Germaine Greer causes controversy with comments about transgender women

Germaine Greer, a renowned radical feminist and academic, has been cast into the spotlight again following derogatory comments she made about transgender women in an interview on Newsnight.

When asked to respond to Caitlyn Jenner being named Glamour magazine’s ‘Woman of the year’ Greer said she believed Caitlyn ‘wanted the limelight that the other female members of the family are enjoying’ and attempted to gain this by transitioning. In the interview, Greer outlines her views on transgender women, expressing her opinion that they are not ‘real women’, and attributing the success of Caitlyn to misogyny.

These comments have caused a lot of controversy and come following Cardiff University Women’s Society’s petition to block Greer from speaking at their University, a petition which has gained in excess of 2500 signitures. Despite the University of Cardiff still being happy to host her, Greer has actually cancelled the talk herself due to the backlash she’s received from her remarks on Newsnight. 

Writing on the petition, Womens Officer Rachael Melhuish, says:

‘While debate in a University should be encouraged, hosting a speaker with such problematic and hateful views towards marginalised and vulnerable groups is dangerous. Allowing Greer a platform endorses her views, and by extension, the transmisogyny which she continues to perpetuate.’

This is not the first time Greer has made anti-transgender comments, in her book The Whole Woman she describes trans women as ‘pantomime dames’, ridiculing them as ‘ghastly parodies’, and even comparing them to rapists. Meanwhile in her Newsnight interview she also states that trans women do not ‘look like, sound like or behave like women’. 

On the whole, Greer’s criticism seems nonsensical, especially as there is no real structure to it and she provides no ‘evidence’ to substantiate her assertions. She makes a weak claim that trans women do not ‘look like, sound like or behave like women’, something which is purely illogical. She could claim that some trans women don’t look, sound or, behave in the way she believes women should, however, surely this goes against the stated objectives of the modern feminist and gender equality movement which tends to focus on abolishing gender roles. To me, there’s nothing feminist about her beliefs, and nothing to cover up the irrational hatred behind her statements.

It seems many people are against Greer’s comments, with these Tweets encapsulating the views held by many:

However, some people have suggested that those who protested against her were in fact obstructing a legitimate debate, saying that in an academic setting even those with controversial beliefs should be allowed a platform. Something I just can’t agree with, academic freedom protects the right to question and test theories, however controversial or offensive they may seem. In this case though, there is little to no theory to it, nor any supporting material of any value.

The way I see it, Greer talks only in the language of prejudice and hatred, hiding behind her pseudo-feminist ideals. Her opinions do not merit any kind of academic research, nor should she be given the platform she seeks to profess these ideas. I believe it is imperative that we don’t allow people like Greer to spread their intolerance, particularly when you consider how nearly half of young transgender people attempt suicide and how comments like Greers can be incredibly damaging and impacting. 

Whether you’re a supporter of Greer or not, the attention her most recent comments have gained has been mainly negative, with many accusing her of transphobia and misogyny. Rebecca Root, a transgender actress and comedian, called Greer’s comments ‘absurd’ and ‘grossly offensive’. Greer remains one of the most recognised feminists of the present time, and is often invited to speak at universities and high profile events all around the world, to discuss women’s rights issues. Yet, given her views, Greer’s position within the feminist and gender equality movement continues to surprise me. 

What do you think of Germaine Greer’s interview? Have your say in the comments below!