Germaine Greer Interview, May 23, 2018, Channel 4 News – transcript

10 Jun

Interview of Germaine Greer, by Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Channel 4 News, May 23, 2018

KG: Thank you very much for coming in.

GG: Pleasure.

KG: These days, more often than not, when I see you interviewed, you’re being asked about trans rights, about equality. Do you find the fact that no one’s talking about liberation any more, about women’s roles, a bit depressing?

GG: No. I try not to do depression. Like most people who are depressive, I have depression from time to time. It’s the black dog. It just turns up and you just have to get through it. It isn’t a rational response to anything, depression. It concerns me. It worries me. Equality is, as far as I’m concerned, a profoundly conservative aim. It will get us nowhere. It would mean that women do the things that men do, and they can make all the noise in the world about wanting to be paid exactly the same amount of money for doing what? For doing their job in exactly the same way? 

This will get us nowhere. The corporate world is misery. I don’t really think that men are happy in the corporate world. But they train for it from the time they’re tiny. When they have their first secret club and they have their first leader, and they have their first Stepin Fetchit and their first joker. Boys live in groups and these groups are patterns for the corporate world they will eventually enter. Except that now they’re so huge. And when you look at the takeovers of virtual companies by other virtual companies you begin to wonder if we’re all going mad. But men are trying to exist in this world, which is cutthroat and competitive and bellicose, and women are fighting for entry, even though – when women invent video games they’re a different kind of video game. But they’re not the ones, sort of the biggies, where we seem to be making fantasy war the whole time. Why do women want to get involved in that? Because there used to be a women’s league for peace and freedom, and women understood that war is now being waged against civilians, against women and children. And yet we’re saying “Can we please join the army?” That’s the wrong aim, the equality aim. “I want to carry a weapon. I want to be able to shoot people I’ve never met. I don’t think we can go that way.

KG: Did you always know that? When you were writing The Female Eunuch, had you already decided that equality was the wrong goal? 

GG: Yes. Definitely.

KG: How did you come to that conclusion so quickly and so early on?

GG: I could see that the lives that men were leading were driving them crazy. That the corporate world is one of dog-eat-dog, or somebody climbing up you back. If you actually look at the pattern of the corporate world, there are people falling out of it. It’s actually a machinery for failure. And there’s only one CEO at the top. And it’s always struck me as amazing. What does the CEO do? The answer is “Nothing.” His desk is empty, because everything has been delegated. But when you delegate jobs to other people, if they fail, you dump them. You don’t take any personal responsibility. And most of the hoops that men leap through in the corporate world are meant to winnow them out, get rid of them. And I just thought this is hateful. And we know that men are unhappy. How many times do we have to be told that men are killing themselves? We know this. We’re their mothers, after all. We know something about how sad they are. We know how war is driving our soldiers mad. You know, they come back from the war and they’re homeless and mentally disturbed. They’re in prison. And we lose more soldiers through self-harm and suicide than we do through enemy action. Doesn’t anybody get it that this is wrong? That this is crazy? It doesn’t make sense at all.

KG: I want to spend most of our time talking about the things you’ve written about in your books, but I just want to know what you think of the current state of feminist discourse and the things that it’s seemingly obsessed with. What does it tell us about how much progress we’ve made in the last 50 years, since you wrote The Female Eunuch? 

GG: I don’t look at the usual indicators. There may be more women earning the same pay as men, if that was the issue. But we still have women doing all the unpaid work. The U.N. analyses tell us that. And how can you expect equal pay for working in paid work when you’re going home to work harder, for nothing? I mean, that’s a simple case of expecting the employer to do something that nobody else is going to do. Well, that isn’t going to work out, that way. We keep pretending that men are doing an equal share, but every time we get the analysis of who does what, it doesn’t work out that way. 

KG: So do you think equal pay is a foolish goal? 

GG: I think thinking of it in terms of pay…if you think of it in terms of reward, that’s a bit different. Why do we do the jobs we do? Why do nurses nurse? Why do they get frustrated when they’ve got too much paperwork and when they haven’t got enough resources and when they haven’t got access to the newest techniques of relieving people’s suffering? Because they love the work. And everybody who deals with nurses, or teachers, or carers, knows this. And they make them pay. You’re doing a job you love doing, you’re working for people you love, you go home knowing that you’ve relieved somebody’s suffering. Well, we’ll fine you for that. We’ll just pay you less, because we know you won’t strike.

KG: So are you saying that the women who are still fighting for equal pay should be more militant?

GG: (laughing) No. Well, wait a minute. Does militancy actually work? I mean, shouting and screaming doesn’t work. Marching doesn’t work. A negotiation could work. But, I mean one of our biggest problems was what happened when we had the equal pay act, and the male work force was asked what would be a fair outcome? And they said something they had to know was rubbish. They said women should be paid equal pay for work of equal value. And you had to say to them “What makes you think work has a value? Because you didn’t get higher pay for your job until you used your muscle, until you went out on strike, until you did collective bargaining, until you actually wrestled with the potentates, until you got a deal. And now you don’t want to share the deal.” And they didn’t. They didn’t want to share it with other workers in their own industry, so that a man tightening screws on the assembly line would be earning more, because of the battles fought by his union, than the women making upholstery. Now you can sell a car without 50 screws in it, because no one will know where they went, but don’t try to sell it without upholstery, because you won’t. And that’s what happened in Dagenham. But you see, we keep telling those stories wrong. We pretended that Dagenham brought the women equal pay. It absolutely did not do that. That was a distortion of the history. The women got the semi-skilled rate, which they shouldn’t have got. They should have got the skilled rate. They accepted a deal, and they got done. And this is what happens to women all over. They accept a deal and they get done. 

KG: The gender pay discussion, though, has followed the #MeToo movement, which has also dominated discussion over the last year. You’ve gotten into some sorts of arguments over that, sort of saying it was a whinging culture.

GG: No, I didn’t use that word. My problem with it is that it’s dishonorable. You know, these women claim to have been outraged 20 years ago. Far too many of them entered into an agreement that involved non-disclosure, and they took payments, sometimes for a lot of money, six figure payments. Now the statute of limitations has elapsed, and they’ve suddenly decided there’s nothing to gain now by keeping silent. Now we’re going to start kicking ass and taking names, talking loud and drawing a crowd. And we’re now going to pursue the men who we consider to be malefactors here. 

You don’t do that, in my view. That’s blackmail. I don’t know how it’s different from blackmail. If I come to you and say “I know that you felt up a girl in the typing pool, who was so frightened that she never came back to work, and I’m going to tell the papers,” and you say (holds hands outstretched in a resisting gesture) “Don’t be too hasty. What will it take to keep your mouth shut?” I don’t know how those negotiations went on, but I think they’re profoundly dishonorable and women should never have entered into them and it’s now quite wrong to say that they’ve been brave. They’re being brave now that the statute of limitations has elapsed in most cases. In the case of Bill Cosby, for example, Cosby was sued in a civil action, by  (sounds like “Scansion,” I don’t know who she’s talking about) a woman who was awarded damages. She had also signed a non-disclosure agreement. But now (see previous note on name) her case, which she won on a lower burden of proof, because it’s done on probability and not on the absence of all possible doubt, now that case has been reheard under this pressure and Cosby, in a second retrial because the first one fell over, in a second retrial has been found guilty. And you just think “This is such a mess.” And the next thing that’s going to happen – 

KG: Isn’t it righting a wrong, ultimately?

GG: No. They haven’t righted anything.

KG: Even if it was a long time ago…

GG: They haven’t righted it, though. How could they right it?

KG: Well, not righting it but actually doing something about it. Doing something to hold people to account. 

GG: But it won’t work. It’s not going to work. The terrible thing is that Rose McGowan, I hear, I read online, has sold her house in L.A., to pay the costs for the civil case against Harvey Weinstein. She could have gone to the police about Harvey Weinstein for nothing, because that’s what we pay our taxes for. 

KG: So what’s a woman supposed to do, then? If they are victims of some sort of sexual assault or harassment?

GG: We’re not even allowed to call ourselves victims. (Snarkily) We’re “survivors.” In fact, the wreck of the Titanic (laughing). And it’s not. It’s just a fuck. Please. There’s a mad idea that this could destroy your life, that it’s the worst thing that could possibly happen. 

KG: A sexual assault.

GG: And it’s not true. Look, if it has to do with how susceptible you are, then this is more stuff we have to think about. If a woman says “You overcame me, you ignored me, you ignored me saying to you ‘Please stop, please don’t do this,’” and then she says “You’ve taken my liberty, my optimism, my light,” done all this, and you think “Hang on a minute. It was a fuck. How could it do all that? Why have you collapsed because this happened? It happened to me. 

KG: Can you say the same of rape? 

GG: In my case it was a rape. They talk about consent? Here I’ve got a man saying “Say ‘fuck me!’” And I’m saying “No!” And he’s saying “Say ‘fuck me!’” And I’m saying “No!” And each time he hits me across the face with the back of his hand. And I don’t know if he did it five, ten, fifteen times, did I in the end say it? I can’t remember. How could I remember?

And at some point I tried to crawl out of the car. I was in a car where he’d taken the handles off the door. And I tried to get out and he shut the door on my head and crushed the cartilage in my ear. And eventually it was completed, as they say in law. I have no idea whether it was complete in law. But it didn’t kill me. This is going to amaze you, but I worried about him. I thought “You poor bastard. You’re completely crazy. And they’re going to get you, like a mad dog. They’re going to get you.”

KG: And you don’t think that experience could destroy a woman? 

GG: No.

KG: It didn’t destroy you, but you don’t think it could destroy anyone?

GG: It shouldn’t destroy anyone. If it does, it’s because you’ve been told lies about who and what you are. I’m trying to think of ways around it. Most rapes don’t end up in a court of law. Most rapes occur in marriage, as a matter of fact, and I’ve just finished reading a new book, which is by Basia Briggs, where she talks about her first marriage. Never in the history of womanhood was there more destructive abuse than in that perfectly suburban relationship in which her husband used and abused her relentlessly. And it never occurred to her that she had a case against him, because you can’t bring a case against him without destroying the family. It’s the same old problem we have with domestic violence. 

KG: But what are you saying about those women who do say “It’s destroyed me,” then, and who want to bring action? Are you saying they’re making it up?

GG: Well, we have to make it untrue. The fact that they’re now taking action suggests that it’s untrue. But I would want to suggest that it’s always untrue. Rape isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you, obviously. We like to think “Oh, the penis is a weapon.” Susan Brownmiller said (dramatically) “You know, it’s a weapon.” No it isn’t. You want to hurt a man, try hurting him there. It’s one of the easiest places to hurt him. 

Speaking for myself, I kind of had a vague idea that I should grab his balls, or twist them or something. But I thought “I’ll screw it up, I won’t get it right and he’ll kill me.” I didn’t really think he’d kill me. I just thought he’d hit me. By that stage I’d been hit so much. 

It isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you. We shouldn’t have our young women more afraid of a penis than our sons are afraid of a knife. That is just stupid. We are not getting it. Our girls have a way out. In a way, rape is a way of escaping murder. Boys can’t make that deal unless somebody wants to bugger them, which as we know is easier to prove in law than rape of a woman. It’s all a mess because it’s come down to us through masculine law, when women used to be the property of a man, and so the crime was against the man. The crime of rape is now against the state, and it has to be dealt with as any other crime, when you have to prove the case beyond all possible doubt. In the case of consent, you can’t do that. I don’t turn blue when I consent. There’s no way you can tell. 

KG: What you’ve just said in the last few minutes is a really good illustration of what happens with you in these sorts of debates. What you’re doing here is making a really powerful argument about the uselessness of the law- 

GG: And we’ll change it.

KG: And how rape is never prosecuted –

GG: But it is prosecuted. And lost.

KG: But in the process of this, a lot of women listening to this will say that what you just said is utterly offensive about women, and people who’ve been raped, and you’re belittling their suffering and their experience by saying it doesn’t kill them. That ends up being the headline. Doesn’t that happen to you a lot? You say something and that headline winds up as something you perhaps didn’t intend. 

