Friday 21 August 2009

Being a Woman: Germaine Greer, Caster Semenya and gender paranoia

This is painful for me. I was scribbling notes in 'The Female Eunuch' and 'The Whole Woman' before I lost all my milkteeth; I worship her irreverent, punchy prose; but there's no escaping it. These days, Germaine Greer is a prejudiced, ignorant dickwad.

In her rather confused verdict on the Caster Semenya controversy, Greer comes up with the following gem today:

'Nowadays we are all likely to meet people who think they are women, have women's names, and feminine clothes and lots of eyeshadow, who seem to us to be some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn't polite to say so. We pretend that all the people passing for female really are. Other delusions may be challenged, but not a man's delusion that he is female.'

In dismissing all transpeople as 'ghastly parodies', Greer hardly does any better in the grand game of unthinking prejudice bingo than the disgusting commentators who have decided that just because Semenya, a phenomenally high-achieving athlete, is big, butch and brilliant at sports, she can't be a girl. Let's take a little look at what womanhood is, according to Greer and others.

Greer believes that my 'womanhood' is defined by my tits, my bleeding cunt and my XX chromosome. She also believes that 'woman' should be my primary identity: before I think of myself as a writer, a journalist, a sister, a daughter, a lover, a friend, a consumer of trashy vampire novels, I should consider myself "a woman, first". In other words: my cunt and tits are what make me, me. Well, gonads to that.

What defines this holy femininity, in the radical feminist assessment? Is it having breasts? Having a twat? Being curvy? Being fertile? Having an XX chromosome? Yes? Well, then, it clearly sucks to be one of the significant proportion of women who are none of these things, excluding the trans population for a moment: the women all over the world who lack breasts after mastectomy or a quirk of biology; women who are born without vaginas, or who are victims of FGM; women who are androgynously skinny, naturally or because of illness; women who are infertile or post-menopausal; or the 0.1% of women who are intersex. Who's to say that these people are not women too, if womanhood is the gender identity that they prefer? Greer shares something with Christian Fundamentalists here: none of them are interested in the actual social and biological science behind their unthinking assumptions.

In fact, 'womanhood' is not a holy, immutable quality. 'Womanhood' encompasses a complex spectrum of biological facts just as 'femininity' encompasses a huge range of social and cultural factors. 'Woman' is not a binary fact, set irretrievably and forever against 'Man'. The reason that radical feminists and social conservatives alike find transpeople so terribly threatening is that they know this better than anyone else.

Transpeople know that however much it happens to mean to you, femininity is, in fact, something that can be bought from a shop*. They know that identity is fluid and that womanhood itself is not a fixed biological quantity. They know that the state of being a woman or being a man is something imposed from without, something that can be altered, and they are living, breathing proof of that radical truth. And that's horribly threatening to recalcitrants everywhere.

Let's come back to Caster Semenya, whose physicality is rather more of an issue for her career and identity than it might be for the rest of us. I for one am disgusted by the popular reasoning that any physically high-acheiving woman who is not stereotypically 'feminine' is an aberration, and therefore must actually be a man. Caster Semenya is a woman; she has lived her whole life as a woman; her genetics have nothing to do with it. The insistence by the IAAF that she 'prove' she is a woman - as if there were any concrete way of doing such a thing - is sexist on every level.

For the sake of argument, though, let's suppose just for one minute that Semenya does turn out to be XXY or XXX-type intersex, or a person with Androgen Insensitivity syndrome. Suppose that this incredible athlete, who feels that she is a woman, who has spent her entire career competing against women and expresses her triumph as a triumph in the sphere of women's sports, a female and feminine physical feat, happens to be amongst the 0.1% of women without an XX genotype. Why on earth is that a problem? And why should that disqualify her from women's sports? What, are they going to create a special intersex olympics just for her and a handful of others? Or will she be ostracised from the world of sport altogether because her body does not support the binary ideology of the IAAF?

The sporting world is a cultural throwback, as paranoid over the maintenance of strict gender binaries as, well, as your average Greerite radical feminist. But if we truly want to progress as a species - if we want to celebrate sporting acheivement, if we want to strive collectively and individually to run faster and swim stronger and jump higher and think more clearly, our frantic cultural drive to uphold gender as a holy and immutable binary is the first thing we need to abandon.
*For more on this and the capitalist connotations of femininity, I heartily recommend the excellent essay Mama Cash: Buying and Selling Genders by Charles Anders, available in several essay collections, although unfortunately I can't find it online!


