Feminist Stalwart versus Transgender Icon: It may sound like a warped new comic strip, but really it’s the first installment in what could be a series of very real conflicts between warring politically correct factions.
Prominent feminist Germaine Greer is being denounced for claiming that transgender women “can’t be women.” And in defending her original remarks, Greer has ignited long-simmering tensions between some self-proclaimed feminists and transgender women.
In an interview with the BBC’s Newsnight Friday, Greer reacted harshly to the news that Caitlyn Jenner would be named one of Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year. While the magazine has not yet made an official announcement, Jenner and Reese Witherspoon are both rumored to be included in the December issue, which will mark the 25th anniversary of the tradition, according to Gossip Cop.
“I think misogyny plays a really big part in all of this,” Greer told the BBC, “that a man who goes to these lengths to become a woman will be a better woman than someone who is just born a woman.”
When Greer’s BBC comments drew backlash, including a petition to have a scheduled lecture canceled, she responded to the fury both in the media and online, with a statement laced with profanity:
“Just because you lop off your dick and then wear a dress doesn’t make you a fucking woman. I’ve asked my doctor to give me long ears and liver spots and I’m going to wear a brown coat but that won’t turn me into a fucking cocker spaniel.
“I do understand that some people are born intersex and they deserve support in coming to terms with their gender but it’s not the same thing. A man who gets his dick chopped off is actually inflicting an extraordinary act of violence on himself.”
Greer’s response made explicit the transphobia she unleashed in the Newsnight interview, where she suggested that trans women are “not women” because, according to her, many people do not think that they “look like, sound like, or behave like women.”
She also repeated old criticism of Jenner’s transition to womanhood, claiming that it is a media ploy designed to steal the spotlight from her ex-wife, daughters, and stepdaughters and their hit E! reality TV show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Jenner flatly rejected that theory in a March interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer.
Greer’s comments are hardly her first public anti-trans statements. Her seminal 1999 book, The Whole Woman, denounced transgender women as “men who believe that they are women and have had themselves castrated,” according to The Huffington Post U.K.
In 2009, the native Australian academic, long a U.K. resident, suggested in a Guardian article that trans women were “deluded” for “thinking” they are women.
At a Cambridge University speech this year, Greer insisted that trans women do not deserve womanhood because they do not understand what it is like to possess what she called “a big, hairy, smelly vagina.”
Even more worrisome, given the rise in anti-trans violence, Greer went on to tell Cambridge students that transphobia does not exist.
But after Greer’s latest comments on Newsnight, the backlash has been swift and loud.
An online petition with 2,000-plus signatures urged Cardiff University to revoke her invitation to speak at the school November 18 on the grounds that she spreads hate. In response, Greer canceled her lecture.
Both trans advocates and queer theorists have counted Greer among the top of so-called trans-exclusionary radical feminists, or TERFs, along with figures such as Cathy Brennan, Sheila Jeffreys, and Janice Raymond.
Whether Greer considers herself radical is open to question, but she is a self-described feminist. She addressed her beliefs March 8 during the “All About Women” panel at the Sydney Opera House:
“I’ve always been a liberation feminist. I’m not an equality feminist. I think that’s a profoundly conservative aim, and it wouldn’t change anything. It would just mean that women were implicated.”
While Greer decries what she terms the misogyny behind Jenner’s rise in the media, Greer’s own anti-trans stance is reflective of what advocates like Laura Kacere at Everyday Feminism call transmisogyny. Kacere used that word last year to describe “the confluence of … negative attitudes, expressed through cultural hate, individual and state violence, and discrimination directed toward trans women and trans and gender non-conforming people on the feminine end of the gender spectrum.”
According to Kacere:
“Trans women experience a particular kind of sexist marginalization based in their unique position of overlapping oppressions — they are both trans and feminine. They are devalued by society on both accounts. … Understanding transmisogyny is absolutely imperative to our work as feminists, and makes clear just how integral trans issues and rights are to our work around gender.”
Watch Greer’s original comments to the BBC about trans women here.