GG: Well, this is why I’ve told you that I know about being raped. When I’ve written about rape in the past and said “Let’s try and get sensible here.” Let’s try and understand how much of it there is. If we agree that most of it is never reported to the police, it’s not understood by anybody involved to be a crime, then we’ve got to understand that the things that stick up, the horrible, brutal things, which we know were done in the case of the Belfast Four, that these things are, as it were, the peaks that stand up above a huge landscape of sexual abuse, of non-consensual sex that women bear, and it does them no good at all. It erodes their self-confidence, it erodes their sense of selfhood and dignity, and it impoverishes the tenderness, the mutual love that should exist between spouses.

We’ve got to not do this. We’ve got to somehow deal with the fact that there’s too much bad sex. You could even argue that most of the sex that happens in the age of pornography is bad sex. It’s sex with organs and not with people. It’s fetishistic, it’s masturbatory, people are never more alone. We’ve not even elevated sex. We’ve turned it into something completely banal.

KG: But what you said about rape; a man might take from that “Germaine Greer is saying rape isn’t that bad.” 

GG: Well, it’s not as bad as murder. I’m convinced of that.

KG: But not just that. That it isn’t as bad as society currently holds it. 

GG: But does society hold it? Just be aware of the fact that most rapes are not reported. And all the figures about the relationship of the reported ones to the unreported ones are as soft as butter, because they have no idea what they’re talking about. A rape that’s unreported is simply unreported. I didn’t report mine. You might be surprised to learn that Mary Beard was raped, on a train, in Italy. She didn’t report hers, either. She was in Italy, didn’t speak Italian, on her way to work on her Ph.D thesis. Her whole life would have been torn apart if she’d decided to try and bring a criminal case in Rome, and I can tell you it would have taken just about the rest of her life. You just can’t do it. It’s not doable. It’s never been doable. I didn’t do it, because I knew that I would be discredited. What was I – I went to a party in the suburbs. I danced with this man and we went to get a cigarette. We went out the wrong door from the party and ended up in the garden on the other side of the house. He then said “Let’s go for a walk.” And I thought “It’s too early to start screaming” so I kind of went for a walk. And then I ended up being pushed into the car and everything else followed from there. 

I would have been dead to rights. They would have torn me to pieces. In those days I wouldn’t even have been examined for DNA. Nowadays you get worked up over weeks. Not only that, but you have to surrender your mobile phone. You lose all your privacy, as a rape victim, because you become a piece of evidence. 

KG: So you think the answer to this is actually to stop trying to prosecute people for rape. 

GG: No, no. It’s not quite that. It’s a better idea to try to bring a civil case for damages. But be aware you can lose it. You can lose it for contributory negligence. That you didn’t behave sensibly. You put yourself in a position of jeopardy. A third party can lose it, like the people who owned the house where I was at that party, because they didn’t put in safeguards for young women who might be drawn off into the dim suburbs of Melbourne. And you can have costs awarded against you. And it can go on and on and on. And the longer it goes on – this is the thing, I think, about Mary and about me, that I didn’t want my story to be “I was raped.” That’s not my story. I was in the wrong place. It was like being hit by a bus. I didn’t internalize it. It wasn’t my fault. In fact, ironically, the boy involved, who offended again, and I feel bad about that, because if I’d actually denounced him; and I prefer to call it denouncing, by the way, rather than complaining; if I’d denounced him he might have been stopped. Because a rapist of that kind, who’s extremely violent, is usually a recidivist. This is a predator, and he set me up, and he actually had the car and everything set up to do exactly what he did. 

KG: So why is damages a good outcome, but a nondisclosure agreement for which you get paid $130 thousand dollars or whatever it might be for a sexual assault, not? 

GG: They’re not necessarily for your sexual assault. You get paid not for being assaulted but for keeping your mouth shut. Now, I didn’t keep my mouth shut. All the people in my circle knew what had happened. And what actually happened in my case, and it sounds almost Indian, is that the guys who took me to the party; I was working as a housekeeper for four guys who owned a flat in a very luxurious part of Melbourne. And they’re taking me to the party. I then disappeared, because once I got to my feet, after being – I was badly bruised and knocked about and very dizzy. I wanted to go back and tell the guys “Please take me home. Something awful has happened.” I thought people would be able to tell. I didn’t even know if I was covered with blood. I had no idea. 

