Long term readers of this site know that there have been several occasions in recent years where we have felt that Germaine Greer has lost the social justice plot. But we’ve never dismissed her entire body of work.
Louis Nowra has no such qualms in an essay he has written to mark the 40th anniversary of publication of Greer’s The Female Eunuch. It is nothing but contempt and dismissal of every single thing Greer has ever done, and is summarised in the Independent(UK): ‘Germaine Greer? She has no idea what makes women tick,’ says Nowra.
In ridiculing Greer’s vision of a transformation in gender politics, Nowra casually dismisses second-wave feminism in its entirety. This bit in particular mad me go WTF?
He also ridicules her for exhorting women to give up clothes and make-up. Far from “opting out of their roles as principal consumers in the capital system,” he writes, “young women today love shopping more than ever”.
[…] pokes fun at Greer for urging women to shun marriage and cosmetic surgery. Women are still getting married, he observes, and Botox injections have become virtually a “rite of passage”.
So, because of the backlash pushing consumerism and the beauty myth even harder over the last decades, this is somehow proof that Greer was wrong to posit that consumerism and the beauty myth are toxic to women and should be rejected? For Greer to express this idea is somehow “misogynistic”? That women are still highly interested in ‘fripperies’ and cosmetic surgery 40 years later somehow shows that Greer was wrong about the desire for ‘fripperies’ & unnaturally youthful looks being culturally instilled? That their continued prominence in women’s lives actually says something essential about women’s innate attributes and resultant “needs”?
The irony within his own essay, which instead of simply engaging with Greer’s ideas includes gratuitous slams at her personal appearance, slams based on Greer eschewing these allegedly essential feminine fripperies, eludes him. Why, how could people like Nowra mocking women who fail to delight his eye with fripperies possibly have anything to do with women’s “inherent” desire for fripperies?
FSM on a pogo stick, the man is a braying jackass positively dripping with sexist condescension. So of course he’s just exactly who The Monthly would commission to write a piece on Greer.
Is Nowra this scathing of people who predicted moon colonies and flying cars back in the 60s, or this smug about how race is still the primary social division in the USA and elsewhere despite the efforts of the civil rights movement? I bet not, because he’s not willing to sneer at male scientists or male activists/leaders. But sneering at a woman whose vision has not yet come to pass? Oh, what a fool she is for even imagining it.
Sometimes engineering projects, whether mechanical or social, are simply much more challenging at a fundamental level than early visionaries calculate, particularly when it comes to social willingness to embrace the cost of such projects. NASA came to realise that Congress was unwilling to hand over the necessary level of taxpayers money for moon colonies to become a reality, and racial minorities and women have come to realise that racists and sexists are both unwilling to lose any of their social privileges in the name of equality and are even more unwilling to admit that their motives are indeed racist and sexist.
The failure (as yet) of such projects and the consequent absence of their potential benefits to humanity should not provoke smug celebrations consisting of flinging poo at a visionary whose predictions have not come to pass. The continued failure of such projects should provoke despair at humanity’s short sighted selfishness.