Wednesday, August 22, 2007

In Which I'm Called Out on Germaine Greer...

Because, gods know, I'm not one to turn down a challange: Natalia Antonova tags me to talk about Germaine Greer's comments about Princess Diana. And how can I resist being called out by someone kind enough to label me a real feminist blogger?

Obviously, I can't.

The story comes from this Salon blurb posted a few days ago. I looked around to try to find the full quote, and this is what I came up with:

I have come to the conclusion that she was a devious moron. One of the things I have been puzzled by is why her whole life was such a mess. She made a mess of being Princess of Wales, but that is fine because the job is not do-able. It is an insane job and, in history, all but one of the Princesses of Wales have come to a sticky end -- stickier than hers.

I am also interested in why she couldn't manage life after being Her Royal Highness. It still puzzles me that she does that no-no thing: she sleeps with married men. If you do that in Hello! magazine, you are beyond contempt. But she does it with Will Carling, we forgive her somehow – even though his marriage is in a very delicate state and it doesn't seem to have helped at all.

Then she does it with Oliver Hoare, the antiques dealer, who eventually realises he is in deep shit and goes back to his wife. She makes 300 nuisance calls to his home phone number. And this is the angel that people want to crown.

I'm not really sure what to say. I agree with Natalia, I'm not sure why it should be surprising that Diana's life was a mess. Hell, my life is a mess, and I'm not under constant scrutiny from reporters and the public. I don't have the weight of an entire country on my back. Diana's life doesn't seem to have been that much messier than a lot of people's, she just happened to have a lot of photographers and reporters eager to talk about hers.

The whole tirade stinks of publicity grabbing. There are some things that are sure-fire ways to get media attention and to incite reaction. Slagging on the dead- particularly when it's someone with as much public adoration as Princess Di- is high on the list.

And, for the record: Why is it a no-no thing for her to sleep with a married man? Were these men unable to say no to her? I think it's shitty to cheat on your spouse, but it's not her fault that this assholes didn't stay faithful to their wives. She didn't break a vow when/if she slept with them- they broke a vow to their wives.

Personally, I find Greer's comments tremendously offensive, not because she's insulting Diana, but because, quite frankly, they stink of misogyny. Look, I don't give two shits about Diana. I don't know that much about her except for her work on landmines and AIDS awareness, and I don't think she's a saint by any stretch. My problem isn't with being critical of Diana because she's dead, either- the fact that she's dead doesn't put her beyond criticism. My problem is with going off about what a "devious moron" she was when your only real complaints seem to be that you don't like how much or with whom she was having sex.

There's a term for that kind of criticism. I call that slut shaming.

And this, from the woman who once said "Women have very little idea of how much men hate them"?

This shouldn't really be surprising, though. I've found a lot of Greer's comments and actions pretty troubling, personally. Really, for someone with such an influential set of writings, some of her more recent writings leave a lot to be desired. Take a look at this lovely piece, for example:

There's no question that the women are stroppier. They're not embarrassed to say they agreed to sex with one man they'd only just met, or even with two, but they insist that they hadn't agreed to being brutalised, insulted or humiliated, and they want redress.

They might well be insisting on the right to free expression of their own desires, which include shagging the odd hyper-fit footballer, provided he doesn't abuse the privilege. But they also seem quite interested in another factor in sex with footballers - namely, indecent amounts of money.

That's right, her claim is that women- she actually calls them "rape fodder" at one point- who flirt with and might want to sleep with footballers, but get sexually assualted and raped... they're really not raped, they're in it for the money. Of course, the men involved can't help it. Oh, no! You see, Greer informs us that "Good family men have been known to succumb to the groupies' onslaught," because, you know, in the face of their overwhelming sluttiness, how can any man resist? And her last line of that piece? Fucking pricless: "Now that the women are beefing and the papers are printing and wives are walking out, the players are more vulnerable than ever."

That's right, those poor players. It's not, you know, the women they rape that are vulnerable. Oh no! It's those poor men.

And let's not forget her comments on female genital mutilation, right? In her book The Whole Woman, she argued that attempts to ban FGM were "an attack on cultural identity" and that "one man's beautification is another man's mutilation." She compared the practice of female circumcision to labia piercings: "If an Ohio punk has the right to have her genitalia operated on, why has not the Somali woman the same right?"

