Australian writer and public intellectual (born 1939)
Germaine Greer (born 29 January 1939) is an Australian author, academic, critic and journalist.
- Women have somehow been separated from their libido, from their faculty of desire, from their sexuality. They've become suspicious about it. Like beasts, for example, who are castrated in farming in order to serve their master's ulterior motives — to be fattened or made docile — women have been cut off from their capacity for action. It's a process that sacrifices vigour for delicacy and succulence, and one that's got to be changed.
- The term eunuchs was used by Eldridge Cleaver to describe blacks. It occurred to me that women were in a somewhat similar position. Blacks had been emancipated from slavery but never given any kind of meaningful freedom, while women were given the vote but denied sexual freedom. In the final analysis, women aren't really free until their libidos are recognized as separate entities. Some of the suffragettes understood this. They could see the connection among the vote, political power, independence and being able to express their sexuality according to their own experience, instead of in reference to a demand by somebody else. But they were regarded as crazy and were virtually crucified. Thinking about them, I suddenly realized, Christ, we've been castrated and that's what it's all about. You see, it's all very well to let a bullock out into the field when you've already cut his balls off, because you know he's not going to do anything. That's exactly what happened to women.
- On how she chose the title for The Female Eunuch, in an interview by Nat Lehrman in Playboy (January 1972)
- The compelled mother loves her child as the caged bird sings. The song does not justify the cage nor the love the enforcement.
- Article "Abortion", The Sunday Times (21 May 1972)
- Human beings have an inalienable right to invent themselves; when that right is pre-empted it is called brain-washing.
- The Times, London (1 February 1986)
- No one goes to the toilet in novels. You'd think none of us had bladders.
- Newsnight Review (24 July 2009)
- Sexism is here a misleading name for misogyny, which is distrust, hatred and contempt of women. And it's not just men who feel these feelings and act on them. Women persecute other women, humiliate them and discriminate against them. They may not grab their tits or threaten to rape them; women have more effective ways of doing other women in. "Horizontal hostility", another gem from the Flo Kennedy thesaurus, is a by-product of oppression. Oppressed people don’t dare denounce the actual oppressor; instead they betray the people alongside them. They see their shared suffering as the consequence of a defect within themselves. What should be anger becomes guilt and self-blame.
This process can be discerned clearly and repeatedly in the caseload of the Everyday Sexism project. Though much of what is reported is criminal behaviour and not normalised at all, as the victims persist in imagining that whatever happened was their fault, there can be no access to redress. They should be furious but are terrified and ashamed instead. As long as a rape victim is considered to need anonymity, she is expected to shoulder shame and self-hatred as a consequence of someone else’s behaviour. Enough. Enough. Simply coughing up outrage into a blog will get us nowhere.
- "Germaine Greer: the failures of the new feminism", New Statesman (14 May 2014, updated 2 June 2014)
- From a review of Laura Bates' Everyday Sexism (Simon & Schuster). Greer also reviewed Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett's The Vagenda (Square Peg), a book inspired by their online magazine.
- How do we form ourselves into an activity—a force to improve the situation? I don't have the answers. I'm an academic—[we're] the most useless people in the world.
- FemiFest radical feminist conference, London (31 August 2014)
The Female Eunuch (1970) edit
- Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 0-374-52762-8
- Freedom is fragile and must be protected. To sacrifice it, even as a temporary measure, is to betray it.
- With them she can discover cooperation, sympathy and love. The end cannot justify the means: if she finds that her revolutionary way leads only to further discipline and continuing incomprehension, with their corollaries of bitterness and diminution, no matter how glittering the objective which would justify it, she must understand that it is a wrong way and an illusory end. The struggle which is not joyous is the wrong struggle. The joy of the struggle is not hedonism and hilarity, but the sense of purpose, achievement and dignity which is the reflowering of etiolated energy. Only these can sustain her and keep the flow of energy coming. The problems are only equalled by the possibilities: every mistake made is redeemed when it is understood. The only ways in which she can feel such joy are radical ones: the more derided and maligned the action that she undertakes, the more radical.
- The fear of freedom is strong in us. We call it chaos or anarchy, and the words are threatening. We live in a true chaos of contradicting authorities, an age of conformism without community, of proximity without communication. We could only fear chaos if we imagined that it was unknown to us, but in fact we know it very well. It is unlikely that the techniques of liberation spontaneously adopted by women will be in such fierce conflict as exists between warring self-interests and conflicting dogmas, for they will not seek to eliminate all systems but their own. However diverse they may be, they need not be utterly irreconcilable, because they will not be conquistatorial.
