I’ve always been a Germaine Greer fan-girl. Her books ‘The Whole Woman’ and ‘The Female Eunuch’ changed my life.
Germaine Greer was the reason I became a feminist at 16.
Germaine Greer was the reason I became passionate about issues that affect women.
Germaine Greer was the reason I went to TAFE in my twenty-first year and did a Cert IV in Juvenile Justice and Child Protection, to give me the entry requirements to get into gender-studies at uni
I don’t identify as a feminist these days. I believe in gender equality. But I don’t believe one has to demonise men to achieve it. As far as I can see, the feminist movement today is primarily about man-shaming, political correctness and the suppression of democracy.
I have no interest in any of that. Yet I do have an interest in Greer and what she has managed to achieve for women throughout her lifetime.
In saying that…
I was absolutely horrified to read Greer’s controversial remarks about rape on Wednesday at The Hay Festival in Wales. Greer argued that the jail sentences for rapists were too severe and should be reduced to 200 hours of community service.
Like what the actual fuck? As it is, a perpetrator can get more time in jail for theft or drugs than for the violent rape of a woman. And Greer is suggesting that these monsters don’t get imprisoned at all?
Greer went on to say: “Instead of thinking of rape as a spectacularly violent crime, and some rapes are, think about it as non-consensual … that is bad sex. Sex where there is no communication, no tenderness, no mention of love,”
It honestly took me a few hours to process Greer’s comments – it was a definite ‘WTF’ moment. Moreso because I was aware that she was a survivor of a brutal rape like me. And I found it difficult to comprehend how she journeyed from “that” to “this”.
Greer informed the audience she was raped as a teen: “I was violently raped days before my nineteenth birthday. I was beaten half-unconscious,” As she vehemently argued that a rape victim’s life wasn’t “destroyed.“ We haven’t been destroyed, we’ve been bloody annoyed, is what we’ve been. I reckon 200 hours of community service will do…”
I understand what Greer is trying to articulate when she says that ‘rape survivors’ haven’t been destroyed. She is removing the ‘raped woman’ from the victim narrative which is so prevalent.
In the #Me-too era rape survivors are encouraged to remain victims via a hashtag and to turn their experience into ‘a product’ for others; whether it be a think-piece, an art piece or a viral tweet. It’s all about commodifying one’s trauma and moulding it into something that the masses can consume. I, myself, am guilty of commodifying my trauma. I’m doing it right now by writing this column.
Like Germaine Greer, I don’t feel destroyed by my own sexual assault. But not being ‘destroyed’ doesn’t erase the fact that one is psychologically changed for life — which affects all your choices and behaviours from that day forward.
I’ve spent years writing columns and a book to deal with my trauma. Last year I took my one-woman show about my rape to the West End of London. People process trauma differently, I process mine through creating new work.
But what Greer fails to recognise amidst her strength and courageous coping mechanisms is that a large majority of women are in fact destroyed by rape.
Their lives are shattered indefinitely by ‘the violence’ that is every rape — brutal or not. Unable to move forward. Unable to metabolize what has happened to them. Unable to pause the intermittent flashbacks. Unable to become whole again.
Greer’s comments are dangerous, ignorant and incredibly hurtful to women whose bodies and souls have been trespassed without consent. And to invalidate a woman’s traumatic experience by words such as these is inappropriate and inconceivably cruel.
The only comfort I can derive from any of this is the knowledge that Germaine Greer is a career-provocateur and shit-stirrer.
Does Greer really believe what she is saying? I mean, she’s written a book about it. But is it all just a spectacle to grab some world headlines and remain relevant in her seventy-ninth year? I truly hope this is the case.
Otherwise, Dr Greer. it’s time for you to shut up!
Vanessa de Largie is a freelance journalist and sex columnist who divides her time between London and Melbourne.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.