Given Germaine Greer’s history of making offensive gaffes on the ABC’s Q&A program along with her oft-cited controversial views on transwomen, her response to a question on the latter during last night’s program was, unfortunately, unsurprising.
Questioner Steph D’Souza called on the iconic feminist to defend her view that “transgender women are not real women”, asking:
“Why do you believe there is such a thing as a ‘real woman’? Isn’t that the kind of essentialism that we have been trying to escape?”
For a moment it seemed as though Greer had turned a corner. She agreed that her initial view of men and women as defined by their chromosomes was overly simplistic, but went on to say this:
“If you decide, because you’re uncomfortable in the masculine system — which turns boys into men, often at great cost to themselves — if you’re unhappy with that, it doesn’t mean that you belong at the other end of the spectrum.”
Watch the full discussion here:
Host Tony Jones called on her to clarify the point, asking: What if you know you’ve been born the wrong sex?
“You can’t know”, she declared. “You don’t know what the other sex is like.”
In the 90s Greer tried to block the promotion of a transgender colleague in her department at Cambridge. In 2009 she labelled transwomen “ghastly parodies”. Just last year she publicly objected to Glamour Magazine giving Caitlyn Jenner their “Woman of the Year” award and continues to deliberately misgender her.
She took another dig at Jenner last night:
“I don’t believe that a man who has lived forty years as a man, who has had children, with a woman, that he then decides that the whole time, he’s been a woman. At that point I’d like to say ‘hang on a minute, you believed you were a woman, but you married another woman. That wasn’t fair, was it?'”
Others on the panel questioned how she could say such things and called for greater empathy towards the trans community. Finally Jones quipped, “I thought you were digging yourself out of this hole”, Greer declared: “I belong in this hole.”
It’s a pity, because earlier in the evening she had made some important points.
When asked by an audience member why some women still choose to be in abusive relationships, she said she was “stunned”.
“I would have thought that actually what drives [abuse] is misogyny, is actual dislike of women and not understanding them,” she said.
It might be worth reminding Greer, that transwomen suffer far higher rates of non-physical and physical abuse than almost any other group in Australia.