  1. We should really get rid of gender classifications entirely and just have small weak, fatty chested, holey people and the rest.

    I doubt that women would thrive in such an environment though - without special rules to protect them from male aggression they`d be scuppered.

    Just out of a matter of interest, has anyone ever raised a child in a box, without human contact, to see what happens?

  2. Wonderful piece. I read a lot but never comment here.

    I do wonder, though, why not develop a special intersex category? (For those who actually identify as intersex, I mean, which doesn't include Semenya.

  3. And what will happen on the day that a woman takes a world record from a man? What if Allyson Felix goes out and blows away Usain Bolt's 200 m world record today. Unlikely perhaps, but I wonder what the world, specifically the male world, will do on that day. We boys are obviously not ready for that yet, but we better start thinking about it, because one day it will happen.

  4. @ Locke: oh dear, now I am feeling small, weak and holey. As small as your mind, as weak as your argument and as wholly inadequate as your whole tone.

    I've long had vast areas of disagreement with Germaine Greer, so her continued intransigence on this topic is not painful to me. It's disappointing, though.

  5. I noticed in the news report the sentence, "A group of doctors, including an endocrinologist, a gynaecologist, an internal medicine expert, an expert on gender and a psychologist, have started the testing procedure but it is uncertain when the results will be known."

    A psychologist? I thought they were testing for something physical! How interesting. I wish Ms Semenya the best of luck in enduring these unpleasant and intrusive tests.

  6. Great piece. I don't know why I continue to read what GG says... I thought I was reading Janice Raymond for a minute there.

  7. Yes, when I read that a psychologist was going to be there, I thought WTF?!!! The psych profession has caused enough problems for intersex and trans people, let alone getting involved in something which is about physical/biological.

  8. You are not fit to walk in the same sunshine as Germaine Greer. Get over yourself you stroppy little mare!

  9. This is not nice for the runner or her family, I think she is a girl a women, but she looks like a bloke, my god what next he looks gay she looks gay.

    A doctor can tell in seconds, we are told not good enough. I watched her run this week she looks female to me.

  10. @Vanilla Rose : Intersex indivduals may have ambiguous genitalia and it might be difficult to draw conclusions from just physical examinations.

    Penny, the sporting world is not a cultural throwback determined to enforce binary sexuality , it is determined to enforce fair play in sporting events. While you make a fair point about gender being far more fluid than just 1s or 0s you can easily see the unfair sporting advantage that can be gained by having a body that has athletic advantages over the other runners.

    Just as a runner should be able to expect the other runners not to have unfair physiques and performance abilities via steroids, the same goes for gaining those advantages via genetic conditions.

  11. Commenting as someone who is transgendered I find the mad speculation on Semenya's 'real' gender (Gender? Hmm, that's really a completely different identity seperate from biological sex anyway) and the attitudes of 'unthinking prejudice bingo' players wholly depressing - bloody well done Caster, I say, it's a pity the world can't see your magnificent achievement because their woolly-brained phobia has got in the way. Again.

    Ghastly parodies? One giant step too far Greer. I'm sure it isn't polite to say she comes across as a raving phobic bigot in that spewage of an article, but I'm going to anyway. It's no less offensive than calling trans nature a delusion.

  12. you make valid comments about the fluidity of gender, and Caster's case has brought the subject to the fore once again.
    However, you (and most of the media too) have neglected the fact that complaints were brought against her by her fellow female runners - specifically the ones she beat.
    Here in SA the whole country has got behind her - but belatedly; In her culture she has been ridiculed for most of her teenage years. She needs to just be left alone.

  13. The division of contestants by their sex in sport is only to allow people of similar physical ability to compete against each other; if men and women competed together in all events women would have virtually no chance of winning any prizes, medals, breaking or setting any records. It is undeniable that men outstrip women physically in every way imaginable in pretty much every sport or track and field event.

    I think your views would certainly NOT be shared by female athletes currently in training who would almost certainly only want to compete against persons who are chromosomally identifiable (as they themselves would be) as women.

    The reason that chromosomally XXY or XXX-type intersex or people with Androgen Insensitivity syndrome are excluded from women's events is to prevent them exercising abnormal PHYSICAL advantages over "normal" athletes when competing in events.

    You're never going to be able to compete in the high jump or long jump, Penny Red, because you're just to short. It doesn't matter how long you have lived your life as a tall person, believed yourself to be a tall person, or how many experts and friends you can drum up to testify that you stand shoulder to shoulder with the Jolly Green Giant.

    What you believe yourself to be has no bearing on what you are capable of doing physically in respect to sport. Caster Semenya cannot justify competing in women's events merely because she lives as a woman and considers herself to be a woman. If Caster isn't XX chromosomally she should and will be excluded.

  14. I think you're wrong on the sports issue.

    While the tone of some of the discussion of Semenya has been unpleasant, assuming you have classifications at all - and don't just have everyone competing equally against everyone else - those classification do have to be based on physical characteristics.

    This might not be perfect but it's hard to imagine another approach that would work better.

    Agree, though, the Greer quote is not good. It's intriguing that Greer retreats into the old right-wing territory of 'you can't say that'.

    She might want to try spending a few days with a transperson to judge just how polite most of the general public really are on this subject.

    Although there's no need for that because she's already comically disproved her own point by not only saying what you can't say but saying it for cash in a liberal newspaper.

    It doesn't leave much space in the debate for Jon Gaunt and co.

  15. If Usain Bolt can excel in the man's competition, then why can't Semenya do so in the women's without her achievement being questioned.

    Wait... it couldn't be anything to do with misogyny in patriarchal society could it? Surely not.

    And as for 'Seb Coe' above - you wish, you wish!

  16. No, no, Steph. It's because men are BETTER than women, remember? Better in every way? Remember? Honestly.

  17. Haha, sorry Penny - need re-assimilating :)

  18. "While you make a fair point about gender being far more fluid than just 1s or 0s you can easily see the unfair sporting advantage that can be gained by having a body that has athletic advantages over the other runners."

    Erm, so does that mean Usain Bolt should be stopped from running because he has a body with athletic advantages over other runners - which he clearly does have because he has a body that is able to run faster than anyone else has ever done over 100m?

    Seb Coe: as I understand it, because it is the hormonal element that results in the differing physical development of XX vs XY persons, then someone who is hormonally female (e.g. Androgen Insensitivity syndrome) does not have any particular advantage. Indeed, with the width of the human bell-curve, being XXY or XXX is not going to help most intersex persons to compete; there are plenty of XX persons who match or have matched Semenya in terms of height (stride length is an obvious advantage in running races) and weight; it's worth noting that Dame Kelly Holmes was able to run faster than Semenya has, and Maria Mutola arguably has more "masculine" style body (look at those muscles!) Regardless of hormones, chromosomes, etc, Semenya is well within the accepted bell-curve of female athletes as far as I can see, and this whole issue is purely about racism, transphobia and jealousy.

  19. Given that men are physically weaker than women, it`s only fair to allow them to compete seperately. We all know that the male competition is a bit of a joke - but bless them - they want to have their little races, and even if they aren`t really designed for running - you`ve got to let the baby have it`s bottle.

    But if we are going to allow men to have races in which the contestents are divided up along gender lines - it is important to make sure that the competitors in those races aren`t genetically female (which would give them an unfair advantage).

    Hopefully, Penny won`t have read this far and I can now turn off my opposite day style political correctness.

    The point about Usain Bolt being stopped from running is moot, since he is in the *fast* race - and clearly a man. The races aren`t divided along the lines of who is fast and who is not - they are divided along gender lines.

    Personally, just to shut femminists up, I think we should get rid of female competition and force them to compete against men.

    Given that women are stronger than men, it shouldn`t be a problem.

  20. @Steph J: The reason Usain bolt hasn't faced the same question i would reckon is that he has been around longer in his professional athletics and didn't come "out of the blue" so much as finally get serious about his training or so his wikipedia entry would suggest. Whereas the event that Semenya just completed appears to be her first major senior championship.

    @Snowdropexplodes: I must have missed out the unfair prefix before athletic avantages sorry. No he shouldn't be stopped beause he is racing against men who have a much more slimiar athletic limits and physical make-up to him than women, a level-playing field. To match him up against runners with completely different athletic limits would be an uneven playing field. That is the crux of why the IAAF is investigating Semenya, to ensure that the other runners are competing against Semenya on a level playing field.

