Germaine Greer is being problematic again, surprise surprise. The feminist icon, let me correct, SECOND WAVE, feminist icon, has made headlines after criticizing #MeToo, Dylan Farrow and claiming it’s ‘too late now to start whingeing’ about sexual assault.
Before we start, in case you’re not up on your feminist lingo, second wave feminism happened from the 1960’s-80’s, broadening the debate beyond voting and property rights to how women are perceived in society, focusing on their sexuality, archaic role in the family and reproductive rights. While the movement pushed forward the feminist agenda, it was primarily exclusive to white women, spoken for by white, middle-class, privileged women- like Germaine Greer.
But we all grow and learn, right? We moved forward and created a version of feminism that is inclusive to all races, classes and beyond. Well, not all of us - because Germaine Greer appears to still be stuck in her ways - most notably, she has been criticised in recent years for making numerous transphobic comments about trans-women not being ‘real women'.
Her internalized misogyny shone through yet again in a recent interview with The Sydney Morning Herald where she made the following comments about sexual assault:
‘I want, I've always wanted, to see women react immediately,’
‘In the old days, there were movies - the Carry On comedies, for example - which always had a man leering after women. And the women always outwitted him - he was a fool.
‘We weren't afraid of him and we weren't afraid to slap him down.
‘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.'
Women! Did you not realise all you have to do is slap the man whose assaulting you and you’ll be fine?! TA DA, job done! Go on with your day, in fact, turn it into a comedy show, it’s such a laugh.
She continued with some more fabulously right-on comments about #MeToo:
‘What makes it different is when the man has economic power, as Harvey Weinstein has. But 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.’
Eugh. I can’t even be sarcastic about this one. First and foremost, ‘spread your legs’ is the most disgusting, rape-apologising shit you can possibly say. Implying there was a choice in incidents of sexual assault completely undermines all of the women who have spoken out about Weinstein… talk about supporting the sisterhood.
Second, the fact that a woman who has built her entire career on feminism, no less, sexual liberation feminism, doesn’t understand consent only speaks to how absolutely archaic second wave feminism is – or at least, how archaic she is.
Finally, ‘WHINGEING’. SHE ACTUALLY SAID ‘WHINGEING’. Glazing over the use of patronising terminology that compares survivors of assault to toddlers, let’s get one thing straight: it is absolutely never too late to report, complain or simply open up about experiences of sexual assault. Even if it’s 20 years later, as she says is the case with Dylan Farrow, who was seven-years-old when she was allegedly molested by her step-father, Woody Allen. She brushes this aside with the comment:
‘It was 20 years ago, so you want [Woody Allen] to stop making movies now?’
Yes. Because it’s okay to take time to heal and revisit a trauma later in life when your emotionally equipped to deal with it (and not, you know, A CHILD.)
Of course, us intersectional feminists know this, which is why Germaine’s comments caused uproar on Twitter. Yet again, the generational divide proves very real. Another day, another feminist icon to be disappointed in. Cue the storm of ignoramuses ridiculing feminism for not being cohesive enough. Cue the think pieces on why feminism is imploding.
Yes, it might not be ideal that two waves of feminism seem constantly at war with one another thanks to generational differences. However, it’s no reason to shit ourselves that feminism is on its last legs. When we’re fighting amongst ourselves, there’s a tendency to fear and worry about what people think, about it turning people away. It’s the second instance I’m more concerned about.
However, all I can see coming from these debates is a greater effort to educate. When we’re faced with people who are ignorant, our only tool is to teach. The open dialogue that comes from these incidents is a necessity to ensure more women are talking about feminism and therefore bringing more people into the fold. It’s certainly doing more for feminism than printing #feminism on a t-shirt.
There will always be a generational divide as we move through different waves of feminism. It’s called progression. The trouble comes from our assumption in society that the older you get, the wiser you are. Young people’s views are dismissed because they simply ‘haven’t lived enough’ yet. We’re trusted to educate older generations on technology, but when it comes to philosophical and political thought, we’re just TOO naïve to understand.
All of this is true of feminism despite the fact that we were raised on second-wave feminism, obviously learning from it and in turn, as we take interest in it and learn more, moving the conversation on. So surely, it would be logical to assume that we have a more informed opinion as we take what our parents taught us and build on that. Just as we shouldn’t immediately dismiss every second wave feminist who paved our way (because in the main that’s kind of rude), we shouldn’t be dismissed as naïve, snowflakes who can’t just sit and be happy with what older generations have done for us.
Just as all we can do is educate, all we can do from this is learn and pray that when we’re older and our children are progressing feminism further, we have the good sense to listen and understand that actually, things move on. What we think now may not always be right. It’s okay to be wrong as long as you listen and continue to learn. Just as a lot of men need to shut up and listen (we’re looking at you, Matt Damon), so do we all every once in a while. Specifically, though, Germaine Greer… shhhh.
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'What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.'
'May we teach our children that speaking out without the fear of retribution is our culture's new north star.'
'We no longer live in the blank white spaces in the edge of print. We no longer live in the gaps between the stories. We are the story in print and we are the story ourselves.'
'Wow, the power of women'
'Truth is powerful. And in a really good film, we recognize the truth about ourselves, about others. And it's so powerful that it can even change peoples minds, touch people's hearts and ultimately even change society itself.'
'I want all the girls watching here now to know, that a new day is on the horizon.'
'There's no prerequisite for worthiness. You are born being worthy.'
'I want to thank everyone who broke their silence this year and spoke up about abuse and harassment. You are so brave and hopefully, shows like this, more will be made, so people out there who are feeling silenced by harassment, discrimination, abuse… time is up. We see you. We hear you. And we will tell your stories.'
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.