Germaine Greer is in the news again. She was due to give a lecture at Cardiff University on 18th November, but a petition has been circulated by Rachael Melhuish, the students union women’s officer, to prevent her from speaking. Greer has now said that she won’t bother.
Greer holds the view that to be a woman you need to be a woman. She maintains that trans-gender male to female post-operatives are not actually woman. In my copy of The Female Eunuch (which I have just dusted down) Greer writes in typical strident terms: “there are men who mutilate themselves and are given passports as statutory females”. Melhuish holds the contrary view: men who want to be woman can be. Melhuish’s view is now, apparently, the orthodox feminist position: biology is a cultural creation. What makes a woman? I have no particular opinion on this subject but an interesting debate could be had at, say, a university. Not now.
Melhuish’s petition includes this sentence: “while debate in a university should be encouraged, hosting a speaker with such problematic and hateful view towards marginalised and vulnerable groups is dangerous.” Once upon a time one had to sign up to orthodox views to attend Oxford or Cambridge (the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England). These days the orthodoxy is different, but the exclusionary attitude remains the same.
What has Germaine Greer ever done for us?
Greer is a seminal feminist author; Melhuish is clearly an assiduous university women’s officer. Freud had a term for the bitterness that is reserved for those who’s views are almost, but not quite, identical: the narcissism of the minor difference. It is always crucial to remember in life whether one is with the People’s Front of Judea or the Judean People’s Front. To help us navigate the difference, let me finish with some words about Loretta (who began life as Stan):
It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.
We shall fight the oppressors for your rights to have babies, brother. Sister, sorry.
It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.