And I just wandered up the road. The guys came home to the flat about an hour later, and they were very angry, because they considered that he had taken a liberty with a friend of theirs. And what they actually did was something totally illegal, but wonderful. About three nights afterwards, I was ironing tablecloths in the kitchen, and suddenly he was there in the doorway of the kitchen. And I looked at him, and then one of the other guys standing behind him said “Is this the one?” And I said “Yes.” and thought what’s going to happen? They’re going to make me marry him or something, a marriage of reparation. I said “Guys, what’s going on?” 

They took him away. They took him to the front room and they shut the door. And they said to him, because they all came from the same public school set, you know. And they said “Do you like to ski at Hotham? Well, don’t come any more. We’ll get you above the snow line.” And then they said “Don’t you surf at Torquay? We’ll get you outside the surf line. You’ll drown.” 

And he disappeared. And that was extraordinary, to actually – because it doesn’t happen. And there was no legal process or anything. Completely illegal, but it worked. The only thing is he committed the same crime again with a young woman who was engaged. It’s a silly story, though. She and her fiancé were going to a party, they needed some grog, liquor, so they went to a grog shop, and they said to this guy whose name I’ve completely suppressed, I have no idea what his name is, they said to him “Take her to the party and I’ll be along with the grog,” and he raped her on the way to the party. Mad as a hatter. And dangerous.

KG: Throughout your public profile and a lot of your big television interviews and tackling big topics, you end up upsetting some people. 

GG: Well, what am I going to do if I don’t do that?

KG: Do you care about causing offense? 

GG: I get offended every day! Who’s going to fix that up? Every time Mother Brown’s book, Mrs. Brown’s boys comes on television I’m vomiting with rage. But who’s going to give me a break? 

KG: But do you think it’s a good thing to try not to offend people? 

GG: No. No.

KG: So you always say whatever you think and hang the consequences?

GG: Tell the truth! 

One of the things that happens in rape is you’re not allowed to get over it, because they keep saying; if you say ‘I’m okay, I’m not crushed,” they’ll say you’re in denial, that you’ve been traumatized and you’re now denying it. And this will change you for the rest of your life. 

Everything that happens to you changes you for the rest of your life. How can it be more dreadful than being conscripted into an army, say, and being made to kill people you’ve never met? I mean, how can we turn this into this vast drama when there are so many worse things that are going on in the world? 

KG: You say it’s really important to tell the truth. The people who are most offended with you at the moment seem to be the trans community. This is something that you get asked about a lot, even though as far as I can tell –

GG: Even though I’m not interested.

KG: You don’t really write about it or talk about it voluntarily. And so it makes me wonder why you enter into this debate. Is it just because somebody asked you a question, so you answer it? 

GG: Which debate? 

KG: About whether trans women are women, you know, what is a woman? All of that definitional argument that you’ve been drawn into recently. You went to a lot of trouble with a lot of people and they’re all offended with you. 

GG: No, they pretend to be made –

KG: No, they are offended. You can see that.

GG: Honestly, I keep being told that I’m going to be no platformed, right? The general public out there thinks I’m being prevented from speaking on this subject. A: I don’t speak on this subject. They speak on nothing else. So leave it to them. We’re not even allowed to refer to the fact that somebody is transgender. We’ve got to call these people “women” and behave as if we cannot see that they are not as we are, when it’s blindingly obvious. That’s all an infringement of our right of free speech, but we don’t make a big fuss about that. What actually happens is they keep saying that I’m not allowed to speak on any subject whatsoever.

KG: Because of that. Because you’ve – 

GG: Because they’re men and – (with irony) well, they *were* men. And they think that they’re important. “What about me?” It’s the great male question. We could embroider it on all your t-shirts. “What about me?” 

We have problems of definition about “what is a woman?” maybe? But we have many more problems connected to the fact that we *are* women. Because people can’t make sense of our anatomy or our health or what menstruation is, or why some women are crippled by menstruation and can’t go to work. We can’t make sense of why our babies die in utero –

KG: But how much do you care about this issue? 

GG: I *don’t* care. 

KG: There are lots of feminists who find the whole question of trans women very annoying and they feel it’s an assault on them and they feel it’s a misogynist kind of construct.

GG: I’m afraid I’m – 

KG: Are you amongst them? 

GG: No, I’m more insulting, I’m afraid. I think it’s uninteresting. I think we have much bigger problems. And our problems are connected with things like that we cannot tell a young woman, a woman, why her baby died in utero at seven months? Why can’t we tell that? Because we’ve never worked on it. Why have we never worked on it? Because of misogyny. Because of lack of interest. Because being interested in women’s affairs is to become the most condemned of doctors, a gynecologist. So they can’t answer the simplest questions. What is postpartum psychosis? How do we take care of women who are threatening to kill their babies and the young woman who died as they ferried her between three hospitals? A young, well-connected woman who died, because they eventually, they tried to restrain her, she ruptured her liver. At that stage they decided she needed to go to a mental hospital and she ended up dead. That is absolutely outrageous. It should never happen in our community, or indeed in any community. 

KG: Don’t you feel though you’d be able to spend more time on all those questions if you just moved on from this trans question?

GG: But I’m not- 

KG: “Okay, fine. If you want to join us as women, then you’re women. Come and join us in the bigger struggles.”

GG: Well, they’re not going to help us much with postpartum psychosis, are they? Or even with menstrual discomfort. 

I think we can manage. We are 51% of the population and we’re being held to ransom by a handful of people who are extremely vocal and aggressive. And that’s no surprise to any of us. I don’t understand why we have to make a mockery of older women. And that’s universal. You say to me that I’m offending people. Every time you get vilified because you’re an old woman, and you only have to be 50, not very old. I’m now 80. I’m as old as you like, and you can call me senile and anything else you want to call me. But I’m not going to be hijacked for this question of sexual identity, of gender identity. 

Look. I wrote a book a long time ago about how you get made into a woman. In those days, we called it “conditioning.” And you could see it happens from birth. Little baby girls are left to cry for longer than baby boys. They are fed for shorter periods than baby boys. We want them to be smaller than baby boys, and so on and so on and so on. And it goes right through our entire lifespan, where we’re learning femininity. And it’s a masquerade. It’s not who we really are. There is nothing feminine about being pregnant. It’s almost the antithesis of that. There’s nothing feminine about giving birth. It’s a bloody struggle and you’ve got to be strong and brave. There’s nothing feminine about breastfeeding. God knows it drives everybody mad. They want to see nice big pumped-up tits, but they don’t want to see them doing their job. And it just goes on and on. 

That masquerade is now what is being presented to us back as the real deal, with the hair extensions and the false eyelashes. And you think; “Why do you think that’s real?” when we all know that it isn’t. 

Gender – let me explain here. Sex is a given. And you can be intersex. One of the women on Genderquake is genuinely intersex. She has breasts and a penis. And she’s fantastic. She doesn’t want to cut her body about. God knows it’s a problem body. She has a problem when she meets someone, whether she thinks they might be able to develop a relationship. When does she say “By the way, I’ve got a penis”? She’s accepted as female gender. That is all fine. That’s not a problem for me. And intersex is relatively common, especially in certain ethnic groups, and they have ways of dealing with it.  

It’s a completely different thing when you decide to eliminate masculinity at one end and adopt hyperfemininity at the other, because you’ve left all this space in here where the rest of us live. I’m not a particularly feminine person but some aspects of my character, men would tell you, are extremely feminine. I don’t even think about it.

KG: So, just so we can make sense of this conversation, just briefly, can you explain to me what you mean by femininity and masculinity, and how they differ from sex? 

GG: (laughing) Well let’s see. Femininity is learning to speak more softly. It’s learning why little girls want to wear a pink tutu to the shops. It’s why they want their bedroom painted pink. Or be a princess. My godchildren spent five years wanting to be princesses. I had to preach many a sermon about how unhappy princesses are. They’re all learning that stuff and they impose it on each other.

KG: Does femininity go with being a woman? 