So, yeah. That's my take on Greer, for whatever it's worth. Probably the paper it's printed on, right? I'm not in the habit of telling other people whether they can or can't call themselves feminists, and I know that some of Greer's writings were damn influential... but I hope to damn that someone will stop me before I start going off on antifeminist tirades. Whatever type of feminist she is, I don't want any part of. I don't think it's particularly enlightened to cry "poor men!" and slut shame women because the man they're hooked up with is cheating on his wife.


Natalia said...

Thanks for answering!

I'm actually quite shocked by this, because I had no idea that Greer had gone as far as call women "rape fodder." WTF???

I'd actually thought that the Diana thing was a one-off. I honestly think that Greer, of all people, would be too smart for this. I don't want to draw any hasty conclusions - but it seems as though she's almost jealous of the women who get to hang out with footballers. Maybe I'm being hasty in my judgment, but that's what it looks like.

Jaclyn said...

Me neither, Natalia! Germaine Greer said that?

Though I'm less inclined to thing "jealousy" and more inclined to think of it as part of this sexual/cultural orthodoxy some second-wave feminists seem to want to enforce, which says that if you're a real feminist you won't want to sleep around or enjoy femininity or be attracted to money or celebrity or any number of things which in their eyes mean you're a stupid victim of patriarchy who can't tell when they're being controlled and used, as opposed to a woman who knows what she wants and isn't ashamed to pursue it, even if she also knows that some of her desires are socially constructed. Because let's face it, some of everyone's desires are socially constructed, and if you refused to act on any of your desires until they were fully deconstructed, well, you couldn't do anything. Include being an orthodox, slut-shaming, victim-blaming "feminist."

assembling words to armory, she waits... said...

Until now, they could keep the lid on this can of worms; the victims kept shtoom, the newspapers were paralysed by the threat of libel suits and astronomical pay-outs. At worst, the club could buy silence. Now that the women are beefing and the papers are printing and wives are walking out, the players are more vulnerable than ever.

aww... poor athletes. just because they have money and media coverage they're gonna be held responsible for their 'sordidness,' as greer states it. i'm so disappointed in her. THAT'S how she chooses to end her article? ick. and the diana quote? how hiltonesque of her to grub for media attention by saying something so blatantly mongering. i'd thought better of her. she's diving headfirst into that trap of celebrity/money/attention she's trying to condemn. i think jaclyn's got it right.

Kate217 said...

First of all, it's Lady Diana, Princess of Wales. One has to be born royal to be "Princess Whatever." Currently Anne, Margaret, Beatrice, and Eugenie are the only ones in the UK who qualify for the "Princess" honorific. I have no idea why this bugs me as much as it does, but the error drives me up the wall.

Back to the topic at hand, Greer completely ignores that one of the criteria in the search for the Princess of Wales (objectionable enough on it's own) was that she not only be a virgin, but never have been on a date. How the hell was Diana to learn normal social interaction when she'd been wrapped in cotton wool all her life? She was even attending an all girl's school.

She was then basically ignored by her husband and his family. I can speak from experience when I say that being starved for attention (any attention) leads to really stupid decisions.

As for those sluts who actually want to hang out with sports celebrities without being raped, or the ones who want sex but not to be physically brutalized, who the hell do they think they are? These men have earned the right to cheat on their wives and beat up women half their size through their athletic prowess!!! How dare these women challenge that privilege?

Also, FGM is almost always a pre-pubescent girl's being held down by her own relatives while her external genitalia are removed under unsanitary conditions, so that the girl will never experience sexual pleasure, and the wound sewed up. Many girls become infertile, suffer from chronic infections, or even die from the inability of urine or menstrual blood to completely leave the body. Then, as often as not, the girl's husband (whom she is unlikely to have chosen herself) cuts the hole open with a knife on her wedding knife so that he can access her vagina. (No pain involved with any of that!)

Anyone who equates that with a fully-consenting woman's getting a small hole in her genitalia to accomodate a piercing that theoretically (I have to take others' words for it) increases sexual pleasure has lost any credibility at all.

Anonymous said...

There was a strong sex-positive bent to her early ... There was a strong sex-positive bent to her early work and she was sometimes derided as more sexual liberationist than feminist (which was the larval form of "the fun kind," I guess). More recently, though, I think she's taken a sort of backlash approach to the pro-sexuality of her earlier stance and has spouted some amazingly Paglia-like soundbytes.