Thanks, Germaine, But You Just Don't Get It Anymore
Soldiers call it 'friendly fire', the fire that comes from your own side, from the direction you are not expecting, the one that can be the most devastating of all.
Enter, Germaine Greer.
The iconic '70s feminist and author of possibly the most ground-breaking book for women ever written, the Female Eunuch, has done more than any woman living to advance the front line for women, to push back against misogyny, against sexism, against centuries of deeply ingrained patriarchal attitudes.
She changed the game, not only empowering women to believe that they could do more, but helped men to understand that we ALL could benefit by moving feminism forward.
Ms Greer is quite simply the doyenne of a movement which transformed the lives of women around the world. And I am one of them. So much of what I have been able to do in my life - both personally and professionally -- is a direct result of her early work and passionate advocacy, opening up horizons even for young girls born into deeply traditional families, like my own, growing up in the deeply macho western suburbs of 1970s Sydney.
She showed me and my generation that if we worked hard enough we could achieve anything, irrespective of what any males might think, and helped us to know we could make decisions about our lives and bodies without reference to a man at all.
Thank you, Germaine.
But in recent times, things have gone horribly off the tracks. Three years ago she made sneering, belittling comments about the body shape of our then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and offered gratuitous advice on how she could hide her 'arse'. It was classic 'friendly fire', from the most unexpected direction.
To question something as ludicrously trivial and calculatingly bitchy as the way our first female Prime Minister looks when she is occupying the most important position in the country? Wasn’t this everything Germaine had once fought so passionately against?
We thought we could just dismiss her and forevermore discount her as having 'lost it'. But her comments yesterday, downplaying the effects of one of the most heinous crimes against women of all -- RAPE -- and likening it to no more than bad sex, saying that instead of being locked away for years, most perpetrators should merely get 200 hours of community service, were not just embarrassing, they were dangerous.
"Most rapes don’t involve any injury whatsoever," Greer said at the Hay Festival in Wales. "We are told that it is a sexually violent crime, an expert like Quentin Tarantino will tell us that when you use the word 'rape' you're talking about violence, a throwing them down... it is one of the most violent crimes in the world. Bullshit, Tarantino.
"Most rape is just lazy, just careless, just insensitive. Every time a man rolls over on his exhausted wife and insists on enjoying his conjugal right, he is raping her. It will never end up in a court of law," Greer said.
Seriously Germaine? Instead of empowering the advance of women, could any comments from any feminist leader do more damage than those, emboldening our attackers, belittling the effect on victims, and encouraging the law to NOT take rape seriously.
Not only was she shooting down her own, but giving powerful ammunition to those who would do us down.
At a time when, courtesy of the #MeToo movement, women are finally establishing firm boundaries -- this far, and no further -- and men are understanding that those boundaries have to be respected or face the consequences, for Germaine Greer to make such comments, to effectively wave the men through, is outrageous.
Rape is NOT a trivial crime, Germaine. It is NOT bad sex. It is an outrage on humanity, a vicious violation of sacred rights. Victims must be listened to, and respected. Violators must be punished severely.
We who were raised in the '60s and '70s know exactly what you accomplished, and thank you for your legacy. Many of those who were born later know nothing of your extraordinary work, only this latter day ludicrousness and it does neither you, nor feminism, justice.
So stop, Germaine. Just stop. You have done so much, and we thank you. But we will take it from here.