Germaine Greer: transphobe. Homophobe. Misogynist.

[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.

Here’s why.

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.”

woman truck driver photo
Women drive trucks. It’s nothing new. Photo by National Library of Scotland

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”.

Comment notice:

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.

Photo by Maggie Hannan


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Germaine Greer: transphobe. Homophobe. Misogynist.
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34 thoughts on “Germaine Greer: transphobe. Homophobe. Misogynist.

        1. That’s certainly fair & reasonable Aoife.
          Damion, I find your views on this issue to be lacking. You seem to be viewing this as a problem centered on men, when this is an issue entirely about women.
          Furthermore, misandry does not functionally exist. As the holders of social capital in this world, men are not in a poisition to be oppressed due to our gender. We are at times stereotyped or rarely even disliked for it, but we are never oppressed because of it.

    1. 1.3

      Damion: I don’t doubt that Greer has a problem with men. However, I’d be very hesitant to describe the common theme here as ‘misandry’, as you do. For one thing, I’d question the legitimacy of the concept in general. But if you don’t mind, I’ll leave that for the moment. Different conversation, different day.

      I’d think of Greer more as being tied to notions of oppositional sexism- the idea that men and women are very separate categories. That being a man means behaving one particular way, that a woman comes with a very different set of expectations, and (it seems to me) that there’s something essential and natural about those distinctions. Also, of course, that they can be determined incredibly simplistically.

      I think that’s where her awful views on people of all genders come from. She thinks that two men having a baby mocks motherhood because she sees being a primary carer to children as being somehow tied to womanhood.

      When it comes to trans women? The fact that she sees them as men (and “truck drivers” as men) isn’t about hating men. It’s about defending the boundaries of gender. It’s about shoving everyone of all genders into two boxes based on assumptions made the day that they were born.

      And of course, the results of her bigotry disproportionately hurt women (trans and cis) and men if they veer from expected paths and do something as unacceptably feminine as raising a child together.

    2. 1.4

      “I think that’s where her awful views on people of all genders come from. She thinks that two men having a baby mocks motherhood because she sees being a primary carer to children as being somehow tied to womanhood.”

      This is not so. Respectfully, I’ve read Greer’s books whereas you have not.

      What she is talking about here is the breakdown of motherhood into several commodifiable components, thereby stripping it of the privilege and prestige which it had once enjoyed. This in turn allows meddling men to take over parts of the process which had hitherto been the exclusive domain of women.

      https://books.google.com/books?id=ymJArTm2CAIC&pg=PT117&dq=motherhood+inauthor:%22germaine+greer%22&q=%22privilege%20and%20prestige%22#v=snippet&q=%22privilege%20and%20prestige%22

  1. 3

    So, you’ve never been bothered reading The Female Eunuch because you can’t “stomach” it, so instead offer an analysis based on two quotes (two!) culled from an unattributed TV interview?

    I think I’ll stick with the former, thanks.

    1. 3.1

      I acknowledge that she did good work then. I’ve never been able to stomach reading her work– I’ve nothing against TFE in particular. However, there are thousands upon thousands of feminists in the world who don’t hate on marginalised women. As I’m never going to have the time to read a fraction of the books that I’d like to in my life, why should I spend some of that precious time on a so-called “feminist” who hates women?

  2. 4

    Well, for one reason, to my mind –

    1) It’s professional: it’s not about wasting “precious time”, it’s research. You’re throwing out a lot of grandiose and rather self-important statements about a human being here, but they’re not backed up by any concrete evidence, short of your analysis of two quotes from a TV interview which you haven’t even attributed.

    I’m not doubting your assertion that GG finds trans-sexuality identities problematic – and I agree, to an extent, that that’s a rather indefensible position – but who exactly is doing the “hating” here? Scattergun accusations of “transmisogyny, homophobia, misogyny” are all pretty hateful to my mind too, particularly if you’re not presenting a robust enough argument to justify such incendiary language.

    End of the day, everything is about tone, I think.

    1. 4.1

      This isn’t the first time I’ve criticised Greer. Up at the top of this post I’ve linked to two other posts I’ve made regarding her. It seems like you see this post as coming out of nowhere- understandable, if this is the first you’ve seen from me about her. But nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve been engaging with her statements for months. I’ve read things that she’s said going back to the 90s.

      Remember, also: I’m responding to things that she’s said about other human beings. In many cases human beings with far less influence and far smaller platforms than she wields.

  3. 5

    Here is a quote from the same interview, which you have chosen to omit.

    “I agree that when I first was thinking about what is a woman I fell for the usual view that women were people with two Xs and men were people with an X and a Y, which made life nice and easy for me. And I now realise, partly because I’m not entirely immune to information, that this was wrong. That there are in fact all kinds of intersectional conditions…”

    She also admits that “none of this easy” and that her thinking on this issue is “in a hole.” It is possible for people to have conflicting, even contradictory responses when faced with complex ethical issues.

    Again, I would suggest that her arguments here – regardless of whether or not one aligns with them – are far more measured than the inflammatory way that you choose to present them and in doing so, you yourself unintentionally risk facing the accusation of being that most dreaded of things…an esssentialist.

    1. 5.1

      The existence of intersex people- and the fact that she can’t deny their existence- is completely irrelevant to anything I’m saying, though.

      Also: as I said a couple of comments ago, she’s been saying things like this since at least 1997. She’s had a minimum of 19 years to come to terms with it. She refuses to do so.

    2. 5.2

      There are a number of topics about which my thinking is confused, or about which my best answer is “I don’t know.”

      I don’t make pronouncements on those subjects: there’s too much chance of either sounding confused or being wrong, neither of which would benefit either me or the audience.* Greer could have said “I’m not sure what I think about this. Please interview someone else” rather than presenting herself as any sort of authority.

      *No matter what, I will be wrong sometimes. That’s not a reason to seek out more topics on which to be wrong in public.

  4. 7

    Vicki – indeed, but there lies the problem. The assumption that someone can be “right” or “wrong”. I never suggested GG’s arguments were confused: I said they were “contradictory”. And there’s nothing “wrong” with that.

    Ultimately, I think, and I’m sorry to harp on about this, Aoife, but my problem with your piece lies again in those rather black-and-white definitions of what is the “right” and the “wrong” argument and the rather aggressive tone to your writing, which automatically assumes you have the moral high-ground. To my mind, the issue is much more nuanced than that.

    Let us remember that concepts like “cisgender”, “intersectionality” and even “transgender” are, by very definition, about how people choose to identify themselves – they are cultural assumptions, not biological realities. I choose to accept these identities as having meaning and value because it is basically the polite and decent thing to do – if people want to identify themselves thus, no-one should stop them and their voices and experience are as valid as anyone else’s.

    Ultimately, however, the terms remain contentious and for great, great number of people, they are seen as specious, even pathological definitions. The point that GG seems to be struggling with is that there is no “authority” – that definitions of identity are in danger of collapsing: we may celebrate this (gender becomes “fluid” and malleable) or see it as some kind of quasi-schizoid reflection of a rootless, disorientated and unhappy section of humanity. GG seems stuck between these two points of view but at least that means she is taking nothing for granted, which is largely the purview of intellectuals in public life.

    But to label a person a “transphobe, homophobe. misogynist” as a result of their refusal , or failure, or discomfort (the latter adjective seems the most relevant to me) to wholeheartedly celebrate and embrace those said definitions, seems to be in itself an entrenched and unhelpful position. Real bigotry and hatred is pretty easy to spot when you chance upon it and when it comes to someone like GG, she’s more likely to be fighting in your corner, rather than hitting you over the head with a pick-axe.

    Best, a.

    1. 7.1

      “Let us remember that concepts like “cisgender”, “intersectionality” and even “transgender” are, by very definition, about how people choose to identify themselves”
      lolno. one can make that argument for “transgender”, but not for the other two. intersectionality especially has nothing much to do with self-identity; it’s a social theory about how oppression functions, and thus deals largely with where society places us. not with self-labeling.

      “Real bigotry and hatred is pretty easy to spot when you chance upon it”
      I cannot figure out how thinking that acknowledging trans women’s existence as women is a danger to womanhood as a category is not bigotry.

      misogyny, transantagonism, and heterosexism are not just explicit hatred. it’s also holding on to ideas that perpetuate oppression. and thinking that accepting trans women will destroy womanhood is one such idea.

      “when it comes to someone like GG, she’s more likely to be fighting in your corner, rather than hitting you over the head with a pick-axe.”
      that’s a false dichotomy. likely, greer would do neither, and instead do what “establishment feminism” (for lack of a better term) has always done: throw more vulnerable, more radical feminists under the methaphorical bus in exchange for being granted more legitimacy in the eyes of the powers that be. (an example of that would be us suffragists’ “distancing” from Virginia Woodhull and cuddling up to the Christian Temperance Union instead.

    2. 7.2

      People can be right or wrong about a great many things, from the factual (no, Earth is not flat, so don’t worry about falling off the edge, and Queen Elizabeth is not an extraterrestrial lizard) to ethical and political issues. Yes, some questions are purely subjective (do cherries taste better than blackberries?) but many are not. There may be many reasonable answers to something like “who is the greatest singer of all time?” but that doesn’t mean there are no wrong answers (I am not the greatest singer of all time, and neither is a piano or the sheet music to the “Ode to Joy”).

      Confused or contradictory arguments are likely to lead to either wrong answers, or an honest “answer uncertain, try again later” (which can give a person time for more research, or to think more about what they already have). In the meantime, it’s reasonable to point out that for the question “who is the greatest singer of all time?” any plausible answer other than “that is a meaningless question” must be a singer.

  5. 8

    I find it so silly to say she sees women as “walking vaginas” just because she links the possession of a female body with existence as a woman. Do anti-racists see Africans as “walking bags of skin” because they acknowledge the way their skin color has defined them socially? Do communists see the proletariat as “walking hands” solely because they recognize the role their physical labor plays in defining them socially?

    Recognizing that a certain physical characteristic is central to someone’s social condition doesn’t reduce them to that feature. I find it incredibly offensive to think that mentioning the role of female biology in women’s oppression is considered dehumanizing. Last time I checked, women were human.

    1. 8.3

      Funny thing, people generally can’t see my vagina. They cannot even see my vulva. Both parts are usually wrapped in at least two layers of cotton. Still I get treated as a woman wherever I walk.
      But when I was a kid, 4 or 5 years old, already with that vulva and vagina in place as they have been since that stuff usually grows in utero, many people treated me as a boy: short hair, rough and rowdy, always dirty, climbing trees, riding a BMX…
      Since neither of them could see my genitals, how come they still treated me as one gender or the other?
      Now, since I have already established the existence of my vagina, I don’t recognise myself and my vagina in Greer’s comment. My identity as a woman is pretty independent of that organ and I don’t find it particularly big. Or smelly.

  6. 9

    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.

    That scenario made me think along the same lines.
    Besides, she must think that every trans woman is Caitlyn Jenner who has the best healthcare at her fingertips and who can simply keep employing staff to do the housework if she thinks that any “guy” would benefit from coming out trans after 30 years of marriage and 4 children. If it were about having it easy then continuing your life as a hetero married guy in a relationship where she’s used to doing all then homework already would surely be the path to go. No ordinary person ever benefited socially* from coming out trans, especially not if there’s 30 years of family relationships built upon an assumed cis existence.

    *I’m unsure about my phrasing here. From what I know the personal benefits can be huge, but as long as transphobia is society’s modus operandi there are always negative social consequences.

  7. 11

    I think she’s made some reasonable points surrounded by some unreasonable ones. And in the post and the comments some reasonable points are being easily smeared because of their proximity to unreasonable ones. And I wonder if, in the posts and comments, that’s being done knowingly or innocently.

  8. 12

    Just a note here, I’m a cis het male, so it is not my business to tell trans people how to effectively combat anything Greer has said. This post relates to something I felt was overlooked due to headline simplification, and was worth addressing.

    When Greer said it wasn’t fair, she was specifically talking about how it wasn’t fair to the cis woman the trans woman is married to, but all the criticism I’ve seen of the quote seems to focus on how she thinks it is unfair for trans women to marry cis women in general. Sure, that point is more directly ridiculous, but I think the point she is actually making is at least as insidious on a level less directly obvious to many cis persons.

    What she says sounds like a reasonable concern at first. Marriage is a big commitment between people, based on communication and shared responsibilities and decision making. Due to general ignorance surrounding anything trans, Greer gets away with being super non-specific about what the trans person in this scenario is doing, and once you examine it, it falls apart like the shadow-puppetry it is. Somehow this transition is both immediate and super impactful (clearly publicly accepted to the point others are expected to know about it), yet also somehow shameful (like it reflects on the cis woman poorly somehow), and the cis woman has no ability to communicate about any of this with the partner they married on how to navigate any of this.

    The characterization of the trans person as unfair in this situation is so nefarious. Is it unfair if one person has to take care of the other because they get sick? Is it unfair if they don’t earn exactly the same amount of money? Is it unfair when someone’s personality or preferences change over time? These are exactly the kinds of development you either navigate together in a marriage, or divorce over, and Greer has no business calling other people’s journey through this unfair. The OP makes that abundantly clear.

  9. 13

    Pay attention to these people and you give to them power… Spread compassion and caring and you lift up those who are needing your heart….this wins everytime to bring happiness and peace to everyone you experience. Not naive…just decided. Each of us have the potential to be exponential. YOU DECIDE. If you are truly happy…that which eminates from your eyes…drives other crazy to find out who you are and what it is that you have that makes you so special. They want what you have….because it is naturally a wealth beyond all wealth. Joy… Catherine

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