Germaine Greer, the second-wave feminist best known for her 1970 book The Female Eunuch, accused Caitlyn Jenner of “stealing the limelight” from the other women of the Kardashian clan in an appearance on BBC2’s Newsnight.
During the interview, Greer said that “misogyny played a big part” in Glamour magazine’s decision to award Jenner their woman of the year award. She also defended previous statements in which she claimed that trans women were not “real women.” Via The Guardian:
“She also refused to back down from her position that transgender women, who have begun life as men before undergoing surgery and hormone treatment to become women, are ‘not women,’ saying they do not ‘look like, sound like or behave like women’.”
Greer’s statements prompted a petition circulated by Cardiff University students. The petition, aimed at having Greer barred from giving a speech on campus, was started by Rachael Melhuish, women’s officer at the Cardiff University Students’ Union. It claims that Greer has“demonstrated time and time again her misogynistic views towards trans women, including continually ‘misgendering’ trans women and denying the existence of transphobia altogether.”
By Saturday, the petition had more than 800 signatures. In response to the petition, Greer told The Guardian:
“I don’t really know what I think of it. It strikes me as a bit of a put-up job really because I am not even going to talk about the issue that they are on about.
What they are saying is that because I don’t think surgery will turn a man into a woman I should not be allowed to speak anywhere.”
Despite both controversy and petition, Cardiff University said that it would not cancel Greer’s speech. “Our events include speakers with a range of views, all of which are rigorously challenged and debated,” a university spokesperson said in a statement to the New York Times.
Greer’s comments on trans women very much echo Elinor Burkett’s controversial New York Times piece, “What Makes a Woman.” The two seem to share a kind of gender essentialism in which biology, and the experiences that often result from that biology, determine gender identities. It’s a weird and inconsistent perspective, particularly for second-wave feminists like Greer, whose ideologies are ostensibly underpinned by deconstructing the very idea of fixed and never-shifting gender.
Maybe I’m wrong, but the laser focus on how women are supposed to “look” and “act” seems like an anathema to the “power struggle” that Greer identified in the 1970s.
Image via Getty.