Monday, 26 October 2015

THE FEMALE EUNUCH?

It seems ironic that Germaine Greer chose the title A Female Eunuch for her seminal 1970 work. Greer aimed to argue that the suburban female stereotype stripped women of their sexuality, thus drawing comparison to eunuchs - the dictionary definition of which is a man that has been castrated. The emphasis here is on libido, on the genitalia - a man stripped of his testes is comparable to a woman stripped of her sex drive. Greer’s obsession with genitalia reared its head again this week in a now-famous interview with BBC Newsnight in which she claimed “trans women are not women” - a salacious soundbite which understandably pissed off the entire LGBTQ community. 

She continued - “I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to undergo that [gender reassignment] procedure. What I’m saying is that it doesn’t make them a woman”. Greer’s statements are problematic for a number of reasons, the first of which is that it completely ignores the progress that queer theory has made over the last few decades. It was Judith Butler that (convincingly) argued that biological sex and gender identity are two completely separate entities - essentially, you don’t have to be born with female genitalia to identify as a woman. Gender dysphoria is real, it’s relevant and it’s extremely important. The second problem is that Greer fails to talk about the transgender community without referring to surgery, thus demonstrating complete a complete lack of awareness with regards to the difference between transgender and transsex. 

She then continues in the same offensive vein by stating that many women feel that trans women “don’t look like, sound like or behave like women” - a statement which is not only offensive, but also hypocritical. Greer quite literally built a career by stating the problems with stereotypes - the sexless housewife, the promiscuous whore. Feminism argues against a stereotypical portrayal of female “behaviour” - the principle of feminism is that a woman should be liberated, free to express herself as she chooses. Greer apparently doesn’t think this of trans women, insinuating they must assimilate in order to be “accepted” by biological women. 

Her statement also reiterates the pressure placed on trans women to aspire to ideals of feminine beauty. A large part of life as a trans woman is based on attempting to “pass” for female - if you look and act convincingly female, there’s a chance that people won’t notice your trans status and thus the likelihood of you being abused or beaten is significantly lower. The irony is that Caitlyn Jenner (who Greer accuses of “transitioning to steal the limelight of the other Kardashian women”… yes, really…) faced heavy criticism by the trans community for focussing too heavily on designer dresses and high heels and not enough on the struggles of less-privileged trans women and trans women of colour. 

Finally, Greer rounds off her rant with the age-old accusation of misogyny - “men think that they can have their penis chopped off and become a better woman than somebody who was born female”. Statements like these are the reason that, for many years, “feminist” became a dirty word. The notion that a biological man would consent to surgical castration to enter the female realm and become “a better woman” is completely nonsensical, yet this is apparently Greer’s stance. Honestly, seeing this interview shocked me - it probably shouldn’t, but it did. It seems bizarre that queer theory itself is a radical variation of feminism - indeed Greer herself was praised for her radical views. It seems that her views aren’t so radical with regards to intersectional feminism - if anything, it seems that her views are archaic and, more often than not, entirely hypocritical.

3 comments: