Tag Archives: Germaine Greer

Like a natural woman

2 Nov

Murphy Brown


Anybody who watched television between 1988 and 1998 may remember the series Murphy Brown, starring Candice Bergen as a forty-something recovering alcoholic news hound who shattered glass ceilings in spite of all obstacles, and became something of a feminist icon for a short while.

However. Bergen’s character was acclaimed for her portrayal of the many possibilities for women other than marriage and motherhood and maybe even paid work, but not so as it would interfere with a woman’s primary obligations towards marriage and motherhood. So when Murphy found herself pregnant and the show’s musical director chose Carole King’s “You make me feel like a natural woman” to accompany the soft-focus birthing scene, many second wave feminists were outraged.

I’ve linked to the lyrics if you want to see why. I could write a thesis on those lyrics but for now I’ll simply say they’re an outstanding example of patriarchal elephant excrement.

In that single scene the show appeared to undo all the good things by implying that what made Murphy Brown a real woman, a natural woman, was giving birth and embarking on motherhood. Everything preceding those events was less than natural,  the scene suggested, and prior to motherhood Brown was an incomplete and unreal, albeit successful woman.

This message ran counter to everything second wave feminism fought for, and landed us right back in the biology is destiny narrative but wait, there’s more, it then set us on the having it all highway, as Brown struggled to juggle demanding career and demanding infant as a single mother. But at least she was now a natural woman.

Memories of Murphy Brown have resurfaced after a couple of days in the fraught world of uneasy and at times violent interactions between biological women and trans women, and the men who support trans women by threatening biological women, as my three previous posts explain. It isn’t unusual to hear from both sides rhetoric about natural/biological women, feeling like one, being one or not, wanting to be one, living like one if you weren’t born that way, resentment if you were born that way and someone who wasn’t  claims they’re no different from you.

I suppose what I’d like to ask biological women and trans women is what do you mean when you say you feel like a real/natural woman? Because in my experience there’s no such thing. Contrary to patriarchal propaganda, women aren’t homogenous, so do you feel like a woman who got beaten up last night by her male partner? Do you feel like a woman who is CEO of an international corporation? Do you feel like a woman police officer struggling to survive in a male dominated and at times misogynistic environment? Do you feel like a married woman with a couple of kids who gave up her dreams of becoming a doctor to type her husband’s PhD? Do you feel like a homeless woman? Do you feel like a female sex worker? Do you feel like a lesbian academic? Do you feel like a refugee woman on Nauru? Do you feel like Hilary Clinton? A woman in the back streets of New Delhi? A woman living with female genital mutilation? A crown prosecutor? A hippie vegan on a north coast commune? A state or federal politician? An artist? A musician? A catwalk model?

Please tell me, when you say you feel like a woman, and if you say you’ve always felt like a woman, what kind of woman is it you’ve always felt like, and what do you actually mean? Because it seems to me that perhaps the most insulting, demeaning and degrading thing anyone can say is, I feel like I’m really a woman.

What is this thing that makes a woman “real?” And most importantly, who gets to define it?  And what is this assumption that women have something in common other than biology that makes us really women?

This is one of the things I’d like to ask Germaine Greer, as well as some trans activists. Both parties, it seems to me, are operating from the entirely false premise that there is such a thing as a real woman and for mine, in assuming that premise, both parties are contributing to the oppressive stereotypes feminists have been challenging for decades.

Come at me, sisters. Make me feel like a natural woman.


No, sir, you go fuck yourself

1 Nov

Rude space cloud


Unusually, I found myself in a Twitter brawl this morning that ended with the male involved telling me I was a moron, that I am everything that is wrong with feminism, a trans hater and an Abbott clone, and he wound it up by telling me to get fucked. He then engaged in this thing you can do on Twitter whereby you can continue to publicly abuse someone, but block them so they can’t respond.

A man telling me to get fucked feels like a sexual threat, and I was somewhat unsettled by his animosity: mostly I tell people to go fuck themselves, which doesn’t require the hostile bodily interference of another. Or fuck off, which actually has nothing to do with sex at all.

Also, given the current state of feminism I usually refrain from identifying myself with that ideology, so if I’m everything that’s wrong with it that can only be a good thing for me, so taa.

Then he told me I was no different from Clementine Ford and that really pissed me off when I got around to thinking about it.

The fight was about bloody Germaine Greer. I was in conversation with a trans woman called Aoifa, who hosts this excellent blog, and a trans woman called Miranda, who hosts this excellent blog. Aoifa had been expressing her disgust with her community for its lack of protest about death threats made against Greer, and Miranda was part of our convo. Suddenly, out of nowhere, this man appeared and told me I was no better than Tony Abbott, and that expecting trans women to protest other trans women threatening Greer with death was no different from Abbott saying Muslims should speak out about minority radicalisation. He is sick, he says, of the way rad fems treat trans women so he thought it would make everything better if he abused me.

He didn’t say anything to the trans women. Only me.

To express hope that communities will speak out when their members issue death threats, his argument apparently goes, is to imply that everyone in the community is in fact responsible for the actions of a minority.

I strongly disagree with this notion. Coming from the position that evil thrives when good people say nothing, I know that were I in the Catholic community I would never shut up about child sexual abuse by priests, not because I am in any way responsible for their ghastly actions, but because my silence on the subject would enable, and implicitly condone those actions.

Likewise, I am a member of a language group that constantly threatens war and genocide for its own gain and I vigorously criticise Western leaders who wage wars, without me taking personal responsibility for their warmongering.  Speaking out against injustice does not equate to me accepting responsibility for that injustice. However, keeping silent, in my opinion, might very well  contribute to my responsibility for injustice.

From this perspective, I can see nothing wrong with wondering why transgender people and their supporters have on the whole been silent about the death threats against Greer that have come from their ranks. If I would ask these questions of my community and every other community, why should I not ask them of the transgender community?

Because, the argument goes, the trans gender community is a persecuted minority and shouldn’t be expected to speak up against death threats. There’s no doubt an excessive amount of violence and hatred is directed towards trans women. There is also no doubt that an excessive amount of violence is directed towards biological women, with two of us dying each week at the hands of intimate partners or family members, and hundreds of us hospitalised every day as a consequence of domestic violence.

Women are a persecuted majority in a patriarchy, and while the reasons for persecuting trans women and biological women are no doubt different, and require separate analysis, the fact of violence against us and the repercussion of that violence are not conducive to hierarchical evaluation, in itself a patriarchal practice  Rather, we have in common a terrifying vulnerability to the violence of violent males.

Hoping for protest against the efforts to silence dissent through fear and death threats does not equate to transphobia. And debate ought not to equate to world war three. You people who tell others you want them to die, you’re going to kill them for expressing opinions that don’t make you feel good? There’s something terribly wrong with you, and I don’t care what community you belong to.

I’ve spoken at length about my own experiences of male physical violence, child sexual abuse, and sexual assault. I will with my whole heart support any woman, trans and biological, in her experiences, whether she talks about them or not. But I will fucking well not be abused and insulted by some fucking male dropkick who has decided he knows what feminism is and what being a woman, biological and trans, is like in this hierarchical patriarchy of which he is a most unedifying example. So, go fuck yourself sir, with an implement of your choice, because I would not wish rape even on you.




Abbott, Kenny, Greer, TERFS, and the blogger as bride

1 Nov

Failed Prime Minister Tony Abbott took the opportunity last week to second-guess Jesus Christ, demonstrating to his audience of Thatcherites and a gobsmacked Australian nation why he’s also a failed priest, and a failed journalist to boot.

The reaction of the Australian media to Abbott’s reconstruction of Christian principles was varied. Christians among them were appalled. Those who support the decent treatment of refugees were appalled. Politicians were appalled but mostly didn’t say so. The nation was temporarily in a pall.

Margie, Mrs Abbott, was by her husband’s side as he gave his sermon to the London flock and I marvelled, as I have on other occasions about other wives, how there are women who stand by their man no matter how much of a grub he is.

I use that word with some apprehension, recalling how recently The Australian’s Chris Kenny threatened Labor MP Graham Perret with something unimaginable for calling him, well, a grub over his disgraceful antics on Nauru. Poor Kenny seems doomed to suffer abuse that is in some way connected to the animal world, though I suppose a grub is an insect rather than an animal, like, say a dog.

“A joke that I am a dog-fucker does not have to be true to be defamatory,” Kenny argued to the High Court, and nobody can deny he has a point.

However, standing by your man has, I’ve observed, a tipping point. Once that’s reached it looks like collusion, delusion, and extreme co-dependence, rather than wifely support. Hilary Clinton is the only woman I’ve seen carry it off and she did it by becoming secretary of state and presidential candidate, a course not open to many women, some of whom who cling to an idiot and at times criminal male as if to an esky lid after the boat’s capsized. Let it go, let it go, I am one with the wind and the sky…

(For those of you who don’t have small people in your life, that’s a reference to a song from an immensely popular and immensely stupid Disney movie called Frozen. I have a friend who sings a bastardised version to do with farting. It’s much, much better.)