GG: That’s a gender thing. Gender can be anything you like. It’s entirely cultural. But unfortunately sex is not entirely cultural. It’s something you’re born with whether you like it or not. And most of us who grow up to be women, who have our first period at 12,13,14, whatever, traumatizing otherwise, a body we thought we knew becomes smelly and dirty and different. And then the boys come along and be watching pornography and say that we’re not groomed and we have to remove our body hair and so on. We’re to spend our lives removing body hair. That’s femininity, which is the fake version of femaleness. Female is real, and it’s sex, and femininity is unreal, and it’s gender. And it’s a role you play, and for that to become the given identity of women is a profoundly disabling notion.

KG: In the 48 years since you wrote The Female Eunuch, when you first took these notions apart, of the differences between femininity and being female, do you feel that women have sort of disappointingly conformed to femininity, or have they followed your lead? 

GG: I would be very disappointed if they followed my lead. That would make me tear my hair. I’m not a cultist. I’m not a charismatic preacher. 

KG: But there hasn’t been any real divorce of femininity and being female.

GG: There has been for some people. There was in China. In China, during the Great Leap Forward, men and women were indistinguishable. They looked exactly the same. Now that’s made very easy because they’re the same height. Now in our race, our mixture of races, speaking of basically Aryan, men are bigger than women. Characteristically women are shorter.  So it’s hard for us to pretend to be men. And it’s been one of the things that breaks my heart when I see female-to-male transsexuals, that they have tiny hands and tiny feet. And I think, just as male-to-female transsexuals have enormous hands and enormous feet. And I think “Here you are, you’ve taken male hormones and you’ve grown a little beard and your hair is cut and you’re wearing men’s clothes, and here are these tiny hands and feet that are giving the game away.” We don’t have the drugs to give you that will make you sprout big hands. It’s in some ways a delusion, a delusion that you can do it. I mean, if you think about it, why would you think “I’m in the wrong body but if I cut bits off of it, it’ll turn into the right one.” There’s no logic there. It can’t work. If I have a hen on a chopping board and I take off its leg, it doesn’t turn into a cock. You can’t do it. I’m really interested in the young people who didn’t feature in Genderquake the other day, the young people who’ve decided they don’t want to be any sex, who have their secondary sexual characteristics suppressed. They remove breasts, they remove penises and testicles, and they want to be like angels. Sexless. And I’ve actually written about it long ago, around about the time of The Female Eunuch, I wrote a story about what would it be like if when you met people you didn’t know what sex they were? And you would get to know them and fall in love with them and you still wouldn’t know what was likely to happen when you became intimate? You’d have to discover it. And I thought that would be amazing. 

KG: So what do you think is going on there? Why do you think we’re seeing more of this publicly? 

GG: Well, I think there are lots of reasons. One is that we have to have fewer children, so we might begin to not practice reproductive sex as much. We would actually do more polymorphous – 

KG: So you think this is sort of an evolutionary step?

GG: Well, you’d better hope that it is. Because we really have to have fewer children. The earth can’t support us anymore. And we’ve already got same-sex marriage. Interesting. I don’t know, I think same-sex yes, marriage not. Marriage has bad history and I’m not a champion of marriage, of people owning each other. I’m profoundly against that. But if what’s happening is we’re learning different ways of pleasuring each other that don’t involve the exposure of an ovum to sperm, and it’s arguable that that’s already happening. But you would hope it became not an imitation of slam, bam, thank you ma’am. That it actually became more intelligent. 

KG: Let’s move on a few decades, to the book that you’ve rewritten, revised and put out again. It’s about women aging and the menopause, as it says on the front. Why is this the book that you’ve revised? 

GG: Because a great deal has happened since it was first published. There are the two great cohort studies, the one in America and the one in England. And they were very badly designed. They got terribly mixed up over their terms of reference. They terrified a whole generation of women. And they got the wrong results because they set it up the wrong way. There are plenty of people who are bitter about this, who says that because of what happened in that case, women have died of diseases that we knew how to prevent. I’m not convinced by this, I think. I wish it hadn’t been badly designed. But what we really needed was a much stronger commitment to better studies looking for specific things that we’re trying to understand. They tried to do it on the cheap and this is the story of women. That you think you can do it that way, and they absolutely couldn’t. So women, lots of women who might have got benefit from replacement steroids dumped them and were too terrified to use them again. And that was a sad thing, but it was a direct consequence of the fact that the replacement steroids, HRT as we call it, have been oversold, ridiculously oversold. They were not the elixir of youth. They would deal with specific problems connected with, now what I can’t say is “estrogen deficiency” because we never proved it. But it’s to do with the fluctuations in estrogen secretion in the body of a menopausal woman. It could be anything from 30 to 60. So that’s another vagary that we can’t fix. 

