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Germaine Greer, the loudly opinionated Australian journalist, writer and feminist, has used the tools of shock to garner a following since the release of her first novel, The Female Eunuch, in 1970. Greer’s public persona, while initially effective as a publicity tool, has alienated her audience and caused them to reject Greer’s forcefully outrageous opinions. Greer rose to prominence in the 1970s and was supported by thousands of feminists across the globe.
Greer created an eye-catching public persona of outspokenness, strength and liberation through her public appearances, books and articles. After the publication of The Female Eunuch, Greer was regarded as a pioneer of the 1960s feminist movement (ABC, 2012). As one of the most significant feminist voices of the 1970s, Greer gathered a large following that appreciated her ability to flaunt her right for self-expression and opinion. In Greer’s profile on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) website, she is described to have helped re-imagine a woman’s role in both domestic and public domains. ‘A key concern for the Australian feminist movement was women participating in social and political deliberation as a means to achieving gender equality.’ ( ABC, 2012) Greer’s outspoken persona correlates directly with her literature and demonstrates a woman’s ability to express themselves in social and political spheres.
With a taste for sensationalism and an aim to outrage, 40 years after her rise to celebrity, Greer has managed to alienate her audience. Cheap shot, after misguided cheap shot, have seen Greer’s prominence and credibility spiral down the drain. Recently, on the ABC’s show Q & A, she poked fun at the prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard. Greer said, among other things, ‘You’ve got a big arse Julia. Just get on with it.’ (News Ltd, 2012) The public reaction was similar to a mother collecting their child from the principal’s office: scornful and disappointed. News Ltd commentator, Miranda Devine, said ‘because of her status as a feminist icon, Greer has just legitimised every misogynist to attack Gillard’s appearance.’ (The Hoopla, 2012) Taking a crack at the Australian PM isn’t a new thing and shouldn’t completely take away from all the work Greer has done for feminism. Yet, statements like her criticism of Gillard’s derriere undermine Greer’s credibility.
The world has changed and feminism has changed, but Greer and her persona have not caught up. Greer’s public image was created through shock tactics and her celebrity was due to her unpredictability. The Monthly Magazine’s Louise Nowra said, ‘Greer’s overbearing personality and propensity to make outrageous statements made her even more remote from my world.’ (Nowra, 2010) Somewhere along the way, Greer’s persona became static and her attempts for attention became repetitive. Even in the beginning, many did not like her, but they did listen to her. Her original, 1970’s, fiery, feminist audience agreed with Greer’s statement, ‘The more people we annoy, the more we know we’re doing it right.’ (The Telegraph, 2010) They revelled in Greer’s ability to speaker her mind. Her original audience is older now and, mostly, they are sick of hearing ‘scandalous’ tid-bits. The Sunday Telegraph said, ‘It’s hard to take much of what Greer has to say seriously these days.’ (2007) Not only has she lost her aging audience, but she has not connected with a new one.
Germaine Greer’s persona was an effective publicity tool in the 1970s; she was needed then, for the sake of Australian women abound. Greer did not realise the need to have a flexible marketing strategy. Although retired, Greer is still causing havoc in the public spheres, but for all the wrong reasons. She is not affirming any feminist agenda, or her intellectual credibility; she is merely creating headlines. Greer is now shouting off an empty stage, to a dusty auditorium, and no one has bought tickets to her play.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2008, Germaine Greer, viewed 25 October 2012 http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/245445/Germaine-Greer
Freedman, M, 2012, Germaine Greer, You’ve Lost Me, viewed 22 October 2012 http://www.mamamia.com.au/news/icons-mia/
Metcalf, F., Purdon, F., 2012, Germaine Greer attacks Brisbane Writers Festival, accusing Queenslanders of not being able to read, viewed 31 October 2012 http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity/germain-greer-attacks-brisbane-writers-festival-accusing-queenslanders-of-not-being-able-to-read/story-fn907478-1226466824766#ixzz2AokHVYJL
Murray, P, 2012, Shame, ABC, Shame, viewed 31 October 2012 http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/news/13845914/shame-abc-shame/
News Limited Network, 2012, Germaine Greer’s Big Mouth, viewed 1 November 2012 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/germaine-greers-big-mouth/story-fndo48ca-1226459624896
Pettinger, T, n.d., Germaine Greer, viewed 25 October 2012 http://www.biographyonline.net/writers/germaine-greer.html (13)
The Age, 2010, Change is a Feminist Issue, viewed 22 October 2012 http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/change-is-a-feminist-issue-20100308-pqs8.html#ixzz2Aoe8P86J
The European Graduate School, 2012,Germaine Greer: Biography, viewed 22 October 2012 http://www.egs.edu/library/germaine-greer/biography/
The Marxists Internet Archive, 1990, The Female Eunuch Summary, viewed 22 October 2012 http://www.marxists.org/subject/women/authors/greer-germaine/female-eunuch.htm