Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Germaine Greer, Feminist Icon

Germaine Greer (born 29 January 1939)




Today is the birthday of irrepressible feminist powerhouse Germaine Greer. Greer's The Female Eunuch, published in 1970, contributed significantly to the Second Wave feminist movement and remains a crucial work for women today--not least for Greer's claim that women have no idea how much men hate them because women have been taught so effectively to hate themselves.

"Women have very little idea of how much men hate them," she begins in a section of the book labelled "Loathing and Disgust." She continues, "Men do not themselves know the depth of their hatred," and her analysis of street harassment, domestic violence, and sexual assault sounds as if it was written yesterday instead of more than forty years ago. It's important to note that Greer does not let women off the hook for their ignorance, self-loathing, and complicity. If you haven't read it--or if you haven't read it in a while--now is the time

Greer's The Obstacle Race: The Fortune of Women Painters and Their Work (1979) is a crucial treatment of the difficulties women artists have faced throughout history--it is a source I've relied on quite frequently here in my postings on women artists. And I particularly like Greer's 2007 biography of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare's Wife. From the introduction: 
Until our own time, history focussed on man the achiever; the higher the achiever the more likely it was that the woman who slept in his bed would be judged unworthy of his company. Her husband's fans recoiled from the notion that she might have made a significant contribution towards his achievement of greatness. 
She continues, "No one has ever undertaken a systematic review" of the life of Anne Hathaway--or her potential contributions to Shakespeare's life and work--"while every opportunity to caricature and revile her has been exploited to risible lengths." 

And here is from Greer's 2013 CNN essay, "Guilt Poisons Women":
Women live lives of continual apology. They are born and raised to take the blame for other people's behavior. If they are treated without respect, they tell themselves that they have failed to earn respect. If their husbands do not fancy them, it is because they are unattractive. Dirt and disorder in the family home is their fault, though they created none of it.
For Greer and her significance, "What Germain Greer and The Female Eunuch Mean to Me," here is an assessment offered by "six influential feminists" on the occasion of her seventy-fifty birthday in 2014.

Greer in 1970,
just after the publication of The Female Eunuch