- If you think you are emancipated, you might consider the idea of tasting your own menstrual blood - if it makes you sick, you've got a long way to go, baby.
- The Wicked Womb (p. 57)
- In that mysterious dimension where the body meets the soul the stereotype is born and has her being. She is more body than soul, more soul than mind. To her belongs all that is beautiful, even the very word beauty itself. All that exists, exists to beautify her.
- The Stereotype
- The stereotype is the Eternal Feminine. She is the sexual object sought by all men, and all women. She is of neither sex for she herself has no sex at all. Her value is solely attested by the demand she excites in others. All she must contribute is her existence. She need achieve nothing, for she is the reward of achievement. She need never give positive evidence of her moral character because virtue is assumed from her loveliness, and her passivity.
- The Stereotype
- Nobody wants a girl whose beauty is imperceptible to all but him...
- The Stereotype (p. 67)
- Freud is the father of psychoanalysis. It had no mother.
- Nothing is more chilling than such a spectacle of unremitting self-sacrifice. This is a woman born to be abandoned by her ungrateful husband at the very pinnacle of success she helped to make for him, for a shameless hussy of nineteen.
- The Psychological Sell
- Even crushed against his brother in the Tube the average Englishman pretends desperately that he is alone.
- Womanpower (p. 128)
- The failure of women to produce great works of art and all that can be explained in terms of this statement. Insofar as she escapes or rejects her conditioning, the little girl may excel in those kinds of intellectual activity that are called creative, but eventually she either capitulates to her conditioning, or the conflicts become so pressing that her efficiency is hampered.
- The Raw Material
- Women have been charged with deviousness and duplicity since the dawn of civilization so they have never been able to pretend that their masks were anything but masks. It is a slender case but perhaps it does mean that women have always been in closer contact with reality than men: it would seem to be the just recompense for being deprived of idealism.
- Womanpower (p. 129)
- The principle of the brotherhood of man is that narcissistic one, for the grounds for that love have always been the assumption that we ought to realize that we are the same the whole world over.
- The Ideal (p. 159)
- Man is jealous because of his amour propre; woman is jealous because of her lack of it.
- Women have very little idea of how much men hate them.
- (p. 263)
- Often paraphrased as: "women have no idea how much men hate them."
- (p. 263)
- Loneliness is never more cruel than when it is felt in close propinquity with someone who has ceased to communicate.
- Security (p. 274)
- They still say "fuck you" as a venomous insult; they still find "cunt" the most degrading epithet outside the dictionary.
- On men, in Hate (p. 287)
- The surest guide to the correctness of the path that women take is joy in the struggle. Revolution is the festival of the oppressed.
The Obstacle Race (1979) edit
- Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 0-374-22412-9
- Great art, for those who insist upon this rather philistine concept (as if un-great art were unworthy of even their most casual and ill-informed attention), makes us stand back and admire. It rushes upon us pell-mell like the work of Rubens or Tintoretto or Delacroix, or towers above us. There is of course another aesthetic: the art of a Vermeer or a Braque seeks not to amaze and appal but to invite the observer to come closer, to close with the painting, peer into it, become intimate with it. Such art reinforces human dignity.
- Chapter V: Dimension (p. 105)
- The element of heroic maleness had always been present in the concept of the artist as one who rides the winged horse above the clouds beyond the sight of lesser men, a concept seldom applied to those who worked with colours until the nineteenth century. When the inevitable question is asked, "Why are there no great women artists?" it is this dimension of art that is implied. The askers know little of art, but they know the seven wonders of the painting world.
- Chapter V: Dimension (p. 105)
- Great artists are products of their own time: they do not spring forth fully equipped from the head of Jove, but are formed by the circumstances acting upon them since birth. These circumstances include the ambiance created by the other, lesser artists of their own time, who have all done their part in creating the pressure that forces up an exceptional talent. Unjustly, but unavoidably, the very closeness of a great artist to his colleagues and contemporaries leads to their eclipse.
- Chapter VII: The Disappearing Oeuvre (p. 134)
- By 1627 Judith Leyster was famous enough to be mentioned in Ampzing's description of the city of Haarlem; by 1661 she had been so far forgotten that De Bie does not mention her in his Golden Cabinet. Her eclipse by Frans Hals may have begun in her own lifetime, as a consequence of her marriage to Molenaer perhaps, for Sir Luke Schaub acquired the painting now known as The Jolly Companions as a Hals in Haarlem in the seventeenth century.
