Germaine Greer’s era was different to ours. Hers was a world where heresy had to be spoken to challenge the prisons women were in. The willingness of that generation to speak heresy, led to some amazingly stupid ideas circulating. Led to some really dodgy conclusions, that mostly we moved past. It also created a world where the rest of us were free to speak heresy against systems of oppression which are millennia deep at the roots. That doesn’t mean everything that wave of feminism said was right and time has shown that much of what was radical at the time, could not be sustained. The feminist wave they were part of, was distilled into a white, mainly upper class silo, and hierarchies grew. Media, professional, and academic hierarchies, which excluded many voices. Women of colour, working class women, trans women. None of these women existing as just that facet of their identity, but with complex identities that meant they had to navigate a world where the combination of their race, their class, the gender they were born with, created doors which slammed and hurt.
There is nothing wrong with wanting a feminism that ultimately failed to die, so we can move past it. The understanding of intersecting inequality that our current radical brats became aware of through twitter, is actually well developed and decades old. That understanding never piercing the primary institutions of elite universities and media organisations where homogenity of culture dominates, class, race, are ‘the other’. That world has to catch up with reality now, and in a digital world, the appointment of an elite cabal to speak ‘for’ all women has gone.
What needs to be learned from the era of Germaine Greer is the willingness to speak heresy. To challenge dominant discourse and to do so knowing you may be wrong. To identify when you are being silenced and how misogyny disguises itself to shut you down. How that interacts with class, race, and the gender you were born with.
What needs to go is the privileged tribe who have misunderstood the concept of intersecting inequality. and grossly distorted it, so the invisible ‘we’ of elite feminism is yet again the voice of all women, and has the right to abuse and silence at will, to maintain control they dont want to acknowledge. It is the behaviour of a narcissistic and controlling misogynist to want to silence women who threaten your self image. Not feminism, not ever. If you need to organise to silence and abuse women, you are a misogynist. Intersecting inequality means different voices and opinions, occasionally recognising each other as a barrier that needs to be crossed.
It is a gross distortion of intersecting inequality to believe it is about your tribe now having the right to bully, dominate and ultimately police what all women are allowed to say. Women discussing inequality in their own lives do not have to audition to elite universities WOmen’s Officers, and media poppets, before they discuss that inequality. Or the complexity of their identities and lives. Feminism as a gatekeeper to make sure only the ‘right’ women are allowed to speak(ie already connected to and wound into elite institutions where inequality is not felt) is over. Feminism as the ‘right views’ approved by this cabal, is over. It is unsustainable in a digital world and for this generation of women, raised to believe equality was achieved, and finding out with a bump their lives are the lives of the women who went before them.
There is nothing wrong with a new generation of women discovering they need to speak heresy to challenge dominant discourse, and washing away the old feminist hierarchies and the structural violence used to maintain walls around their institutions. I think the people behind the sustained bullying and harassment of female journalists and academics, the ones screaming for a ‘no platform’ because the invisible ‘we’ only they are part of has decided that only their opinions are correct, misunderstood.
It is they who are being washed away. Noone watching the ridiculous and absurd ‘TERF wars’ and tribes of bullying activists competing for dominance to police how women discuss inequality in their lives, could be under any illusions that that is the future. THAT is the dying days of a model of feminism that is over. That is tribes fighting for the right to control other women and its not feminism.
Germaine Greer’s views on trans women don’t stand up to scrutiny and are wrong, and can be debated as such. Those who demonstrate that feminism is now misogynist abuse and targeting of women they dont like, are demonstrating why that ‘feminism’ is dead. Not taking that torch forward for a new generation.
We can learn from Germaine Greer’s refusal to adhere to dogma and what that did and did not achieve, and the first lesson is that the radical brats who think they get to inherit the power to exploit inequality and silence and abuse women, in the name of feminism, need to go. Accusing someone of transphobia doesnt make misogynist abuse, hate speech and violent bullying acceptable or make it feminism. The gender binary disappearing in a world shaped by fundamental structural gender inequality was always going to create complex questions and no amount of bullying and abusing women is going to make those questions go away. Only debate will do that and you dont get debate by silencing people and declaring your right to shape parameters of discourse because of the university you went to or the media org you are part of.