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Germaine Greer shouldn't be speaking on issues she doesn't understand


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Germaine Greer landed herself in hot water yesterday, with ill-advised comments about consent, rape and the #MeToo movement.

Credit: Helen Morgan 

An interview on Radio 4, prior to an evening debate on the surrounding issues, saw her refer to the victims of Harvey Weinstein as "career rapees" and state that the #MeToo movement had not even started at all.

Greer's views on rape and consent are incredibly backwards, and show that she doesn't really understand the issues she's discussing in any way. Her interview was full of confused and muddled assertions that showed a lack of understanding about the subjects on which she was speaking. It really did feminism a disservice - it hardly looks good for us that someone seen as a leading feminist, as one of the voices for the movement, can barely form a coherent argument.

Greer complained that people's concepts of rape are confused, but didn't seem to have a decent handle on the topic herself. She said that people think rape is always a violent crime, when in fact it isn't - but actually, Greer's assertions here are just plain wrong. Many university students can attest that rape isn't always a stranger violently forcing themselves on you; in fact, it's more common that your partner wants to go further than you do and coerces you into something you're not comfortable with. That's why consent campaigns are so common on university campuses. Rape is always a violent act - it doesn't necessarily have to be a physically violent attack; if someone you trust crosses your personal boundaries, that tis a violation. It seems that Greer doesn't understand this.

"I'm the sort of person who would have called it when it happened," was her response when asked about women calling out sexual harrassment/assault through #MeToo. This is an incredibly privileged way of looking at things. We can't judge victims of sexual assault or harrassment for not coming forward right after it happened to them, especially if we haven't been through it ourselves. We can't claim to understand what rape survivors have been, and are, going through - instead of judging them for coming forward "too late", we should praise them for sharing incredibly personal and horrific experiences, so that women will feel safe coming forward, and will, in fact, begin to "call it when it happens".

She also claimed that the Time's Up protest at the Oscars was "incredibly stagey and contrived when you've got a real situation". This shows two things: one that Greer did not read the Time's Up manifesto, which clearly states that the aim of the movement is to stand with women in solidarity to tackle sexual harassment across ALL industries, and two, that she belittles the experiences of the women Weinstein attacked just because they are Hollywood celebrities.

It shouldn't matter what your position in society is; it's a REAL situation whether it's happening to farmworkers or Hollywood celebrities. She claimed that Hollywood stole the #MeToo movement from Tarana Burke (whose name she didn't even get right) - yet Tarana Burke was AT the Golden Globes, supporting the Time's Up movement.

She claimed that nothing that we are doing at the moment is actually solving anything, but when probed on what she would do to handle the situation came up with nothing. If you're going to criticise a movement for not getting enough done, then you had better have an alternative solution. If you're dismissing a movement for not doing anything, but you don't have any alternative whatsoever, then you're the one that comes off looking ridiculous.

Her claim that we "should ditch rape altogether as a crime" because it was originally a medieval crime where one man stole another man's wife and is now an issue of consent is also ridiculous. It is not that the crime has changed - in the medieval scenario it was a man taking a woman without her consent; now society has changed and therefore our understanding of the crime has changed, and we know that rape is so more more complex than a man stealing another's wife. But as with everything Greer argued in her interview, her response was confused and not at all nuanced.

She ended the interview by saying that rape doesn't occur in courts and prisons (which again shows a severe lack of understanding, given that prison rape is most definitely a thing) but in everyday life, and that we need to understand how it works in heterosexual relationships. Well, a) that's extremely heteronormative, because rape can occur in homosexual relationships just as easily, and b) we don't need to understand rape. We need to stop it.

I am all for alternative arguments about the #MeToo movement. If someone was to make a convincing argument that the movement wasn't working, I would listen to it. However, Germaine Greer does not make a convincing argument, she makes a muddled and confused argument with multiple offensive assumptions. It is vital when making an argument about rape that you understand what it is you are talking about - and it is clear that Germaine Greer does not. 

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