If Judith Leyster had not been in the habit of signing her work with the monogram JL attached to a star, a pun on the name her father had taken from his brewery, Leyster or Lodestar, her works might never have been reattributed to her: few paintings can boast of a provenance as clear as that of The Jolly Companions. As a result of the discovery that The Jolly Companions bore Leyster's monogram, the English firm which had sold the painting to Baron Schlichting in Paris as a Hals attempted to rescind their own purchase and get their money back from the dealer, Wertheimer, who had sold it to them for £4500 not only as a Hals but "one of the finest he ever painted." Sir John Millars agreed with Wertheimer about the authenticity and value of the painting. The special jury and the Lord Chief Justice never did get to hear the case, which was settled in court on 31st May 1893, with the plaintiffs agreeing to keep the painting for £3500 plus £500 costs. The gentlemen of the press made merry at the experts' expense, for all they had succeeded in doing was in destroying the value of the painting. Better, they opined, to have asked no questions. At no time did anyone throw his cap in the air and rejoice that another painter, capable of equalling Hals at his best, had been discovered.
- Chapter VII: The Disappearing Oeuvre (p. 136)
Sex and Destiny : The Politics of Human Fertility (1984) edit
- Olympic Marketing, ISBN 0-06091-250-2
- The management of fertility is one of the most important functions of adulthood.
- The blind conviction that we have to do something about other people’s reproductive behaviour, and that we may have to do it whether they like it or not, derives from the assumption that the world belongs to us, who have so expertly depleted its resources, rather than to them, who have not.
- Chapter 14
The Madwoman's Underclothes (1986) edit
- Little, Brown and Company, ISBN 0-87113-308-3
- While young fools of my generation produced terrifying symptoms by ingesting poisons of various synthetic kinds, I was taken to extraordinary realms by a bacillus carried from human excrement by a fly's foot. I swelled to the size of a mountain and shrank to the size of a pin, flew and sang and fell through exotic configurations, in the intervals between agonizing convulsions on the heavy earthenware vaso, whose lethal contents I had to dispose of in the fields when the fever subsided. When the burning and shivering stopped and I could see again only what was there, I stayed enthralled by clarity. There was nothing to me in biochemical mindbending or bullshit psychedelia that did not have the slimy scent of death about it. I hated being out of touch, isolated by the solipsism of delirium, unable to communicate or comprehend.
- "Introduction," p. xxii
- Kinkiness comes from low energy. It's the substitution of lechery for lust.
- "A groupie's vision" (October 1969), p. 10
- Once a paper admits any principle of censorship for survival, the we-don't-want-to-do-it-but-we-don't-want-to-lose-the-printer kind of censorship, it jeopardizes the integrity of its editorial principle. It's better to print and be damned, because you'll be damned anyway.
- "The million-dollar Underground" (July 1969), p. 15
- The treatment for jaded sensibilities is not to shatter them, after all.
- "The Wet Dream Film Festival" (1971), p. 57
- The pain of sexual frustration, of repressed tenderness, of denied curiosity, of isolation in the ego, of greed, suppressed rebellion, of hatred poisoning all love and generosity, permeates our sexuality. What we love we destroy.
- "The Wet Dream Film Festival" (1971), p. 57
- As Angelo discovered in Measure for Measure, nothing corrupts like virtue.
- "A needle for your pornograph" (22 July 1971), p. 67
- Compulsory motherhood is not ennobling, although the friends of the foetus are at pains to point out that most women denied abortions end up loving their issue just the same. Whether they love them just the same as they would have if they had wanted them is of course unverifiable; most women are not so perverse and unjust as to punish their children for the crimes of society (their fathers), but the oppression of their circumstances is real notwithstanding. For the oppressors themselves to take credit for the women's magnanimity is sickeningly smug. The compelled mother loves her child as the caged bird sings. The song does not justify the cage nor the love the enforcement.
- "Abortion ii" (21 May 1972), p. 115
- Consensus politics means that you cannot afford to give the many-headed beast, the public, anything to vote against, for voting against is what gargantuan pseudodemocracy has to come down to.
- "The Big Tease" (October 1972), p. 138
- Most people die in improvised circumstances of harassment and confusion, whether in hospital or out of it.
- "Not a time to die" (3 December 1972), p. 147
- Doctors, lawyers and even accountants have always understood that they would have to stand firm, functioning as a solid group protecting its own expertise and hence its earning capacity, from the tendency of all merchants to buy cheap and sell dear. They made of their special knowledge a rare and valuable commodity, insisted on a mystique and protected each other by an immovable professional code. They were cynical enough to know that if they were once cast in the role of public martyrs, working harder and more generously than most other groups of workers, they would be left with nothing but masochism, exhaustion and despair to show for it. Like successful trade unions, who have always worked on the principle that the job is worth whatever you can force the employer to pay for it and not a penny more or less, they understood that nobody was going to pay them their fees out of gratitude, that if they left it to the man whose life they had saved to pay them what he thought fit, they would wind up with half an old penny.
