Germaine Greer is an Australian-born writer, who is an influential feminist and social critic. Her abrasive style and criticism of patriarchal structures have placed her frequently in the public eye. Greer argues the aim of feminism is to give women the opportunity to determine their own values and character independently of social expectations.
Greer was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1939. She studied at the University of Melbourne, then the University of Sydney. She also studied at Newnham College Cambridge, where she gained a PhD in English Literature. During her time at University, sh joined the Cambridge Footlights which launched her into the London arts and social scene.
During her time as a student, Germaine Greer became attracted to radical anarchist philosophies which sought to challenge the perceived wisdom of the day. She was particularly attracted by radical feminist politics and her book – The Female Eunuch (1970) proved a pivotal book in the ‘post-feminist’ (or ‘feminist second wave’) literature of the 1970s. The Female Eunuch explores the idea of continual female oppression arguing that society seeks to impose certain norms onto women’s expected behaviour. In the book, Germaine argues it is time for women to get angry again and pursue greater independence away from the social pressures that exist.
The Female Eunuch and Germaine Greer have been associated with the ‘bra burning movement’ because Germaine pointed out how restrictive and uncomfortable a 1960s bra could be.
“Bras are a ludicrous invention,” she wrote, “but if you make bralessness a rule, you’re just subjecting yourself to yet another repression.”
She has courted both praise and controversy. At one time she mentioned
“The more people we annoy, the more we know we’re doing it right.”
On various occasions, she has been fined while giving speeches. For example, in New Zealand, she was fined for swearing though this brought out a good deal of sympathy for her.
She has worked for the London satirical magazine Private Eye and also in recent times has appeared several times on the hit BBC news satire programme Have I got News for You.
In the 1970s, she also developed an interest in art history, researching for books, such as; ‘The Obstacle Race’, ‘the Fortunes of Women Painters’ and ‘Their Work’.
Politics of Germaine Greer
Germaine Greer is generally not associated with any particular political party. She describes her politics as an opposition to capitalism and hierarchical structure. It is a mixture of anarchism and Marxism, though she doesn’t place too much emphasis on labels and ideology.
She has frequently courted controversy in her home country of Australia. She wrote a critical piece about Steve Irwin saying that his death had shown the animal kingdom had taken its revenge. This created much controversy in Australia, though she stood by her statement.
She also once criticised Australia for being a sports-mad suburban wasteland devoid of intellectual stimulation. She was also critical of Australia’s relaxed attitude to the Aboriginal population. Former Australian PM John Howard was dismissive of her comments.
She was also somewhat dismissive of Madonna the pop icon criticising her as being the future of feminism.
“Madonna was a middle-class girl pretending to be tough, a religious girl pretending to be irreligious,”
Greer also courted controversy for rejecting the idea of transgender women. Greer maintains she does not regard transgender women as women because it is not fair for men to decide their gender.
She has written on issues of Aboriginal rights in Australia, arguing Australia should re-imagine itself as an ‘aboriginal nation’.
The Female Eunuch – Germaine Greer
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