    As for racism i can't see any credible evidence for this at all and i don't get why trying to keep the games fair is suddenly transphobia. And as for jealousy i believe the IAAF asked for the tests before the race.

  21. Yes, Penny, men need to do better to qualify for the events they compete in, than the women do in the Olympics. And that's what the subject of your article is about, correct? If it's a she, then all is fair. If not, we should just mix all the sports, and have male and female compete together. It would make some feel it's fair but then females wouldn't have much room to compete against the males.

    What does this have to do with feminism? They should have procedure in place, before competing, to make this less embarrassing, but required for any questionable, OR ALL contestants. Strange what some can turn a purely technical issue into.

  22. Thank you for writing this. I'm pointing peopele to your blog for a clear explanation of what's really going on here and I've linked to your blog.

  23. @ Mike, thanks. I do understand that sometimes genitalia are ambiguous. I thought that was why they were bringing in the endocrinologist and the internal person and the person-who-studies-chromosomes. Because if she said she felt female but they found male chromosomes, they would presumably decide she was male for the purpose of competitions. Wouldn't they?

    I can only hope that the psychologist manages to help the poor girl cope with this experience.

    @ Locke, it was petty of me to be rude about you, but your view of the world of men is so depressing. You seem to imply that it is alright for strong people to beat the cr@p out of weak ones, except the ones with particular "holes", because they might need to breed with them.

  24. Gender is as much a social construct as it is biology, if not more so.

  25. The last paragraph seems unfair to me. The attempt to define clear rules distinguishing male from female may be entirely reactionary in other contexts, but it's difficult to imagine how sport could manage without it.

    Sporting bodies are in the business of policing boundaries for who gets to compete in a particular class and who doesn't. This is a completely banal point when those boundaries are things like weight categories, technical specifications for cars or what counts as proper butterfly.

  26. But she looks like a man, Penny. She really does. She/he needs testing as a result.

  27. I must have missed out the unfair prefix before athletic advantages sorry. No he shouldn't be stopped because he is racing against men who have a much more similar athletic limits and physical make-up to him than women, a level-playing field. To match him up against runners with completely different athletic limits would be an uneven playing field. That is the crux of why the IAAF is investigating Semenya, to ensure that the other runners are competing against Semenya on a level playing field.

    Well, from what I've seen of Usain Bolt, his body is well outside the athletic limits of everyone else: he's just that much faster than anyone else is able to run. A person's "athletic limits" are individual, so talking about a "level playing field" in this context is quite misleading.

    As for racism i can't see any credible evidence for this at all

    That may be because you haven't listened to the ways in which beauty standards are conflated with racial characteristics, which in turn means you don't understand the specific implications of telling a Black woman that she "looks like a man".

    and i don't get why trying to keep the games fair is suddenly transphobia.

    Well, put it this way: Semenya may have won her race, but her time was nothing special. There's no evidence that she had any advantage over the other competitors based on sex.

    And as for jealousy i believe the IAAF asked for the tests before the race.

    So the abusive comments from her competitors were what? If it's true that the IAAF had asked for the tests before the race then either they have failed in a duty of care by letting everyone know (or else by letting her compete in the first place); or the responses of the other athletes were just plain old jealousy, racism (see above) and transphobia/beauty-standard enforcement.

  28. I actually spoke on the issues of the sex segregation in sports in passing when I discussed the overall problems with the Male/Female terminology system (even and especially in science) in my post "Male/Female: Broken Language?":

    And really the sums up how broken and nonfunctional sex segregation in sports is. The sheer level of variation in muscle mass and power among women who have XX chromosomes, a vagina and breasts is so wide as to make segregating on sex because of perceived bodily differences pretty ineffective. The same thing applies to men. The blanket statements regarding the idea that women will invariably fail in competition against men in sports are... well they're pretty stupid. And they're not based on scientific fact, but more on stereotypes and personal experience. They also fail to take into account sociological confounding variables, like how many women actually work out in the same ways and to the same degree as men. Considering the standards for what's an acceptable body type among women, I'm not terribly surprised that most women one knows can't compete in sports. In order to be able to compete, the training will generate heavy musculature and a harder exterior, as well as reduced breast size. Often sports requires shorter hair as long hair gets in the way.

    Yet we claim that women who do train to this point are trans? Come on folks. It's just delusion to think that our concept of beauty and how its enforced on women doesn't change the equation of lifestyle and exercise.

    And then of course, people stupidly forget that the genes have no further effect beyond which set of hormones they influence to start being generated. An AIS woman may have internalized testicles and XY chromosomes but her body is actually hyper "feminized", because no testosterone to speak of is influencing her development. Not to mention that trans women often have heavier exposure to estrogen than cis women. That sheer variation among cis women makes me wonder what these people are smoking when they claim that a trans woman has an advantage. And either way, if Caster turns out to be Cis, Trans or IS, either way someone is going to be pissed off by her inclusion because this whole system of sex determination in society is broken as hell.

    @Seb Coe: that these sports folks see genetics as relevant at all is a testament to how little actual science plays a role in their decisions. And how little the people defending them know about biology. What, do you think the XY is more aerodynamic than an XX because the Y chromosome is smaller? XY does not play a role in body structure. It is merely a trigger (that doesn't work all the time) for things that do.

  29. Ivan Petrovitch Voynitsky23 August 2009 at 19:56

    "No, no, Steph. It's because men are BETTER than women, remember? Better in every way? Remember? Honestly."

    Litotes, Ms. Red?

    Or a reflexive admission of a universal truth?

  30. I don't think the IAAF thinks as you say it does, but then what should they do about ambiguous gender?

    Take gender out of it, and women's sport disappears.

    These are the people who should be speaking about this, and really are the only ones qualified:

  31. @ recursiveparadox

    Please could you furnish me with a couple of examples of women competing at the highest level in sport, who have actually defeated men at a similar level of excellence?

    Thank you.

  32. Travis:

    'If it's a she, then all is fair'?

    Intersex prejudice FAIL.

    The way the IAAF handled this so publicly was appalling. As were the reactions from a couple of her fellow competitors. Caster is a woman unless she, and the tests, say otherwise.

  33. For a woman who touts 'liberation' rather than equality for women she has some rigid and oppressive classifications of gender. In the whole women she goes so far as to throw in some pop psychology to define the behavioural differences between men and women. Then making the claim that this innate biology is what leads to male sex abuse. She adds fuel to the fire of people like Christina Hoff Sommers when she says this: that 'gender' feminism is the hate anger and victimhood of women.

  34. Greer also makes the point that a person who doesn't ovulate or menstruate will have a competitive advantage over one who does. Doesn't she know that some female runners stop having periods anyway? Perhaps they have an advantage over those who don't?

    Also, some disabled women take medication to stop their periods because they cause dysreflexia (a potentially fatal blood pressure disorder which a lot of people with spinal injuries are prone to), so perhaps such women should be barred from the Paralympics as well.

    I find it odd that Greer's opinion was sought out, because she has a well-known record for ill-informed opinions on these issues.

  35. @recursiveparadox

    "The blanket statements regarding the idea that women will invariably fail in competition against men in sports are...well they're pretty stupid."

    In skill based events I agree entirely. There's no reason why one sex should excel at something like archery more than the other and this is reflected in the similar abilities and scores of elite female and male archers. But in events where physical traits have a significant influence on performance then increased muscle mass and greater production of haemoglobin (and thus increased oxygen per litre of blood) is likely to mean that elite men hold an advantage over elite women.

    I took a look at:

    and though I only had a quick glance I didn't spot a single female medal winner who would have finished top 3 in the corresponding male event.

    Seperate men's and women's events exist for perfectly valid reasons but the IAAF have severly fucked up in the way that they've handled this particular case and Semenya deserves a grovelling apology from them.

  36. [i]Often sports requires shorter hair as long hair gets in the way.[/i]

    I'm not entirely sure whether this is completely accurate or a matter of individual preference.

  37. I meant to use quote marks. Please excuse bad punctuation. It's a very hot day.

  38. Look.

    Why can't we just simplify all this sport and gender business by implementing some sort of handicapping system for human track events in a similar manner to horse racing on the flat. Athletes could carry scientifically calculated handicapping weights in small haversacks on their backs or around their hips, in gadgets like Batman's utility belt, so enabling men and women to race against each other in equanimity?

    I think this ideas could be a winner.