- "'Unhelpful to the workers' cause'" [undated], p. 175
- The most unpardonable privilege that men enjoy is their magnanimity.
- "Eternal war: Strindberg's view of sex" (3 June 1978), p. 207
- In the nuclear family the child is confronted by only two adults contrasted by sex. The tendency towards polarization is unavoidable. The duplication of effort in the nuclear family is directly connected to the family's role as the principal unit of consumption in consumer society. Each household is destined to acquire a complete set of all the consumer durables considered necessary for the good life and per caput consumption is therefore maintained at its highest level. In sex, as in consumption, the nuclear family emphasizes possession and exclusivity at the expense of the kinds of emotional relationships that work for co-operation and solidarity.
- "Women and power in Cuba" (1985), p. 271
Daddy, We Hardly Knew You (1989) edit
- Ballantine, ISBN 0-449-90561-6
- Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace, and wit, reminders of order, calm, and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark. The pleasure they give is steady, unorgastic, reliable, deep, and long-lasting. In any library in the world, I am at home, unselfconscious, still, and absorbed.
- Military mythology has to pretend that real men are in the majority; cowards can never be allowed to feel that they might be the normal ones and the heroes are insane.
The Change: Women, Aging and the Menopause (1991) edit
- Ballantine Books, ISBN 0-44990-853-4
- Women over fifty already form one of the largest groups in the population structure of the western world. As long as they like themselves, they will not be an oppressed minority. In order to like themselves they must reject trivialization by others of who and what they are. A grown woman should not have to masquerade as a girl in order to remain in the land of the living.
The Whole Woman (1999) edit
- Doubleday, ISBN 0385 60016X
- This sequel to The Female Eunuch is the book I said I would never write.
- A woman's pleasure is not dependent upon the presence of a penis in the vagina; neither is a man's.
- Abortion (p. 95)
- Men have still not realized that letting women do so much of the work for so little reward makes a man in the house an expensive luxury rather than a necessity.
- Work (p. 136)
- The few men who do a hand's turn around the house expect gratitude and recognition, so sure are they that, though it is their dirt, it is not their job.
- Housework (p. 141)
- How you answer the question, whether individuals should be persuaded to live their whole lives in a state of chemical dependency, first upon contraceptive steroids and then on replacement therapy, depends upon your regard for the autonomy of the individual. If men would not live their lives this way, why should women?
- Estrogen (p. 160)
- We can put women on Prozac and they will think they are happy, even though they are not. Disturbed animals in the zoo are given Prozac too, which rather suggests that misery is a response to unbearable circumstances rather than constitutional.
- Sorrow (p. 183)
- If the next time our governments propose to make war on a helpless civilian population we were to uncover our grief and guilt instead of our anger, how much difference might we make?
- Sorrow (p. 189)
- In a sane society no woman would be left to struggle on her own with the huge transformation that is motherhood, when a single individual finds herself joined by an invisible umbilical cord to another person from whom she will never be separated, even by death.
- Mothers (p. 209)
- Regardless of the dutiful pushing of condoms in the girls' press, the exposure of baby vaginas and cervixes to the penis is more likely to result in pregnancy and infection than orgasm.
- Girlpower (p. 332)
- The most powerful entities on earth are not governments but the multi-national corporations that see women as their territory, indoctrinating them with their versions of beauty, health and hygiene, medicating them and cultivating their dependency in order to medicate them some more.
- Liberation (p. 336)
- I'm actually passionately opposed to double beds, they're probably more responsible for bad sex than any other single piece of furniture.
- Al Jazeera Head to Head (Transcript)
Quotes about Greer edit
- In alphabetical order by author or source.
- I am a different person since I read Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch because she expressed what I felt with a great deal of humor. All my life I had experienced feelings of anger, impotence and injustice without knowing why. Suddenly I felt someone understood me and I could finally cope with my emotions. This marked not only my writing but my life.
- Isabel Allende, Interviews with Latin American writers by Marie Lise Gazarian Gautier (1989)
- Early white feminists, such as Kate Millett and Germaine Greer, made arguments that resounded throughout the western world, regarding their rage against white, male-dominated society and claimed their right to be angry. "Woman" had for too long been forced into quiet complacency. In the sixties, what was the purpose of the campus bra-burning, after all, if not to demonstrate their militant refusal to be continually sexualized by male culture. And yet, when feminists of color show their indignation and express intolerance of racism, some white feminists and intellectuals accuse us of being "too angry". Should we ask first what is "anger-appropriate" so as not to offend anyone by expressing our indignation and pain?
- Ana Castillo Introduction to Massacre Of The Dreamers: Essays On Xicanisma (1994)
- She has been in the business of shaking up a complacent establishment for nearly 40 years now and was employing the most elemental shock tactic of getting naked in public both long before and long after it ever crossed Madonna's mind. She has repeatedly written about her own experiences of lesbian sex, rape, abortion, infertility, failed marriage (she was married for three weeks to a construction worker in the 1960s) and menopause, thereby leaving herself open to claims that she shamelessly extrapolates from her own condition to the rest of womankind and calls it a theory … In part, her ability to remain so prominently in the public consciousness comes from an astute understanding and well-established symbiotic relationship with a media as eager to be shocked as she is to shock.
- The Female Eunuch is a fitful, passionate, scattered text, not cohesive enough to qualify as a manifesto. It's all over the place, impulsive and fatally naive — which is to say it is the quintessential product of its time.
So was Greer. … If Greer were a bit more honest and had a bit more perspective, she'd have a useful message to relay to young women about the perils of confusing sexual autonomy with the real but ephemeral ability to manipulate men. She could elucidate the difference between a sexual freedom that abuses body and soul and a sexual freedom that cherishes and respects them. But Greer has always spoken directly from the tangles of her personal experience, shamelessly extrapolating from her own condition to the rest of womankind and seemingly unaware of her presumption. … In the '70s, she admonished women who lacked her confidence, stylishness and libido for their timorousness. Today, feeling betrayed, she's become grim and hectoring, a feminist more cartoonishly man-hating than the ones she supposedly defied in the '70s, nattering on about body hair and bras.
- Laura Miller in "Brilliant Careers: Germaine Greer", profile at Salon (22 June 1999)]
- Women who were housewives, who were pretty miserable … felt inspired by her book and their life changed. They didn't become megastars, but they became a librarian or something. I've heard women say again and again when the subject of Germaine comes up: 'Well, her book changed my life for the better.' And they'll be modest women living pretty ordinary lives, but better lives.
- She enjoys what most women do not enjoy, and therefore it's valuable, which is going out and doing battle with men.
- For a start, her assertion that we've forgotten about liberation and settled, instead, for the hope of equality feels like a revelation. "Liberation struggles are not about assimilation, but about asserting difference," she writes. "...What none of us noticed [in the 70s] was that the ideal of liberation was fading out with the word. We were settling for equality." [...] Now, the Women's Liberation spearheaded by the likes of Greer never told anyone that they shouldn't shave their legs. What it did do was say that if you want to shave, you should be aware that political pressures are behind that desire; just as political pressures force women to diet, and have breast implants, and use anti-ageing creams made from placenta, and generally feel hateful towards their physical selves. Greer's new book is an exciting reminder of how discrimination against women stops them, physically, from being 'the whole woman'. 'Your cellulite is you,' she says. It might sound obvious; but what a thrill to talk about owning our bodies, about being who we are.
This is where the equality-seekers get it wrong, and liberationists like Greer get it right. Because how we feel about our bodies has an impact on whether we get paid the same. Of course we'll never get equal status if we're spending all our time and energy worrying about our thighs. Of course we'll never get equal pay if we ask for it wearing a baby-doll slip.
- In this era the only feminism that makes sense to me is one that acknowledges the differences between women, and yet still encourages women to work together to forge a more equal society.
Germaine Greer, who I believe helped to spring open that cage of femininity in her first book, The Female Eunuch, is now refusing to acknowledge the differences among women. In her new book, The Whole Woman, she tries to blend all women's lives into one shared experience of sorrow and unrequited love.
- I have always been wary of feminists who seek to tell me that I must share a common personal experience with them that, more often than not, seems utterly alien to me. In Greer's eyes, if I am a woman I must not only be very sad, I must be obsessed with my body, and I must have really bad sex.
- But why can't Greer acknowledge the confidence and freedom that many women now bring to their sexual lives? The liberation that Greer herself helped us to achieve she now denies.
- Greer claims that this book was one she was reluctant to write. She has said that my book, The New Feminism, spurred her to such fury that she felt she had to respond. At the end of The Whole Woman she takes up an argument with "new feminism", which she equates with "lifestyle feminism". But that equation makes me wonder if she ever read my book.