Why Germaine Greer is wrong again
I am not sure when Germaine Greer morphed, in my eyes, from feminist icon to general public nuisance. She has now reached the point where some people think she deserves not to be heard at all.
Students at Cardiff University this week called for officials to cancel a lecture Greer, above right, was due to give because of her views about transgender people. Earlier this year The Female Eunuch author told the BBC that men can have sex change operations but it “doesn’t make them a woman”.
The comments were made in light of the suggestion that transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner, above left, was to become the next Glamour magazine Woman of the Year. Clearly, this annoyed Greer: The idea that transwomen could have advantages bestowed on other women without suffering the discrimination that comes with being female along the way.
It didn’t help that years earlier Greer also called transwomen “ghastly parodies”, claimed the idea of being trans was a “delusion” and questioned the existence of transphobia.
Greer claimed Jenner merely wanted to be as famous as her step-daughters, the Kardashian sisters. “It seems to me, what was going on there was, he/she wanted the limelight that the other, female, members of the family were enjoying and has conquered it, just like that,” she said.
I don’t blame the students for speaking out. I think it’s extraordinary that Greer can dismiss the courageous and inspiring way Jenner has transitioned into a woman so publicly as mere jealousy.
The transgender movement has battled long and hard for respect and recognition of the discrimination they face. The last thing they need is Greer legitimising discrimination against a group that is already marginalised in our community.
Let’s not forget that the adulation that has greeted Caitlyn Jenner is not replicated in the non-celebrity world. The same indulgence and understanding is not shared by most other transgender people – particularly those who do not have $100,000 to spend on surgery to reshape their faces and bodies to make them look not just feminine but conventionally beautiful as well.
Indeed, I’ve always been embarrassed to see men transitioning into women, trying to make themselves look feminine with makeup and earrings despite their stubbornly male large feet, hands and prominent Adam’s apples. It seems like cruel joke of nature that someone should have to be in the position where their biological body is such a mismatch for their inside gender identity. But I would never do what Greer has done and question their legitimacy.
This physical transformation usually only comes after they’ve spent decades trying to change their identity to match their bodies and failed. Finally, they realise it’s their body that needs to change.
That’s why, even though it can be confronting to outsiders, transgender men and women deserve our respect and admiration. They’re finally living a true life. That’s why I will call a transgender woman a woman if that is what she wishes. Clearly, in biological terms she’s not the same as someone who has an X chromosome and reproductive organs, but that’s frankly none of my business. And it’s certainly none of Greer’s business either.
Greer shot back, saying she was just expressing her opinion. It doesn’t make it fair or right. People shouldn’t have the right to hold and defend uninformed views. Someone like Greer has a responsibility to be more aware and informed. The problem is that her status gives her views a legitimacy they doesn’t deserve.
For too long people have been kowtowing to Greer just because she wrote a great book once.
For me, it’s not about protecting the delicate sensibilities of precious little students who can’t cope with being offended. It’s about a well-known academic and writer spouting views that are totally out of step with a progressive place like a university.
It was the same story when she criticised the size of our first female Prime Minister’s arse. And when she put the death of Crocodile Hunter Steve Hunter down to animals taking their “revenge”. And when she called legalised abortion a convenience for the IVF industry or criticised Elton John’s male partner for being listed as the “mother” on his child’s birth certificate. And now we have her highly offensive remarks about transgender people.
How could a woman who’s spent her life exposing and denouncing discrimination in all forms not see that transgender woman are often among the most discriminated? After all, transgender women are the ultimate female eunuchs, and Greer is smart enough to know this. Twitter @susieob, Facebook.com/ NewswithSuse and blog susieobrien.com.au