  39. It seems to me that the confusion here is that people seem to think that in sport it's a question of 'gender' divisions (which, as Penny quite correctly said - cannot, and should not, be made reductively binary) - as opposed to 'physiology' divisions.

    The point of the physiology divisions is to produce an environment where those who have trained and developed their skills have a chance to win if they display the nescessary qualities.
    Which is similar to many other aspects of particular sporting contexts. The rules are (entirely artificial) constructs that are aimed to create contests where those who have devoted substantial time and effort to their training have a chance to win if they execute their disciplines properly.
    As such, those whose physiologies give them a massive advantage over other with different physiology are not allowed to enter the events designed for those with the 'weaker' physiology.
    The male/female division in athletics is similar to the weight division in boxing, weightlifting or rowing. A lightweight rower like myself cannot hope to beat an openweight rower who has put in a similar amount of training - so the openweights (those who weigh more than 72kgs) are forbidden from competitng from events that are specified as 'lightweight' (72kg or less). As such, tests are done to ensure this does not occur. Similarly, a lightweight man is prevented from entering a 'female' competition.
    It doesn't mean that an openweight man is a superior athlete to a lightweight man or a woman - it means that the openweight man is stronger. Such distinctions are important. Sport never solely tests strength nor should it.

    Caster may be a woman (signifying gender) but still, due to physiological quirks, be uneligable for 'female' events. Which for her, who has invested an enormous amount of effort training as a female athlete, is a tragedy and should have been handled sensitively by the authorities.
    But still, based on the internal logic of such events if she stands outside the arbitrary (but previously specified) physiological limits - she cannot compete in them.
    But it is an error to think that this somehow indicates that she is not a woman.

    And yes, in some sports long hair can represent a significant disadvantage. I found it so.

  40. Wow. That was one of the most profane refutations I've ever had the misfortune to read.

    Germaine Greer has a philosophy of gender that many don't like. But it is consistent with her activism. Indeed, it can be argued that without Ms Greer - the entire field of gender activism would not exist as it does. She led the charge in so many way. This is not - for the pedants - to diminish the contributions that others made. (Susan Sontag comes most immediately to mind.)

    If that eminence, and depth, of thought warrants invective when it stays consistent - so be it. So many say she's being shallow (they use different words, but that's what they mean), when in fact she's had a few decades to think about gender. She's walked the walked, and she's survived. She's also earned the respect of the others who come after her. Simply because they haven't had her experiences, fought her fights - she did it for them - and she's lived a life dedicated to helping women. Not transwomen, whom she perceives as interlopers (at best) - but women.

    Call her what you will - I doubt she minds, and I'm sure she's heard worse - but please, give her the credit she deserves. You might not like her opinion of gender, but she's earned a little more than this profanity. She is consistent, and that should count for something - even if one does not agree.

    I would put this in an email, Penny Red, but I don't know it. (That's not a request, by the way). When the great American conservative William F. Buckley died, all applauded his life. Except Gore Vidal. He asserted that Buckley was "a hysterical queen", "a world-class liar" and he told the deceased Mr Buckley "RIP WFB- in hell." I once heard it said that Mr Buckley had insulted Gore Vidal - if I remember the telling correctly, it was in 1964. Do you want to be placed among Gore Vidal's words? Or those where a doyen of the contemporary feminist movement has a consistency that is, frankly, as bigoted as it is consistent? Or be noted for grace and argument?

    I do not mean to be cruel, but your profanity shocked and dismayed me. Perhaps the most shocking thing is that someone was shocked. Although I do find it curious that the resulting conversation concentrates on athletics and not on Ms Greer's words. Which are far more important. Athletes come and go - words and ideas have a habit of lingering.

    With all due apologies and with respect, Penny Red,
    Carolyn Ann

  41. Haaang on a minute. Does this mean people think it's ok for m to f transgendered people to compete in women's sporting events?

  42. My apologies, Penny. It was not my place to criticize as I did. I sincerely hope I did not cause you anger or anguish; if I did, I apologize. My discomfort with profanity became an unwarranted, inappropriate, personal attack. It wasn't intended to be, and I am appalled at myself for having not thought to read my comment before hitting "Post Comment".

    I am sorry.

    Carolyn Ann

  43. Not at all Carolyn! Your points are valid. I just find it wryly amusing because, as I've said, I do have a great deal of respect for Greer's style, and it was her sermonising on the importance of women swearing that made me decide to write in this way at the age of 15 ish...:)

    Much respect right back atcha.

