03 January 2007

Germaine, we knew you too well *

One of the comments on my recent post about masculinity, which referred to Germaine Greer, reminded me that she was briefly on Celebrity Big Brother. (The comment was by Liz, author of Finding Life Hard?, a witty personal blog about the trials and tribulations of life in a woody part of Wales.)

Greer walked out of the CBB show, citing (acc. to Wiki) the psychological cruelty and bullying of the show's producers, the dirt of the house, and the publicity-seeking behavior of her fellow contestants. I remember thinking at the time, "good on ya, Gerry". Walking out seemed kind of a brave thing to do, telling the media manipulators where they could put it.

I have not liked a single thing Professor Greer has ever said (with one exception - see below), although occasionally she is getting near a point worth making. Apart from anything else, she expresses everything she says with far too much bile. (Note to self: avoid making same mistake.) And I am pretty sure I wouldn't like her much if I met her.

Nevertheless, I have a certain sympathy with her, and after the CBB episode I actually had a bit more respect for her. I always respect people who go against the grain, because it takes guts. Perhaps her brand of feminism was against the grain when she started peddling it, but now it is the grain.

(Warning: please skip this paragraph if you dislike armchair psychoanalysis.) The reason I sympathise with her - a little - is that I see her output as being driven by the tragedy of being a clever woman in a world where women are, ultimately, never taken very seriously. It's just that I don't think her particular response to this - railing against men - has been very useful for civilisation. Turning personal resentment into an intellectual position is not, of course, that uncommon. Others who've done it include Peter Tatchell, Polly Toynbee and Karen Armstrong.

There is a delicious irony in Greer having (briefly) appeared on the 2005 edition of CBB, because in 2001 she wrote an article on Big Brother for the sophisticatedly titled online journal SCUM AT THE TOP (described as "Australia's Journal of Political Character Assassination"), in which she argued that:

Watching Big Brother is about as dignified as looking through the keyhole in your teenage child's bedroom door. To do it occasionally would be shameful; to get hooked on it is downright depraved.
The rest of her article is well worth reading. I agree with nearly everything she says in it.

By the way, on the subject of Greer changing her position on various issues - perhaps to keep that attention she so craves - a Grauniad article by Maureen Lipman from 2005 is rather amusing.

* Apologies for the title, which is a reference to Greer's 1989 book about her father. As far as I'm aware, Professor Greer is alive and well and living in Essex.