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.

5 comments:

james higham said...

I do not consider this person to be a woman, let alone anythng she's ever said having reference to women's lives. Why is she constantly trotted out and asked her opinion?

Anonymous said...

"(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."

This isn't psycho-analysis, this is psychological character investigation!

Psycho-analysis sees people according to the 5 primordialdrives and impulses; Libido, Death-drive, and as a result of repression, projection and transferance. There's no evidence of that in your 4 line investigation! I could mockingly say 4 humours, as if to suggest that PA is primitive and simple, but I happen to think that poetic analogy is very useful for understanding character, except in PA obviously.

If I keep going on about PA your going to start thinking I have a bone to pick, which is obviously ego-compensation, and therefore unconcious resistance to the trauma of womb-envy/castration anxiety/repressed urge for paricide.

Flicking through a polemic by Greer I read a while ago called ' The Whole Woman' I can't help but feel that she's more than a Feminist, but an existential outsider. Writing her Notes from Underground. This is not the same as belittlement, I happen to have a profound sympathy for that kind of person having met so many in mental-institutions and on the internet, if you think it's possible to 'meet' people on the Inturnet.

I quote:

"A woman who is unhappy, angry and withdrawn may be told by a ppsychiatrist that her hormones are in flux, by a psychologist that her cognitions are faulty, by a sociologist that her environment is to blame, or by a psycho-analyst that she is repressing her unconcious desires.

[The author then adds:] Or by a geneticist that it is in her genes. Or by a Freudian that she is maddened by penis envy"

Interesting both quotes end with the Psycho-analytic interpretation... Is there anything more egregious and dehumanising than psycho-analysis? When a 6th form psychology tutor stands up in front of the class and begins relating Freudian theory to the children how are they to know that they simply being lied to? How are they know that psycho-analysis has no more foundation or merit than Phrenology?

Greer ends that section of the polemic by writing:

"Nobody blames men."

And this is where I sharply disagree with her. That statement seen in the context of unhappiness ties neatly into the left-wing/mediocratic dogma that all people are products of there environment with no inner world whatsoever with (to quote your book 'Mediocracy') "Language as the foundation of all mental phenomena" neatly summed up in one particularly mediocractic slogan:

"The Personal is Political!"

Which is then used as a pretext for invading every aspect of peoples lives. Because there cannot possibly be any existential conflicts; and I've met a fair few men and woman whose problems cannot be attributed to society.

For example, a woman whose loving husband dies starts hearing voices telling her that she was to blame and promptly becomes really quite disturbed and depressed. That's not political or the result of misogyny. Though I can't help but risk the wry humour that even in that case it was the mans silly fault for dying. Heh.

Don't get me wrong, Greer and Feminism in general are basically good things, I would say times have moved on but a lot of things remain relevent, such as the gap in earnings between male and female workers.

To end this lengthy scatterlogical tirade I suppose I could say that in these strange times the crisis in the overall aims and meaning of civilisation, maybe even life, is the crisis from which all others spring.

Paul said...

Strong meat from James: certainly there's a tendency amongst feminists towards oddly masculine behaviour (indeed many appear to wish to engineer a society in which women are coerced to behave like men and men like women) - one imagines that one day the genetic determinists will boast of a discovery which explains all this...

Fabian Tassano said...

Anonymous, that is what I meant by saying she sometimes gets near a point worth making, in this case that the medical establishment is oppressive and reductionist. But, instead of blaming the prevailing materialist/collectivist ideology, or the authoritarianism which results when you have a state-sponsored monopoly in medicine, she turns it into something about gender, thus blurring the issues.

Paul said...

"...a lot of things remain relevent, such as the gap in earnings between male and female workers."

A number of dissident feminists are disputing the notion that the gender pay gap is actually due to some underlying social inequity, noting that it has resisted all attempts at eradication and is probably due largely to the different priorities of men and women (equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome and all that...). The excellent Cathy Young has written on this.

I'd be interested to know your thoughts, Fabian...