Posted by: Chasy | 09/03/2010

My Germaine Greer post, a day late

As the blogosphere noted yesterday, inspired by the pompous, naive, ravings of some moron (erm, the idiot talked about in that link, not Hoyden About Town), it’s been 40 years since The Female Eunuch was published.

I must confess, as much of a feminist as I am, I have not read it. I don’t need to. Germaine told me I didn’t need to:

Every new generation of women struggles to define itself. Very few young women want to turn into their mother, and even fewer want to be their grandmother. There is no need for today’s women to march to a 40-year-old feminist drum.

However, her message, as illustrated by Maggie Alderson, is still relevant:

I can remember very clearly the lightbulb moment, while reading [The Female Eunuch], when I realised that if I didn’t make my own money, I would always have to ask my husband for the cash if I wanted to buy a new dress.

And that I might have to be nice to him and agree with things he said, that I didn’t believe in, and have sex with him even if I didn’t feel like it, and make what he wanted for dinner even if I didn’t want it, to get that money. Ping!

I know that’s a pathetically trivial reduction of Greer’s theses, but it was what brought the bigger issue home to my 13 year-old head: that economic independence is the foundation for freedom.

As Ms Greer points out herself in the article linked to above:

The prevalence of divorce is not something I predicted. The woman who opts to end her marriage after an average of seven or eight years, with divorce following three and four years after, is making a conscious decision to go it alone. She will almost certainly be earning less than her ex-husband; if she has children she faces 15 or 20 years of poverty and unremitting hard work, both inside and outside the home.

She will have no leisure, no spare cash, no money for luxuries such as nice clothes or a decent haircut or a safe car or holidays. Her chances of finding a new partner are much lower than her ex-husband’s. Women who face this fate with equanimity have my unstinting admiration. They are choosing a tough but honourable life over a servile and dishonourable one. If they get it right, and their kids do well, they will get no praise. If their kids screw up, they will get all the blame.

And, of course, that is the bit that made me cry – because it is So. Fucking. True. Not being financially independent of your partner, while staying at home and looking after the kids, is frustrating enough. Being a single mother, earning half of what your ex-partner is, all the while being expected to produce a perfectly raised, healthy, happy child, is unbelievably hard. Yet, we’re just expected to do it. Single mothers, apparently, are expected to have some kind of super-human ability to do this, yet nobody stops to think about how.

By working fucking hard for it, that’s how. Yet, because we live in a male-dominated, corporation-driven, society, we have to work twice as hard.

Society has changed since 1970, but the message Ms Greer conveyed in her book is still the same. Women need their independence. Women need not consider themselves lesser beings within our society and learn to love themselves. Women need choice. Women still do not have the same opportunities and privileges as men, and, forgive me for sounding like a whinger, but it’s just not fucking fair.

Incidentally, there is a conflict within feminism is something that, to my mind, erodes the very thing we should be fighting for: the benefit of choice. There seems to be this belief amongst some that to be a feminist, you must do away with femininity entirely.

I call bullshit on that, as do quite a number of feminists. It doesn’t sound like much of a choice to me. Ms Greer, herself, is quoted as saying (taken from the Wiki entry linked to above) “Bras are a ludicrous invention, but if you make bralessness a rule, you’re just subjecting yourself to yet another repression.”

Which is why I find Helen Razer’s attack on ‘Vajazzling’ a little confusing, when she was supposed to be defending women’s rights in light of the attack on Greer.

Surely, if a woman wants to put bits of plastic on her labia, she should be able to? Isn’t that what feminism is supposed to be about? Choice? Of course, Razer was specifically referring to Jennifer Love Hewitt saying she ‘needed Vajazzling to feel good about her vagina’.

In that case, Helen has a very good point. Ms Love Hewitt shouldn’t need something to make her feel good about her genitals. There’s nothing wrong with them. I can understand why she would feel like there is, though. Society tells us they are ugly, disgusting things, because blood and babies come out of them.

Well, to be perfectly frank, having a thing that shoots white goop everywhere is kinda gross when you think about it, but men don’t get subjugated in society, or made to feel like a part of their own body should be reviled, as a result. Someone needs to take Jennifer aside and kindly reassure her that having a vagina is not a bad thing.

However, if a woman wanted to stick glittery things on her cunt, why shouldn’t she? I know plenty of girls who’ve had their bits pierced, yet this seems to get respect, rather than ridicule – so what’s the fucking difference?

I’ve strayed off the track a little here, but my point is thus: Feminism is supposed to be about choice. Whether you chose to be a feminine feminist, or a butch conservative, that should be entirely up to the individual. However, I believe (as I said, having never read it) the point of Germaine Greer’s initial publication is that if you don’t fight for the right to have that choice, whatever era you were born in, you will be without control over your own life in a male-dominated, corporate, society.

And, forgive me if I’m wrong, but, even 40 years on, I think Germaine Greer would agree with me. She may not want to join me when I go to get my ‘Vajazzling’, though.



  1. Nice work Kitty!

    • Cheers!

  2. great post – we need more of these out there in the papers! It is still surprising and disappointing to me how many people, close female friends included, have the wrong idea about feminism. Women themselves are spreading the wrong message about feminism, when it’s really about choice and awareness of inherent discrimination, not about being aggressive to men or being a lesbian. How could we ever effect change if we keep setting ourselves back by stereotypes that are far too widespread in mainstream thoughts and conversations.

    • Thanks, Mei!

  3. Bravo. I hadn’t considered the ‘vjazzling’ issue from this perspective, and though I always enjoy Ms Razer’s bitchkriegs, I’m with you on this one.

    The evidence is clear, women still have much to achieve. Hopefully our generation gives it a red hot go.

    • I have this theory that because of the lack of enthusiasm for change in Third Wave Feminism, that Fourth Wave Feminism, being my daughter’s generation, are going to be forthright, dominant, sexually uninhibited women who look back at how repressed our generation was and shake their heads.

      At least, I hope so. And, yes, I know it’s weird for a mother to want her daughter to be sexually uninhibited, but as long as she looks after herself, she should go for it!

  4. laughed at “white goop” — cos it’s true. Loved this post. I didnt understand the fuss about Love Hewitt’s vajazzling. Some people turn to alcohol, others to sex, yet others to chocolate — to feel good. Why not vajazzling?

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