  44. Carolyn Ann asserting his male privilege I see.

  45. CA: If Greer's article hadn't had her name above it it would never have been published.

    It adds zero to the debate, indeed I'm still struggling to work out what she's trying to say, although it's obvious she doesn't like transgender people.

    either she wrote that screed in 10 minutes and wasn't thinking about it, or she's just not all that bright.

    William Buckley, like him or hate him, actually said stuff.

  46. Penny, I don't know why you're even defending yourself. It's your blog! I'm so sick of men telling women bloggers what and how to write.

  47. A do hope that we see more of this rigidly anti-binarist feminism, both from you & others. It rather shows up how limited the vision of a supposed radical is, but then Greer has struck me as a creepy old charlatan ever since I saw her on Richard & Judy plugging a book about how alluring pre-pubescent boys are...

    Anyway, excellent post. The feebleness of sex distinctions really is quite remarkable, when you probe the matter. Well, that's not so much remarkable as the fact that our culture places such importance upon something so vague & vapid.

  48. I just don't see why Germaine Greer feels the need to be so mean. I'm not sure that taking into account the battles she's fought (she wrote some books that people disagreed with, she wasn't imprisoned on Robben Island) is an excuse. I don't get it. I just don't. I don't want to insult her, but I don't get it either.

    I don't know what the answer is regarding intersex athletes. I'm not sure I have an overriding view on what would or would not be fair to everyone. I suppose it makes me think that it is very hard to define someone's achievements in solid terms.

  49. I love to help you out Vanilla on the inter-sex athletes and Greer's motives but I'm at a loss as you are. Obviously there are guidelines as to when a man is a man and a woman is a woman but who makes those guidelines? And then who agrees with them?

    And when it comes to Greer .. oh why bother gettin uptight about her?

    PS Thanks for you cyber hug. Kiss.

  50. @Mr D - let's just make it a hug.

    @ Alex - yes, I am sure that there are women who share your experience. But there are women who aren't athletes who find long hair is bothersome. And other women who don't really seem to mind. What I was wondering about, and I know it is only a side issue, is whether it is inevitable for women athletes to feel like that.

    @Penny - I was in the library this am and saw Fay Weldon going on about how it was much easier to pick up one's husband's socks than to try and train the poor chap. Sometimes I have the evil thought that maybe Mrs Weldon and Dr Greer occasionally just like stirring things up because they get bored. That's probably an unfair thought, but it crossed my mind.

  51. I hope all those who thought this case was about "gender" and all those nazis who thought, even worse, that it was about race will now eat their words and admit they were wrong to jump to conclusion. It has been revealed that the South African athletic coach is none other than the same East German coach who pumped athletes full of testosterone in the past and is very likely still doing it.
    This woman is a victim, but not of sexism or racism - in fact she was a model of strength at the political "rally" the ANC organised for the returning athletes in Johannesburg. She was used for political ends by the ANC Youth League but was having none of it. She saw right through Julius Malema's bullshit (he is back in front of the Equality Court on Monday - good timing, JM). She is a brave and heroic young woman, she has maintained her dignity and will go very far in life. Well done, Caster.

  52. The Sunday Times last week was surprisingly trans-friendly; they had around four different stories presenting different areas of the spectrum in a positive, clear and intelligent way.

    @Travis : "What does this have to do with feminism?". Everything! If we want to stop being bound by negative gender stereotypes then we have to extend the same courtesy to every other human being; the same way that being forced into these roles can be damaging for men. Transfolk and their good treatment by society ought be a priority of every feminist.

  53. Devo: If there was a "roll eyes" smiley - I'd send it your way.

    Carolyn Ann

  54. Jocelin (full declaration - I'm XY)30 August 2009 at 19:39

    I heard Germaine talk on the radio a few years back on her attitude to transsexuals, cross-dressers and effeminacy exhibited by homosexual men. I can't remember her reasoning precisly - some talk about men insisting on invading\co-opting femninity. She objected to the supposededly exagerated hyper-femininity of some gay men, and spoke of how she had a visceral reaction to trans people wanting to be treated as women, use women's public spaces and the like.

