Germaine Greer is a massive hater

She is a bizarre human being

Cambridge Union Society CUSU cusu lgbt cusu women's campaign debate Feminism germaine greer Muslim no platform politics transgender transphobia transphobic Union women

I wasn’t planning on going to the Union on Monday. Particularly after the lengths CUSU LGBT+ and the Women’s Campaign had gone to boycott Greer.

But then I heard that Rachael Padman (the trans woman whose appointment Greer had opposed in 1996) was encouraging critical engagement with her.

Without wanting to get into the no platform debate AGAIN, I like to think intellectual engagement is a more positive and effective form of progress-making than avoidance.

Rachel Padman encouraged engagement with Greer

Rachel Padman encouraged engagement with Greer

That said, I was still very nearly swayed by the trans-positive canvassers  handing out leaflets for an alternative event on the door. In hindsight, I realise that definitely would have been the much more sensible and enlightening choice.

Here’s the thing. Germaine Greer confirmed for many last night what had been a suspicion for a long time. While her contribution to the feminist narrative is not one to be overlooked and much of her activity in the 70’s and 80’s something to be lauded, she is ultimately a massive hater.

After her monologue on ‘the disappearing woman’, the floor opened to questions. Greer shifted uncomfortably in her seat and got ready to dodge everything that was thrown at her.

I sat watching as she went from quiet misdirection to faux incredulity to vehement indignation as deftly as a trained politician. She managed to answer just about none of the questions she was asked.

For someone so famous for her polemic stance, she sure knows how to say a whole lot of nothing.

Except she wasn't listening

Except she wasn’t listening

“What do you say to accusations that you are transphobic?” came the first question, to the relief of everyone feeling troubled about their moral justifications for attending the evening.

The answer was bemusing: ‘I’m not sure there is such a thing as ‘transphobia’, ‘arachnophobia’ yes but… There is something deeply troubling about the mutilation of one’s own body… the consequences of taking medication for the rest of your life… being a woman isn’t all fun… impersonation of women deeply upsets me….’

As a later question pointed out, her opening monologue had focused so much on a need for the respect of agency. We must be sensitive to the desires and agency of women in the Muslim world, we should be respectful of women who want to take their tops off, if people want Page 3 who are we to deny them?

So isn’t this hypocritical? Isn’t she taking away people’s agency by condemning a transwoman’s choice to transition? Isn’t she contributing to a phenomenon of disappearing women by infantilising women who don’t physically stand up to their abusers on public transport? If posing for Page 3 is an application of personal agency, why not buying anti-wrinkle cream?

This was the final question and we only had time for an answer, but boy was that answer stunning. ‘I can’t take away anyone’s agency’ she chanted. ‘Agency isn’t something you can take away, it is something you have’. ‘It is fine for you to have an opinion, but to phrase it as a question is wrong’ – and here she was venting – ‘because it is not a question’.

Now what the hell are you talking about Germaine Greer? Of course you can have different degrees of agency. Does a feudal lord have the same agency as a peasant? Does a prison inmate have the same agency as a free person? Of course not.

Womanhood=periods?

Womanhood=periods?

Does a trans person have the same agency as a cis person? Not in the world you seem to want. Not in a world where genital surgery is an ‘abomination’. In that world, trans people are second-class citizens, reduced to the mentally unwell, the ‘deluded’, removed of their voice and their agency.

So here’s what I’d like to say to Germaine Greer, in reply to her last answer. When you come to lecture us about disappearing women, please give some of those women a voice instead of trampling all over them with your fetid judgements.

You seemed positively contemptuous of half the questions the audience asked you and couldn’t answer the other half. If I’m going to contribute to giving you a platform, the least you can do is actually listen.

Seeing that she’s failed in that, it is obvious what we must do now.

 And that’s say a polite ‘thank you very much’ and then wave Ms Greer back to ‘her’ rainforest, which has a hundred different species of unidentified arachnid and apparently not a single transphobe…