Monday, March 22, 2010

on Germaine Greer, feminism, and Bingle's well, bingle

An opinion piece published in the Herald Sun the other day suggested that not only was feminism a great big fat failure, but it was also responsible for "appalling rates of teenage pregnancies, damning numbers of divorces, and more unhappy and exploited women than ever". Further, Germaine Greer's "numbingly dreary, poorly written guide" (The Female Eunuch)  was completely unsuccessful, as evidenced by factors such as the size of female Olympic volleyball player's bikini bottoms, and the Bingle/Fevola issue. Bingle is generally criticised as being some kind of sexual predator, preying on an innocent (!) then-married Fevola and the whole scenario was used as an example of how "feminism hasn't really worked, so could Germaine Greer please shoosh" (I'm paraphrasing) and as a woman who, as Alan Howe suggests "are tugging hardest at the reins that hold back their gender".

He also lambastes Greer for changing her opinion, and expressing said new opinion publicly, accusing her of being as media hungry as the 'big-breasted b-grade celebrities' she has previously criticised (more paraphrasing, but you get the general idea).
And this, then, is the bit that I don't understand - surely we, as intelligent, thinking people, are allowed to change our ideas and opinions? Just as society changes and evolves, surely so are our interpretations of different issues affecting society?

Furthermore, how is it that Greer is solely and wholly responsible for the failure of feminism? Surely the undoing of the works of the sisterhood are more the efforts of a patriarchal society (one that it is all too easy to succumb to) than the failures of either Greer personally, or the feminist movement as a whole?

While accept that Greer is generally conveyed as an abrasive old bat, and I'm not about to defend her for her public commentary (she's more than capable of doing this herself) what she does do, and does very well, is challenge popular discourse on an issue, regardless of whether or not she anticipates this will be well received within popular media. That is, she opens the possibility to new ideas, different modes of thinking, and a general challenge to society-at-large to question whatever the current 'group think' on an issue may be, and in doing so, effectively moves undiscussed issues (such as the female body) in to public discourse (as she did with The Female Eunuch).
Finally, I don't think she's completely responsible for the 'Greer' image we receive in the media, as a crotchety old cranky ex-pat with too much to say and not enough media to say it in. I do, however, think that the media generally take great pleasure in portraying her as such, not the least of which (as we see in Howe's article, and echoed within reader comments) is used as a validation for the media-as-a-whole's rejection of feminism and for fixating on the body and women-as-sex-objects/inferior to men and therefore the root of all evil within society... etc.

As though oppression is the fault of the oppressed, for letting themselves be exploited.

Get real.

Frida Kahlo image from here (and originally sourced from Britannica)

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