I found this image on this media release page at the Southern Cross University website, which uses it to illustrate promotional information for “An Evening With Germaine Greer” that took place in early 2008. I chose it because it is a relatively neutral portrait, unlike the usual photos that emphasise either her strident aspect or her hedonistic aspect.
The introduction from the SCU media release is this: “Germaine Greer has been in the business of jolting people out of established theories and complacent thought for decades” which is a rather neat piece of understated ambiguity. Controversy has been raging around Greer in Australia this week as she has discussed her new work “On Rage” examining the tendency towards violence in indigenous communities with respect to the alienation of Aboriginal men. The media has been quick to denounce her at great length as not worth any attention, which raises the question (as others have noted) as to why they pay her so much attention themselves, and especially why they pay so much attention to her personality rather than pay attention to addressing the meat of her arguments, (There’s been some heated discussion over at Larvatus Prodeo)
Also, if it’s accurate that she only gets this level of personal hostility in Australia whereas elsewhere it is her ideas that get dissected and challenged instead (a claim Greer is alleged to have made), what does that say about the Australian media?
I myself have mixed responses to what i have read of Greer’s work (which is far from all of it, particularly not much of her literary analysis), but I suspect she deliberately writes to avoid anyone’s comfort zone. Some people decry her as a contrarian who courts denunciations, while others make the fine distinction of describing her a provocateur who may seek an element of controversy but not for its own sake, rather for the sake of inspiring wider debate. I lean more toward the second view, but I can see why the first view persists.
Where do you stand on Greer? What work of hers tempts you to applaud, and what efforts have tempted you to hurl it from the room? How do you think she compares with other public intellectuals in respect of how much she gets right versus what she gets wrong, and why aren’t some others with far less rigorous arguments not held to the same strict standard?
As an aside, what do you think of the way that the media has historically represented successful/popular feminist authors (most of whom are also academics) as if they are thus feminist leaders? This appears to happen less in actual journalism than it used to, but it’s a continuing trope in online debates about feminism with non-feminists, and several prominent US feminist bloggers have aldo been referred to as feminist “leaders” in various forums. Yet a talent for wrapping up a concept in a succinct and memorable way is not the same as either the ability or the desire to lead others. Is this continued conflation of authors with leaders an artefact of a deep discomfort with the idea that feminism does not follow the standard model of a leader-driven hierarchical movement?