Big bum not ‘Germaine’ to the argument

DID Germaine Greer throw herself on the sword last night on ABC’s Q&A?

If you haven’t seen the clip – where she says our female Prime Minister has a big arse – you can see it here.

But her asinine remarks went viral overnight. People ousting the 73-year-old feminist as out of touch. But she did something countless women have tried recently, and failed, to do.

She united people under a feminist agenda by doing something so against the grain of a women’s movement that we simply couldn’t ignore it. And she did it to the highest office held by a woman.

She couldn’t have affronted women anymore if she were Kyle Sandilands.

I’ve talked before about what it takes to be a feminist. But what stops most women in their tracks is the bad publicity of the “feminist movement” – a bunch of unfriendly, rigid, self-serving women.

I know I don’t want to be seen that way.

Feminism has become captive to a social attitude that is only appealing to a minority, when it was once a free platform for discussion on topics that mattered to all women.

As Naomi Wolf wrote in Fire With Fire, “Many women identify feminism with specific issues that may or may not include them, rather than with a theory of self-worth that applies to every woman’s life without exception.”

“Is it about abortion? Well, I am not certain I know when  life begins, a woman might say. Is it about lesbianism? Well, I am a married woman. It’s for middle-class white women, isn’t it? I am working class. Is it about fighting against men? I am an Afro-Caribbean woman and there is no way I’m going to put down an Afro-Caribbean man. It’s anti-pornography right? I  don’t believe in censorship, and I don’t want anyone telling me what to do in my bedroom. Is it about not wearing makeup? I like to look good. Is it restricted to women? Well, I am a parent, and I care about my daughter, but I am a man. Is it about sexual abuse or rape? That may have happened to me, but I am interested in putting it behind me, and I don’t want to define myself as a victim.  (p67)

With such a diverse range of issues and so many conflicted views, people opted out altogether and, it seems to me, the cause of women’s rights has stalled.

Disagree?

Last year the Australian Bureau of Statistics released a report showing women earn 11% less than men per hour, on average. And that, when you barge through the glass ceiling of corporate Australia, some of the gaps there were almost 50 per cent between men and women (according to Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick last year).

And when we wind back to part-time – as is often the case when you start having kids – women’s rate of pay drops to 64 per cent of a man’s income (working the same hours).

So, yes, Germaine Greer did a shitty thing. But has she reignited a debate worth having? Most definitely.

It now remains to be seen whether this sudden defiance will translate into other issues.

Whether it was her intention to do so or not, I’m glad for her remarks. I’m glad to see so many men and women stand up and defend Julia Gillard. I bet Anna Bligh is wishing GG had a go at her dress sense.

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