So I want to say yes, replacement steroids have a role, but be skeptical and don’t take them for any longer than you need to. 

KG: Are you going to revisit any of your other works and revise them?

GG: No, I don’t think so.

KG: The Female Eunuch doesn’t need rewriting?

GG: No, no. It needs another book, somebody else’s better book. No, it’s very much a book of its time and it’s not a very good book. I’m perfectly happy to see someone else write a better one. It’s a bit disappointing that it’s on reading lists for kids at school.

KG: Still.

GG: I could go and teach them what’s wrong with it. 

KG: Because so much has changed.

GG: (laughing) Don’t believe a word!

KG: What is wrong with it?

GG: Oh, it’s too literary. Because that was my milieu. I didn’t have much acquaintance with the real world. I was a bookish person. And now I think the academic character of so much feminism, the fact that it went into university courses, rather than into industry and politics. It’s become ridiculous. 

KG: Just in the last few minutes, can I just ask you a few little advice questions, then? 

GG: Advice? I don’t give advice.

KG: Advice questions for people bringing up children.

GG: (laughs merrily)

KG: How should they raise their sons and daughters to think of femininity and masculinity? Because, you know, a lot of parents; I’ve got young children; and a lot of parents will say: “God, it’s amazing how they fall into their gender roles, how the girls just want to play with dolls.” How boys and girls want to play separately. How the boys want to play sports and the girls don’t. Is all of that nonsense? Have you got to try actively to break that, as a parent? 

GG: I think you’re on a prayer to nothing. It’s not going to happen. I’ve been watching little girls because I’m fascinated by this pink business. And I think pink stinks. It’s an awful, chemical color. I wish it was some other, nice color. And I realize that in many cases it’s a kind of guerrilla activity. They are forming a little bunch of stormtroopers in favor of pink. And they want their hair very long, dangling in their faces. I mean, the children who have grown up in my house all had their hair cut because it used to drive me mad that they had hair in their mouths while they’re trying to eat and all that sort of thing. Out would come the scissors and they’d have a little basin crop, and they all wore bib overalls. And it’s funny, somebody gave one of my godchildren a doll and she threw it down the stairs. And I found myself saying “Oh, poor dolly, why did you – oh – shut up! She’s not playing Mothers today. Good on her!”

Boys, on the other hand, have a really challenging life career ahead of them. They have got to join male groups and they’ve got to learn their place in the pecking order. And they’re going to be bullied and manipulated and negotiations will go on. Ultimately we are hominids, rather than Homo sapiens. So they’re very much like ape communities, where you’ve got the silverback who’s the ruler, and then you’ve got all the junior apes who are trying to jockey for position. And then you’ve got the ape who’s placating people by being funny. And then you’ve got all the women, by the way, foraging for this group of useless men, who are playing games of who’s top ape, who’s top dog.

KG: You don’t think you can break that cycle? 

GG: You can, and the result will be you’ll get children who choose intermediate roles. So your sons may decide that they’re going to be gay, effeminate, whatever. And that’s very interesting to me, because I think it is a knowing rejection of masculinity as miserable, as cruel, and ultimately very damaging. We don’t do assessments on men who kill themselves as to their masculinity factor. But I’ve always regarded suicide as a crime of anger, rather than sadness. We live with sadness. It’s a thing around us all the time. But when you lay violent hands on yourself it’s because you’re angry, and I think masculinity is involved there. Masculinity is really hard and once upon a time we needed it, maybe, when we were fighting hand-to-hand. But we need now to somehow get over it, because it’s turning lethal in modern society.

KG: You’ve probably turned up another conversation I’ll have to invite you back for, but Germaine Greer, thank you very much indeed for that.

GG: Well it’s a pleasure. Thank you. 


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