Germaine Greer has long been a source of controversy, ever since the publication of her feminist text The Female Eunuch almost 50 years ago in 1970.
The book, an international bestseller, was incendiary, perhaps less a specific manifesto than a rallying call to women, urging them to take a match to female stereotypes.
Yet Greer has also become a source of frustration for many feminists in recent years with controversial comments about #MeToo, trans people and rape. She ignited a online furore after she wrote an article for Radio Times, arguing that women enjoy watching on-screen depictions of sexual violence.
Decades after the publication of Greer’s seminal text, she remains as divisive as ever, as seen in BBC2’s new documentary Germaine Bloody Greer, which airs at 9pm on Saturday 9th June.
Read on for Germaine Greer’s most controversial moments in recent years.
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1. Rape is “bad sex”
Greer’s recently told a packed crowd at Hay Festival 2018 that “instead of thinking of rape as a spectacularly violent crime – and some rapes are – think about it as non consensual… that is bad sex.”
She also called for a lowering of punishment for rape, suggesting that a more appropriate sentencing might be 200 hours of community service , or else an “r” tattoo on the rapist’s hand, cheek or arm.
— Hay Festival (@hayfestival) May 30, 2018
The academic added that “most rape is just lazy, careless and insensitive,” continuing: “Every time a man rolls over on his exhausted wife and insists on enjoying his conjugal rights he is raping her. It will never end up in a court of law.”
— Hay Festival (@hayfestival) May 30, 2018
2. Transgender women are ‘not women’
In 2015 students started a petition attempting to stop Greer from speaking at Cardiff University, on the grounds that she had previously expressed what they perceive to be transphobic views.
“I don’t believe a woman is a man without a cock,” she later said during Q&As at the lecture. “You can beat me over the head with a baseball bat. It still won’t make me change my mind.”
“Being a woman is a bit tricky,’ she added. “If you didn’t find your pants full of blood when you were 13 there’s something important about being a woman you don’t know. It’s not all cake and jam,” she added.
3. #MeToo movement is “whingeing”
Greer referred to the #MeToo movement as “whingeing” during an interview with Australian media in January 2018.
“If you spread your legs because he said ‘be nice to me and I’ll give you a job in a movie’ then I’m afraid that’s tantamount to consent, and it’s too late now to start whingeing about that.”
She added, “I want women to react here and now. I want the woman on a train who feels a man’s hand where it shouldn’t be… to be able to say quite clearly, ‘Stop.’ ”
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4. Women enjoy watching violence against women on screen
“Female victimisation sells. What should disturb us is that it sells to women,” Germaine Greer argued in Radio Times ahead of the new series of Scandi noir The Bridge.
In the article, Greer referred to a scene from The Bridge series 4 in which we see “a graphic depiction of a female murder victim, who has been buried up to her neck and stoned to death”.
“Strange as it must seem, the endless array of female cadavers laid out on slabs … on TV is designed to reel in a mainly female audience,” she said. The author also drew a link to the #MeToo movement: “The women involved in #MeToo have chosen to appear in news media as victims… Female victimisation sells.”
5. Defending FGM and child marriage
In 1999, UK MPs hit out at Greer for allegedly defending female gential mutilation (FGM).
In her book The Whole Woman, Greer argued that attempts to outlaw the practice were an “attack on cultural identity”, adding “One man’s beautification is another man’s mutilation.”
The Commons International Development Select Committee called her comments both “simplistic and offensive”.
BBC2’s documentary Germaine Bloody Greer airs at 9pm on Saturday 9th June