    She also cannot tolerate hetero cross-dressers, but was not clear about what lesser degrees of effeminacy she could tolerate from hetero men (she didn't say if she dislikes male nurses for instance, or men with sterotypically feminine names).

    I think she said she resented Gay and Tran tail-coating on the women's movement, implying that it's been a parasitical relationship and has had a and diversionary and dispersive effect on feminism.

    I found the interview interesting, perplexing and depressing - I wish I could recall more precisly

  55. Just found this. Thought you might be interested.

  56. chrnomich says:
    thank you for the link her introduction in my personal opinion is poncy and shite however i'll have a browse
    but this twat of a so called woman has got completely the wrong end of the stick regarding germaine greer
    man2earth says:
    i remember the article, did think she had a point about greer being unfairly dismissive of transwomen
    but thats based on the stuff she cited, having not read greer myself, i'll have to demurr
    chrnomich says:
    i think its highlydoubtful that greer was unfairly dismissive about a transwoman, and they way this woman started her rant "I was scribbling notes in 'The Female Eunuch' and 'The Whole Woman' before I lost all my milkteeth"
    she hasn't quoted greer,
    shes ranted...
    not clearly made her point...
    just bitched about one of the most influencial female writers of all time.
    without greer, women lack many literists who arre far left
    providing an alternative to the everyday examples of far right women in our media.
    shes just a poncy bitch at uni, desperate to shake some waves in the hope to becomes culturally popular,
    "ooh i'm in london living with "pagans" drinking "tea" i study "literature" "I've been reading about greer since i was tiny" ---
    "I'm a former social outcast , with angst and self worth issues so by creating a blog with a poncy self worth title and issues i know near to nothing about and are not even rellevant to my degree which i so insist on telling you all about to further enhance my self worth or lack of in the hope to gain some internet recognition."
    man2earth says:
    i know that, but why are you talking about it to me,
    chrnomich says:
    So basically:
    You don't fool me,
    go lock yourself away with some more Germaine books may I suggest actually reading them and taking seruious note of the meaning of the content..not the fact that you are gobby and have a virgina and not to forget I suggest you read other books, and come back in hmm, judging by the amount i suggest you should take in...hmmm 20-nope 30 to 40 years with some good ol' fashioned life expereince, self worth at current you're complete with the myspace angled emo photo. What you lack is decent *cough.. intelligent* content... you don't even quote sources you just ramble on as if a young poncy self obsessed student like yourself could possibly be educated enough to make a point on the mental state of the primeminister or a correct observation of greer's points.
    And yes I'm anonymous because having a little annoying girl like you follow me around on the internet whining about how unfair my points are would be the epitamy of dull.

    and yes there are probaly errors in this as i am very busy writing this in a rush and don't ahve glasses on, because its an utter waste of time to me to write her, wasting my precious time you.

  57. 'Genetics have nothing to do with it' has to be the best yet - although I'm definitely coming back to 'Menstrual Poetry'. Have you ever wondered at the contempt you attract from women who have more trying matters to attend to than making debating points in discussions that don't matter about truths you find intolerable because of a status contingent upon experience and investigation rather than the infantile, toy-throwing prejudice you prefer? The world is not as we would wish it to be quite often. I suggest you heal your relations with Daddy (it's always a protracted strop with Pops that makes women ill at ease with their biologically allotted role), then grow up and have some babies. It will alter your life forever.

  58. I was amazed at first to see you listed for prizes of any sort, let alone good ones. This is my first visit but presumably your obscenity-soaked tirades are chosen for praise because they serve the confused, self-serving dogma that guides the Left than for any technical merit. I must think so at any rate. What is it the Talmud says? 'Promote the worst of the Gentiles'. What an affront to link your name to Orwell's. ‘It was always the women, and above all the young ones, who were the most bigoted adherents of the Party, the swallowers of slogans, the amateur spies and nosers-out of unorthodoxy.’ (Nineteen Eighty-Four)

    As to Germaine Greer - about whom one might mention as influences a father who abandoned his family when the little girl was five and the experience of being raped at eighteen - she at least speaks her mind. Actually I understand (correct me if I'm wrong) that having lost patience with women's interminable demands for victim status she once observed for the benefit of rape victims that, 'There are worse places a man can put his penis'. So you see with age comes wisdom - and even a sense of humour.

    I trust you acquire both as you get older.

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