Courtesy and the Cultural Cringe

Germaine Greer has done her shit-stirring act again with her piece about the death of Steve Irwin, and the usual furore has broken loose, wherein Greer is presented as standing in for all us feminist harridans who hate manly men.
UPDATE: Tracee Hutchison’s piece in today’s Age is an excellent analysis of the essential misogyny driving a lot of the reaction to Greer’s piece – would the outrage have been such a howling uproar if Clive James had written it instead?

Most considered commentary agrees that while the actual points she makes may be hard to argue with, her timing really sucks and breaks the basic courtesy of not speaking ill of the dead (at least in the initial mourning period). However, more than a few have also brought up how Greer’s piece is rejecting all the hagiography of Irwin as somehow a quintessential Australian, as if all the rest of us who aren’t bronzed bush ockers aren’t Australian at all. Greer after all has her own larrikin mug lair streak which is quintessentially Australian, even if she only comes here to visit these days and gets trotted out by the Brits whenever Australia is mentioned in order to sneeringly exemplify the cultural cringe.

Good blogging by:
Pavlov’s Cat on Greer capering for the Brits and the knuckledraggers howling about her
Bernice Balconey on Greer’s refusal to let ockerism define Australianness
Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony on Greer’s essential larrikinism
Susoz points out that in context, alongside Jonathon Coleman’s piece also commissioned by the Grauniad, Greer’s piece does not appear so mean hearted as more a deliberately contrasting view.
Melly has a very personal piece on what Irwin meant to her children, the shock of realising stingrays could actually be that dangerous, and the difference between knocking a live ocker and disrespecting a dead one.
Sarsaparilla also has an interesting discussion thread on Irwin and Greer.

Categories: gender & feminism

Tags: , ,

5 replies

  1. The timing was bad but that’s what the newspaper wanted. I followed a link at Lefty’s and I couldn’t believe the things that she was called. I wonder if they’d be so brave if it was face to face.

  2. She could have refused the commission. The Guardian wanted their pet iconoclast and she delivered, but she didn’t have to. That’s where the lack of courtesy comes in.
    But yes, I don’t think they’d say such things to her face either.

  3. Taking into account the things that Greer has to face every time she puts pen to paper just confirms how strong she is. I imagine she’s been battling such put-downs – and probably worse – for 20 years now.
    I’m ambivalent about Steve Irwin: on the one hand he was a great conservationist; on the other hand there wasn’t much else remarkable about him save for the marketing. In truth, I’m a little surprised that Greer would bother penning words on his account, either way.

  4. It was also interesting to read Clive Hamilton’s response to John Birmingham’s savaging of Greer and her “elite” fellow travellers.
    He notes: “Infected by Irwin’s enthusiasm, Birmingham seriously compared his death to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, suggesting he now sits on a cloud with the late president and Princess Di.
    “It makes one wonder what our country has come to when an accomplished author can compare a slapstick TV celebrity to one of America’s greatest presidents. It’s the new face of the cultural cringe – we canonise anybody who makes it in the US or Britain no matter how lowbrow the performer.”
    Thank god Birmingham is not a bully or prone to use abusive and sexist ad hominem, else I’d think twice about his conviction that the right has stolen satire in this country.

  5. Well spotted lunarbrogue. Interesting. he was some ‘thing’ our Irwin, but thoughtful, insightful, ?intelligent, scholarly he did not ‘seem’to be.
    Unlike our Germs.
    I liked Germaine’s piece and thought it timely. When else would anyone have wanted to publish it? News and death and news of death speeds so hastily through that its unlikely that in a few weeks (when his corpse has bloated and slumped again, and is starting to smell instead of being freshly, sensitively, dead) anyone would be in the least bit interested to hear what Germs had say about her fellow countryman other than his grieving widow who in a few weeks time will be really feeling the full brunt of his disappearance from her life when all and sundry (ie the media) have left her for dead to move onto fresher ones.

%d bloggers like this: