Women artists ~ theatre notes

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Women artists

Germaine Greer, bless her, had a go at exhibitionist and narcissistic women artists the other day. My response, under the somewhat smartarse headline Dear Germaine: this time you're wrong, is in the Guardian arts blog today.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Greer is someone I really wish people would stop paying attention to. She's as relevant to feminism these days (and always was) as David Irving is to the holocaust. Not the least because ideologically she is very much aligned with some of the nastiest essentialist feminists like Mary Daly and Janice Raymond, which if everyone laughed at when they made such mentally feeble proclamations would make the world a much better place.

What really irritates me with her is that any time some mediocre illiterate journalist needs a quote or op-ed piece from someone who represents the intelligentsia in some form, they go to an utterly insignificant windbag like her and any interesting, intelligent debate is immediately smothered. Yuck. I wish she'd shut up for once and stop doing so much damage.

frances said...

bah! that was from me … (frances) … sometimes so computer illiterate …

Alison Croggon said...

Hello there Frances - I have a deal of respect for Germaine Greer, since on her own ground - Elizabethan writing - she's very good indeed (those essays on Aphra Benn truly are wonderful). But I have often wondered why someone who so often attacks women in the same terms as men do is considered the arch feminist...

Geoffrey said...

There are complex and wonderous differences between someone with an opinion and someone who is opinionated. That just about sums it up for me. I often read (Ms) Greer's observations out of nothing more than idle and morbid curiosity ... but then that probably says just as much about me as it does Her.

Alison Croggon said...

She makes me laugh often enough for me to want to read her. I thought her comments on Steve Irwin such a relief after all that grandstanding, for instance. But sometimes she's just dotty. I saw her speak in London once and she gave an impassioned speech (complete with tears) about Aboriginal rights, which included the statement that she won't enter Australia until she has received formal permission in person from its Indigenous owners. I have never known if this is true or not, but it strikes me as being a bloody nuisance. I had visions of tribal Elders getting pleading phonecalls from airport officials and cursing - "Germaine's at the airport again guys..."

Paul Martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Martin said...

I agree with Frances. From where I sit, my perception is that Ms. Greer is desperate to be in the spotlight at any cost. She often promotes controversial ideas that clearly she doesn't believe in but revels in the chins she puts out of place. It was only a couple of years or so ago that she was proudly promoting paedophilia.

Jana said...

If I may disagree...

I have no personal history with GG, not being Australian; but I do know what it's like to have one of your own on the world stage, the feeling of responsibility and personal stakes. Just like nobody in this town gets as worked up as I do over what Emir Kusturica thinks.

So, with a certain naivety, I'll say: I've thought the same question many times. In my case, in regards to music; no authored female music ever seems to do the love song as an act of unashamed adoration. It always seems self-aware, narcissistic or in-yer-face disdainful. There seems to be an act of wilful striptease involved, including self-inflicted violence, or meant as an exhibition of empowerment.

And if I can draw examples from music, GG from visual arts and Alison from poetry, then may there not be something in there to discuss?

Alison Croggon said...

Hi Paul - I didn't read Greer's book and I'm not going to take the media beat up on trust. Was she actually promoting paedophilia?

And Jana, I'm not quite following you here...Judith Wright and Gwen Harwood, for instance, wrote some full-blooded love poems, and imho can't be accused of narcissism... could you expand?

Paul Martin said...

Alison, I haven't read the book, but watched her interviews promoting the book. She was gloating over how wonderful it was to have sex with very young men (from memory, of barely legal age). I find that tantamount to paedophilia (though probably not within the legal definition). I'm not sure how sincere she was being in what she was saying because, as I indicated, I think she was grandstanding to get headlines. Sincere or not, what she was saying was repugnant. And I think pretty much the same of say a 60-something has-been rock star chasing 18 year old girls. At least they don't brag about it.

Alison Croggon said...

I'm not defending Germaine. I read an extract in which - as I recall - she was saying that the beauty of young men (eg in Death in Venice etc) was an aesthetic experience that was ignored in contemporary art. I do remember a nimbus of the aging and creepy roue about it all, and Greer is one of the biggest egotists in UK public life, but I'm still not sure that's promoting paedophilia.

Jana said...

Dear Alison, I only meant to say: hasn't anyone here ever wondered the same thing that Greer asks, at least once? Despite her somewhat sloppy execution, I do think it's a valid question.

But the comment thread is turning into a collective gossip session on Germaine Greer's person, and I personally have nothing to contribute. I, as I've already explained, don't feel her behaviour as personally as someone truly Australian. I despair over public appearances of certain other people.

Alison Croggon said...

Quite right, Jana. Yes, there is a point; I do wonder when I see performance artists like Orlan, for instance, whether the performance of that femininity is as radical as it aims to be. I can understand why Frances would be peeved with Greer, her views on female-hood are, well, reactionary; but it's better to take issue with her ideas than her persona. And she has been influential, after all. I still value some of her writings.

frances said...

When I was reading a lot of feminism, identity politics and I suppose for a broad term, queer theory, I stumbled across a quite succinct and for me pertinent method of establishing if the author was in fact merely a bigot of the highest order. Greer announced herself thus in "The Mad Woman's somethingorother", Australia's Own Elizabeth Grosz who had a moment in the early 90s as Sydney's answer to Judith Butler (couldn't be further apart) did so in "Volatile Bodies". It remains for me the singular verifier of a writer's worth if they decide to venture into these fields. I do quit literally judge the entire corpus of a writer through this approach.

While some of her other writings may have different worth (I haven't read much of her and don't intend to), I find it difficult to separate a person from their ideas when the nature of their ideas is to dehumanise an already significantly marginalised group.

I was thinking about Human Rights again this morning and how in denying some group or person these, what it in fact does is negate them as human, as in: "Humans have rights. Having rights is the property of being human. If you don't have rights, you are not human". This is pretty much what Greer does, and for me that's about as unforgivable as you can get.

ben hjorth said...

i'm surprised, in all the mud-slinging (good old fashioned fun), that no-one's mentioned the highly ridiculous headshot of Germs that accompanies the Guardian article. seems almost too ridiculous to not be self-parodic to me.

a truly strange person. possessed of a kind of insistent, hyper-rational, and volatile naivete. or something. i understand that, as frances says, this can be a very destructive force. but shoot me, i find her foibles fascinating.

Alison Croggon said...

Heh. Reminds me what I didn't say - I can't help enjoying some old fashioned shit stirring, at least if it has some wit (the difference between Germs and our mate Andy Bolt). I'd be hypocritical else.