Stifling Discusion

This is from yesterday’s i newspaper, by Simon Kelner, concerning the outrage on social media against comments made by veteran feminist Germaine Greer:

“The veteran … gave her opinion about transgender people last week. “I’m not saying that people should not be allowed to go through that procedure,” she explained, “All I’m saying that it doesn’t make them a woman.” and on the radio yesterday… she was more vivid “Just because you lop off your d*** and then wear a dress doesn’t make you a f***ing woman.”

Greer is now pubic enemy no. 1 for the transgender community, a place previously occupied by the journalist Suzanne Moore who,in 2013 said in an article that the ideal body shape for a woman these days was that of a Brazillian transsexual.”More was subject to a vitriolic campaign on social media, and now Greer has been similarly attacked and, bizarrely for the woman who wrote The Female Eunuch, she is being branded ‘a misogynist’. She has cancelled a public appearance in the face of protests. …

What Greer was offering was her own personal view, expressed in a characteristically forthright style. I can see why transgender activists may have found her statement unpalatable but the speed with which, through social media disagreement turns into offence, then spirals into a full-blown protest campaign is frightening.

The effect of this is to create a public discourse that is bland uninformative, and lacking in authenticity. There is such a risk-adverse mentality among those in public life these days that we are in danger of not hearing anything meaningful. We see this all the time from politicians. Only a couple of weeks ago I found myself shouting at the radio when Jeremy Corbyn was being interviewed on the Today programme on Radio 4. He was asked a simple question, Do you want to be Prime Minister? And instead of saying yes or no, he droned on about having a huge mandate from the Labour Party and he was gong to use this …blah blah blah..

At least Germaine Greer tells it how it is, or rather how she sees it. Politically incorrect it may have been, and it could be seen as offensive, but I applaud her for reminding us what the world used to be like before the digital hate mobs killed free speech.”

This reminds me of several people featured in Jon Ronson’s book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, and how peoples’ lives have been ruined by a momentary lapse of judgement.

But it also taps into a theme that I often come back to, that of context, the who, the where the why of a statement that has a huge impact on the words themselves, but are often lost in modern media. Greer comes from a generation of Australians who call each other bastards as a term of endearment.

But the main point here is the who. Greer was in the forefront of womens’ rights in the 1970s. She helped kick the door in on the old boy’s clubs that ran everything, and some might say still do. Whether these young witch hunters know it or not, they owe her a lot for their freedom to be and to do whatever they wish, and that includes the right to be accepted for being a transsexual or whatever. She is entitled to her opinion, and – like it or not – she is entitled to be heard and respected because of what she achieved. Her generation were brave and strong. They marched in the streets. They fought for what they thought was important. They helped change the world. They did not hide behind hashtags and aliases.

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3 thoughts on “Stifling Discusion

  1. As one who remembers the days when women were paid less OFFICIALLY because they were women … Well, Greer must know she is in good company – they wouldn’t have liked Emmaline Pankhurst either. Bet she could eat them all for breakfast if she was still around.

    Liked by 1 person

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