context is only as clever as a tabloid journo. It is too easy for one to argue that Greer excuses Aboriginal violence. To overlook the finesse of Greer’s argument is like trying to read Lacan in English! Greer is a philosopher – she wants to question, to stir and to move. Not much different to Madonna. She had many Catholics question her faith, their faith, their family. She stirred people, she moved people. She attacked the core of their security. Read Greer as a philosopher and you may gain new insights.
Hi, this is my first visit to this site. I found it while I was googling Germaine Greer. Author, у тебя есть чувство юмора! (you’re funny).
Dex I must object to your comparison of the author of this piece to a tabloid journalist. I think she provided context for the quote and even agreed with Germaine Greer on some of her points, but unfortunately, Greer always wants to take things too far… 😦
I must agree with the author when she makes the case for Greer’s toxic attention-seeking behavior. This is what destroys Greer’s best efforts. She also makes the impression of a woman who just doesn’t like the other women, doesn’t have any patience for them, and worst of all she believes that she simply knows best. This isn’t just Aboriginal women she does this to, her ability to condescend is legendary.
I think the author looked much deeper into this piece, even deeper than the writers of Jezebel. She has pointed out what really makes us question Greer’s statements; it is the idea that all Aboriginal people are the same, that they “don’t talk about” certain things, and that the equation of Aboriginal woman = piece of meat, is a normal and acceptable one. It is excusing, not explaining.
Hi Dex, привет Marinochka.
Germaine Greer’s work doesn’t make me uncomfortable, it makes me mad. She takes a perfectly good idea (such as telling white folks to lose their superiority complex toward Aboriginal folks) and cheapens it with something unhelpful, dismissive, or downright cruel.
I wandered over from… some other blog, I lose track. Anyway, I like your stuff, just thought I’d share that!
Also, Germaine Greer makes me sad. She did a lot for social justice and change back in the day and now she’s… well, it’s disappointing.
Thanks for the great post.
You obviously haven’t read Germaine Greer’s actual essay about the causes of male violence in the indigene community. Not that you’d be capapble of understanding it. It’s not hard to follow, but you would be too busy trying to figure out how to make yourself look clever to pay attention.
Not only did I read it, I even linked to it! *applause applause* I’d never begrudge anyone the chance to form their own opinion.
I’ll chime in as an Indigenous Australian and agree that GG’s views on Indigenous Australia are patronising and brimming with white privilege.
Camille Paglia is seriously obsessed with Madonna, it’s a little scary. I read an article by her for class once about Madonna, which honestly, the overall point was good. She was saying that mainstream feminist thought was hating on Madonna because they assumed that by using sex to sell her music/image, she was being exploited, whereas a) men use sex to sell music all the time, are they being exploited, and b) if ever there was a woman clearly in control of her career/image, it was Madonna. A good point. The article was made difficult to read by two things. One was her constant immature hating on feminists (I’m sorry, the word “twits” does not belong in an academic article if you want me to take you seriously, period). The second was her sort of creepy fixation with how hot Madonna was. You practically had to wipe the drool off the page.
Good post, by the way. (sorry for the tangent, Camille Paglia gets my hackles up)
Hi Isabel, and thanks for stopping by. Camille seems to have abandoned Madonna in favour of Daniela Mercury. I’m sure Madonna is devastated.
Hi Lemur! *waves*
Hi Hexy! *kisses and hugs and much thanks for expressing yourself here*
“Not only did I read it, I even linked to it! *applause applause*”
Uh, no, you didn’t, you linked to some crap by Camille Paglia in Salon. The essay ‘On Rage’ isn’t online, it’s only a book at this point. You quoted a paragraph from a cut down version – and you didn’t link it.
But it’s hardly suprising. You don’t even seem to be aware how incredibly patronising you are in your assumption that you know what’s best for indigenous people.
Actually, an excerpt is online, and it’s right here.
That was the excerpt that I read, and quoted, and even attempted to link to! (my bad html copy and paste error is now fixed, thanks for pointing it out).
Now, please also point out where I have claimed to know “what’s best.”
Natalia, I was almost certain you said you agreed that white people shouldn’t go self-righteously stomping in to fix things.
I also got the impression from the excerpt that women are only discussed as objects – as men’s possessions. Perhaps afterward, the book centers on the battered women and children, but what I saw only seems to cover men’s problems.
Also, hmm… again, the excerpt I read seemed patronizing toward indigenous people.
Also, this link from Racialicious says:
Are we supposed to take Ms. Greer’s word over that of the aboriginal men and women who are talking about this? Noel’s word that this is a sense of resignation, the women who have turned to the government for help?
Who knows best what the aborigine communities need? The men and women in those communities, or Germaine Greer?
Oops, “Aborigine” and “Aboriginal.” Should be capitalized.
Apologies for messing that up.
“Germaine sure has changed from the days when she was banging Warren Beatty, Norman Mailer and Jimi Hendrix.
I liked her lots better back then… sigh.”
Yeah, me too, Daisy. I really liked The Female Eunuch; it actually made me think. This recycled-Dworkin “abortion and the Pill just sold us their Revolution” bitterness just… well, it makes a teensy bit of sense and then careens full force into WTF EW.
Noel Pearson’s programe of bringing change to Indigenous Australia has helped the Australian government to withhold welfare from Indigenous people legally entitled to it, if they don’t toe the government approved line, and condoned the sending in of military to remote indig communities identified as dysfunctional. He doesn’t support self-determination, and he doesnt speak for all indig Australians that’s for sure.
I don’t disagree that the Australian government has been dead-wrong on this issue. But saying that the poor dears just can’t help it, that they can’t even talk about it, isn’t helping either.