Then there was the kerfuffle over another Australian, feminist, author and rainforest regenerator Germaine Greer, who appalled the transgender community and supporters by stating that she doesn’t believe a man who is surgically reassigned female is really a woman. Greer was set upon as a transphobe, on the grounds that her remarks over time have proved extremely hurtful to transgender women. Well, toughen up, princesses, is all I can say, because if you’re going to live in this world as a woman, hurtful remarks such as Greer’s are the least of the problems you’ll encounter.

I was also called out as a transphobe and a TERF, which acronym stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. Don’t worry, soothed Mrs Chook as I sobbed on her shoulder at the hurt. You’ve been called so much worse.

It did occur to me that this most recent attempt to silence women appears to originate from within a group that came to adulthood as men. Make of that what you will.

What seems to have been forgotten, and usually is forgotten when heads get hot and hearts get bruised, is that the transgender community is not homogenous and like all communities, contains some thoroughly decent people and some nasty tossers at the ready with the death threats if anyone disagrees with them.

But for me, the highlight of the week was meeting up with one of my sisters and retrieving my first wedding album. I know there’s only supposed to be one wedding album in a woman’s life, but I’ve got two and the first one has been missing for years, until my sister found it amongst our deceased mother’s stash of family memorabilia.

(Another of my sisters who lives overseas is partnered with a transgender woman, by the way. The partnership began as heterosexual, so I know something of that which I speak, in this instance at least.)

Anyways, here is the blogger as bride. I don’t know how anybody got me into all that white stuff. Have a laugh.

Blooger as Bride



Blogger as Bride Two

I don’t like this so ban it for me.

27 Oct



I don’t know how it came to this, but my post defending Germaine Greer’s proposed lecture at Cardiff University has caused me to be described as transphobic.

Given the current circumstances of my life I am strangely unmoved by this accusation, however what does cause me some annoyance is that it seems to have become increasingly difficult to say, I do not agree with this person’s views on a subject but I do support his or her right to express them, and I welcome the ensuing debate.

As I understand it, Greer wasn’t intending to speak about transgender people. However, because she has spoken negatively on this topic there is a view that she is not, apparently, permitted to speak on any topic at all.

The list of topics on which Greer has spoken negatively and with abrasion is very very long. It is this characteristic and dare I name it, talent, that provoked a revolution amongst women decades ago, and were it not for Greer, among other equally provocative feminists, we wouldn’t be getting our own mortgages and living as fluidly as we are, even though we have still a very long way to go.

With thanks to Jo Tamar, I’m linking to this explanatory post on the complexities of changing gender. I was vastly irritated by the tone, but if you can get past that it’s worth a look.

And this post, Who’s afraid of Germaine Greer, is also worthy of a read.

Accusations of transphobia, like all name-calling, serve to distract from the essence of my argument, which is that banning speech rarely results in a positive outcome, whilst engaging in debate can be creative and productive. It ought to go without saying that I don’t include hate and inflammatory speech, but I know it won’t go without saying so I’m saying it.

Students at Cardiff University wanted the authorities to ban Greer’s lecture. The University refused to do this, to its credit. Students could have, and should have, taken responsibility for expressing their disagreement and displeasure with Greer in any number of ways: boycotting, back-turning, protesting, writing, and speaking, however, demanding that authorities do their oppositional work for them was both idle and cowardly. I don’t like this so ban it for me. Well, ok, but don’t complain when you find yourself in a fascist state.




In defence of Germaine

25 Oct



Germaine Greer.  Now banned from speaking on a university campus because her views on transgender women are perceived as hostile, and transphobic.

What Greer says is that she doesn’t believe a man who is surgically and hormonally transformed into a female, is as much of a woman as are those of us born with female genitalia.

If you think, as do I, that gender is a social construct, Greer’s argument is “problematic.” If you’re born with a vagina, a certain set of protocols come into play. Likewise if you’re born with a penis. The concept of “woman” is a social construct, and gender is a performance.

Be that as it may, where Greer is right is that the experience of being constructed as a woman is entirely different from the experience of being constructed as a man. In that sense, a male who undertakes sexual reassignment in adulthood has not been raised as a female construct, and so is lacking in that experience.

Where Greer is wrong is in claiming there is such a thing as being really a woman, or really a man: it is impossible to separate the sex from the gender bias in our current social arrangements, and conclude that we are really anything.

For some reason I can’t fathom, Glamour magazine decided to award Caitlin Jenner (formerly Bruce) its woman of the year accolade, a move that has further provoked Greer and caused her to escalate her irritation of transgender people. This may yet lead to the cancellation of more speaking engagements.

And for mine, this is the most scandalous thing of all. Not that a man might believe sexual reassignment makes him a woman. Not that a woman may disagree with his perspective. But that people believe it is acceptable to ban Greer from speaking because she has a particular point of view on this.

If your position cannot tolerate dissent, it is a very weak position. Greer is not advocating violence against transgender people. Greer is not marginalising transgender people. She is expressing her opinion, and there’s a huge difference between expressing an opinion, and advocating violence.

I think her opinion is based on a false premise, nonetheless she has every right to hold it, and anybody has the right, and even the responsibility, to challenge her. When debate is shut down we’re all the worse off, and the notion that we have no right to speak if we don’t agree with a particular perspective is completely abhorrent.


Daily Life bitch slaps yummy mummies.

11 Dec

Up front, I’m not a fan of “most influential” anything lists, however I do like/admire several of the women on the latest such list doing the rounds at the moment, and I do think they have done more than their bit to challenge the stranglehold destructive orthodox attitudes still retain on our society.

But. When I read the blurb accompanying nominee Chrissie Swan, I felt like poking out somebody’s eyes. I don’t know who wrote it, but in one sentence they undermine the stated ethos of the entire “most influential” thing, and reveal what really occupies the minds of organisers of contests such as this one, which is the value or lack thereof, of a particular type of woman. 

Swan is described thus: “An earthy antidote to the proliferation of bourgeois, pearl-clutching yummy mummies, Swan’s influence lies in simply being herself.”

Where do I begin. I am so offended by this statement I can’t think quite straight, and I don’t even wear pearls. I did once own a very nice strand of quite good pearls with a garnet clasp, but I lost them because I am careless and do not understand the value of such things. I also like to think I was in my bourgeois youth a yummy mummy. I just dug out photos of me giving birth to my second child in a bean bag in our lounge room and my fingernails, as I thought, were manicured and painted bright red which in itself ought to be testament to my yumminess.

I was during this period entirely myself, despite my middle class circumstances, my yumminess and my pearls. Who else could I have possibly been? Can a woman only be herself if she owns no pearls, and works very hard not to be yummy? If the only real woman is the “earthy” non bourgeois variety that likely disqualifies most of the other nominees, none of whom look particularly “earthy” and all of whom look middle class, although Germaine Greer is if not earthy, at least a little bit scruffy.

Anyone with a skerrick of talent ought to be able to describe Chrissie Swan without resorting to pejorative remarks about women who are not Chrissie Swan in order to establish Ms Swan’s credentials. That the organisers of a most influential women contest have failed at this elementary task is discouraging for feminism and makes something of a mockery of the whole venture, despite their intentions to the contrary.


Pearl clutching.

Pearl clutching.


Greer at the Opera House, Eva Cox, Julia Gillard and MTR. Feminism today. *Sigh*

7 Feb

There’s been a debate raging in the media for over three weeks now as to whether or not morals campaigner Melinda Tankard Reist’s claim to be a feminist is legitimate. Some of the arguments are addressed here and here.

This has come at a convenient time for the Sydney Opera House events management team, who have now co-opted the debate and the threats of defamation made against me by Tankard Reist as advertising material for their upcoming event starring Germaine Greer and Naomi Wolf. This event is titled “The F-Word,” and up until the legal threat the organisers were worried that nobody was interested in feminism anymore. The resulting internecine wars have gone a long way towards cheering them up.

Any woman who believes she has the right to tell any other woman she may not call herself a feminist is engaging in an act of bullying. A woman may self-identify in whatever way she chooses. Others may disagree with her choice but disagreement isn’t the same thing as attempting to deny her the right to define herself as she sees fit.

There were at least twenty-seven different factions of feminism last time I counted, many with oppositional points of view. Hegemonic attempts to impose just one definition of the ideology as the norm on all women who would thus identify themselves, is antithetical to feminist principles.

In a situation where the group calls itself “feminist” and is but one of many groups identifying as such, on what grounds does this group assume the entitlement and privilege that allows them to declare all others ineligible?

The ongoing fights about who is entitled to identify herself as a “feminist” are a sad indicator of an ideology that is rapidly disappearing up its own fundament. For example, presented with a choice between engaging in public debate about the other issues the Reist defamation threats have raised, such as free speech, our defamation laws, the rights of bloggers and social media users, all of which are or would once have been considered feminist issues, the public feminists decided to ignore all that.

