[CN: transmisogyny, homophobia, misogyny]
Germaine Greer likes to think of herself as a feminist. There was a time when she might have been right. While I’ve never been able to stomach reading her work, I’ve heard many feminists speak highly of The Female Eunuch.
There are parts of Greer’s feminism that I even agree with. She’s talked about liberation and creating a feminism that isn’t about aping men or aspiring to be like them. Yes. A feminism that puts down women, femininity and traditionally female tasks is nothing more than patriarchy with breasts.
It’s easy to simply say that Greer is a TERF- a trans exclusionary radical feminist. After all, most of her recent controversial statements have centred around her transmisogyny. When I’ve previously criticised her, this is what I’ve focused on. However, having read more of her comments, it’s becoming clear that it’s not as simple as that. I think that Greer’s transphobia masks something else: a deep-seated homophobia and misogyny, directed almost as much at cis women as our trans sisters.
Greer tells women who to marry
Germaine was in the news again this week. This time she’s after women for who they marry:
“You believed you were a woman but you married another women. That wasn’t fair, was it?”
… ‘If you’re a 50-year-old truck driver who’s had four children with a wife and you’ve decided the whole time you’ve been a woman, I think you’re probably wrong.”
Greer thinks it’s “not fair” if trans women marry other women. How dare she?! How dare she question the legitimacy of someone’s marriage because of their gender? How dare she make assumptions about the decades-long relationships many trans women have had before they felt able to come out?
Women aren’t commodities to be traded. It is none of Greer’s business if two people choose to marry. Hearing her describe that choice as “not fair” smacks of two things to me. She sounds like a straight person who thinks it’s a ‘waste’ if an attractive member of a different sex is gay. And she sounds like the ‘nice guy’ who thinks that it’s just not fair that his female friends don’t want to sleep with him.
Who tells women they can’t be truck drivers, and uses women having traditionally-masculine occupations against them? Who treats women as if we are objects to be earned or won, and complains about the “unfairness” if we don’t make the choices they want us to? Misogynists do.
You know who tells women they can’t marry other women? Homophobes do.
Greer wants to control your family
Germaine Greer’s sexism and homophobia don’t stop at women. Here’s what she thinks of Elton John and David Furnish’s marriage and two children:
‘Sir Elton John and his “wife” David Furnish have entered on the birth certificate of their two sons that David Furnish is the mother. I’m sorry. That will give you an idea of how the concept of motherhood has emptied out. It’s gone. It’s been deconstructed.’
She used the term “wife” because Furnish was recorded on his children’s birth certificate as their mother. John and Furnish have had two children via IVF and a surrogate mother who they couple say they “love like a sister”. Greer has two issues: with the use of the term “mother” next to Furnish’s name on the birth cert, and with their use of IVF and surrogacy. Greer wants to tell that surrogate, as well as their anonymous egg donor, what reproductive choices they should be making. She says that women, unlike men, ‘care‘ about what happens to their eggs. The views of the actual women involved don’t seem to matter to her.
Y’know who tells women what they are supposed to feel about their bodies and doesn’t ask them what they think? Misogynists do.
As for that birth certificate: I wonder if it occurred to Greer that when John and Furnish’s kids were born, birth certs might just have been printed out with one space marked ‘mother’ and another marked ‘father’? If it did, she doesn’t say so. Instead, she blames two gay men for having a family and for becoming the legal parents to their children by the means open to them.
Greer could have opened up a conversation about IVF, surrogacy and motherhood in so many ways. She could have used her platform to highlight abuses in commercial paid surrogacy. Advocated for birth documentation that includes space for both birth mothers and the parents who’ll raise a child, if they all wish to be counted. Questioned the notion of the nuclear family. Instead she mocked a gay couple’s family and the personal details of how that family came to be. She accused gay men of deconstructing motherhood.
Who does that? Homophobes do, and people who use homophobia as a tool to get their way.
Greer sees women as walking vaginas.
Germaine Greer thinks that trans women can’t really be women, because according to her, they can’t know what it’s like to “have a big, hairy, smelly vagina.”
The easy first response to this? Point out the obvious: many trans women do have vaginas. We’ve been reshaping penises into vaginas for decades. A vagina that’s been reshaped from a penis through surgery isn’t artificial. It’s made from the same skin and nerves that any genitals are. We all start off with the same parts. They grow in different ways as we develop. The surgeries we perform just move those parts around a little.
We could also respond by mocking her use of the term ‘vagina’. After all, any feminist worth her salt should know that the vagina isn’t the hairy part. That’s the vulva, and someone’s decision to grow or remove the hairs there is her own damn business.
While those responses are satisfying, they don’t get to the root of the issue: Greer thinks women are walking vaginas. She defines us by our vulvas. She says that our bodies are what matter. That the shape of our bodies is what defines us as acceptable women. She reduces the complexities of the female experience- our identities, the way we negotiate with a patriarchal world, the bonds we have with each other- to what’s between our legs.
You know who does that? Yes, you know. Misogynists.
Greer uses the closet as a weapon.
Germaine Greer doesn’t understand the closet. Let’s go back to this:
‘If you’re a 50-year-old truck driver who’s had four children with a wife and you’ve decided the whole time you’ve been a woman, I think you’re probably wrong.”
I wonder if she’d say the same thing about an LGB person who’d been forced to live in the closet for a half-century of their life? A lesbian woman, say. Maybe she was born into a society that would punish her for making a life with another woman. Perhaps by the time she learned what lesbian meant it felt too late- she had already married and had children. For whatever reason, she didn’t come out until middle age.
Would Greer tell that woman that she was straight? After all, if you can pretend to be something for fifty years that must be what you are. I wonder if she’d tell that woman that her years of living in the closet were nothing more than decades of uncomplicated heterosexual privilege. Her family benefited from heteronormative respect, didn’t it?
Maybe she would do that- she’s already shown that she’s happy to throw LGB people under the bus to make her points. I wonder if cis LGB people realise that when Greer ignores the effect the closet has on trans people, she’s dismissing what it means for all of us.
She’s saying that there’s no difference between a closeted person and a cishet one. She’s dismissing the very concept of our identity. Ignoring the fact that with our cishet-passing privilege comes trauma. Gender dysphoria is real. So is the cumulative effect of decades feeling constantly on-guard, having to pretend to yourself as well as the outside world that you’re something you’re not.
It gets worse than that. People who’ve been closeted for decades are often extraordinarily vulnerable. Around 40% of trans people will try to end their own lives pre-transition. Imagine being in that position, having never felt able to come out and live your life on your own terms. Imagine hearing that because you didn’t come out decades ago, you’re going to be called a faker. The very fact that you’ve been closeted for so long is used to deny that that you could ever have locked yourself in there in the first place.
I’d ask you if you knew who denied the existence of the closet. Or who tells LGBTQIA people that our identities don’t exist. I’d even ask you what kind of people speak over women and tell us what we do and don’t think. What we do and don’t feel. You know the answer, though, don’t you?
I’ll bet it’s not “a feminist”.
Comments are welcome, and the usual commenting guidelines apply. In addition, for this post I’m stressing the following: transphobic comments will not be posted. This includes any suggestion that trans identities are invalid or that cis people’s are in any way more legitimate.
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