Then we have the pro Tankard Reist argument that she is an “authentic” feminist as presented here. Whenever someone uses the word “authentic” in an argument such as this I wonder why. To cast other feminists as “inauthentic” perhaps? The article is written by women who describe themselves as “radical” feminists. Are they also authentic? Have I fallen down a rabbit hole?

The battle for and against is two sides of the same struggle for sole possession and domination of the feminist narrative. A struggle that is founded on exclusion, expulsion, entitlement, privilege, and an appalling lack of imagination.

If I wanted to define feminism for myself, I would turn to bell hooks

Visionary feminism is a wise and loving politics. It is rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other. The soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys.

 At the risk of incurring the usual old anti feminist slurs, I’d suggest that any woman or group of women who seek to take possession of the term “feminist” are engaging in their own form of patriarchal domination, and one that we could all do well without.

I don’t know if Greer and Wolfe will be discussing any of this. But I am bemused as I watch a defamation threat made against me by a self-described feminist, turned into an advertisement for an Opera House event at which two of the planet’s most famous feminists will discuss the relevance of feminism. Irony, anyone?

Then there’s the furore about whether or not criticism leveled at Julia Gillard is sexist and misogynist. This is difficult. I’m of the opinion that there is a strong misogynist undercurrent, but I can’t prove it. It’s easy enough to find examples of male PM’s whose appearance is subject to mockery, and exaggerating physical appearance of politicians is the cartoonists’ stock in trade.

Gillard comes with baggage of the worst kind. Would the emotions surrounding that baggage have remained so powerfully alive had a man ousted Kevin Rudd? Is it worse when a woman does it? And if so, why? Is this a manifestation of unresolved mother issues from the time when many of us were under some woman’s thumb, and powerless? Does it hurt more when a woman does it because they aren’t supposed to?

Fascinating questions for an analyst of the collective psyche.

I do take issue with the argument that because she’s a woman Gillard has less authority. She has authority, and in my opinion that authority is both increasing and stabilising as she grows into her role.

Rather, there are those among us who resent a woman’s authority. We might like to reframe that as the woman’s regrettable lack of that quality, however I don’t believe that’s the case in this instance. Anyone who watched as Gillard calmly instructed her bodyguards to ensure Abbott’s safety on Australia Day can’t claim the woman has no authority. It’s innate.

The inability to accept and deal with a female authority figure  is often expressed in dismissive contempt.

In many ways turning the Gillard story into a gender argument is not helpful, even though misogyny is undoubtedly present and ought to be outed if possible. Nevertheless, a woman can’t win when gender becomes the focus of the debate, and Bob Brown didn’t do Gillard any favours by attempting to defend her. I doubt it’s a stoush the PM herself is eager to engage with.

And so to the second feminist Australian Legend to be honoured by Australia Post, Eva Cox.

After referring to me as a nit-picking blogger in her article for New Matilda on whether Tankard Reist is a feminist or not, Cox later apologised for the insult.

However, as she then went ahead and published the same article again here I’ve come to the conclusion that her apology meant less than nothing.

It’s interesting being silenced from both ends of the feminist spectrum. Tankard Reist uses the law in an effort to control me. Cox chooses the arguably more subtle method of refusing to name me and dismissing my arguments at the same time. A man would be pilloried for using the same negating tactics against a woman writer.

Cox apparently has no objections to the law being employed to silence female dissent, which surprises me somewhat, but there you go. Tankard Reist has positively seized upon the law as an instrument of personal control, and has now resorted to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights as well.

Then there’s this description of me and my kind made by Cathy Sherry, in her article defending Tankard Reist. I am, she writes, an  “unaccountable blogger sneering and abusing from the safety of [my] bedroom.” According to Ms Sherry, I’m not even worthy of an office simply because I blog. In a later comment elsewhere Ms Sherry refers to me as “faceless” as well, while Anne Summers refers to me simply as “a blogger”. Summers also apologised later.

How to explain this feminist contempt for female bloggers? One would think that blogging and feminism were made for each other. The blog offers an ordinary woman a voice where once there was a deep silence that has been broken only by a select few.

At the end of  three weeks of remarkable encounters with a variety of self-described feminists I have to conclude that because I’m unknown, a blogger, and entirely without influence I don’t count as a feminist or as a woman, and am to be shut up one way or another by a feminist who has more of a public presence than me.

I’m not unduly upset by all this, but I am very puzzled, as well as a little aggravated. I fear it says a great deal about where feminism is today, and it isn’t pretty. I fear it suggests that feminism has sold itself out to some of the values it once despised and resisted. I fear it’s going to be all down hill from here, if we aren’t very careful.


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