Thursday, 2 March 2017

Germaine Greer or Psychopath Night?

I was having a drink with friends in one of Brighton's theatre pubs, The Marlborough, which is also a recognised 'safe space' for all sorts of fringe folk.

You get in there a somewhat strange mixture of ordinary members of the public (or at least the young and trendy theatre-going sort) and people from all points on the city's LGBTQ spectrum - although I would say that many, if not most, of the regulars seem to come from the lesbian community. Not that I am an expert on lesbians, you understand; it's just my impression, based on observed behaviour and hairstyles, and giveaway statements on vests and sweatshirts. Personally, I'd never wear anything that fixed a label on myself. What would it be, if I did? 'Middle-class pro-Brexit Conservative-voting taxpaying home-owning female Senior Citizen' I suppose. I can't see that winning me many friends, not in this pub. Not anywhere in this part of Brighton.

No, the pub was a stronghold of green, socialist and pro-EU values, serving youngish customers who mainly rented their homes from uncaring landlords, and who were very familiar with the benefits system and its many faults and frustrations. If they knew, they wouldn't envy my life and outlook; they'd find it offensive and insulting. So I don't let on how it is with me, and we can all get on fine.

Anyway, there were leaflets on every table. I photographed one of them:

Click on it to enlarge. Here's a transcript:

On Saturday 4th March we will be hosting a queer safe space for the trans/non-binary community in the Marlborough Theatre in solidarity and resistance to the appearance of Germaine Greer at the Brighton Dome.

We feel that it is not the responsibility of trans and/or non-binary people to place ourselves in harm's way and protest this event in the street (although we support anyone who chooses to do so) but we wish to offer a different way of resisting and protesting!

The Marlborough have kindly donated us space and we will be providing a SANTUARY for trans and/or non-binary people to relax, enjoy FREE VEGAN FOOD, SELF CARE, MASSAGE and other lovely treats. We feel that it is our right to live happy, rested and cared for lives and we will be resisting the hateful rhetoric of the Dome's invited speaker by EXISTING with peace and community.

This will be our act of resistance and power.

Marlborough Theatre
Saturday 4th March
From 11am

If the reader doesn't already know,

# 'Queer' means anyone who is socially non-standard.

# 'Trans' means 'transgender' - that is, anybody who has rejected the gender assigned to them at birth, and believes that they belong to the other gender, male or female as the case may be.

# 'Non-binary' means anybody who entirely rejects the notion of having a definite gender, certainly not the two normally on offer.

Nowadays the precise meanings of these terms have become very nuanced, and I may have got it wrong. If so, apologies to those concerned.

It's clear that the transgender and non-binary of Brighton (including the management of pub and theatre) genuinely feel themselves threatened by the welcome of Germaine Greer (a well-known veteran feminist and social scientist) to the Brighton Dome to give a lecture to a paying audience. They feel the lady is likely to speak in terms that will seem offensive and provocative. And there are those who might want to protest against her, but fear the consequences. So the pub and theatre are offering them a safe place to spend the day, and enjoy some amenities on the house. Filling the premises with trans and non-binary people, all eating vegan food and having their fevered brows massaged, will, they assert, be as effective as any loud street protest.

Hmm. I can't see this cutting much ice with Germaine Greer. She might even think it a wheeze to drop in and have a drink at the bar. And if she has the bottle to do that - and she is Australian, remember - I wonder what the trans and non-binary response would actually be?

Well, I had a look at the Dome website:

Only £10 to go and see her. Or £8.50 if you can claim a concession (as I can). She's going to speak about unleashing the power of women to save the planet. Her talk begins at noon. (The Marlborough will be open at 11.00am) 

I could be na├»ve, but I don't see how her talk - given the subject - is going to affect the personal equilibrium of trans and non-binary persons. Not unless she wanders far off-topic, using the occasion to vent other views. Or, at question-time afterwards, a member of the audience deliberately poses a provocative question that shifts the dialogue well away from global destruction. Perhaps she expects this to happen. Perhaps she has made sure that it does, planting a friend in the audience to throw an aggressive question at her if nobody else will.   

Meanwhile a coterie of persons, who aren't there listening but can imagine for themselves what she might be saying, will be sitting it out in the pub not so far off. Protesting with free vegan food.

I don't relate to any of this. It all looks like a ritual. It seems completely divorced from the ordinary life that goes on in a Sussex village like mine. Or indeed from any ordinary life.  

Have I missed the point? Really? I know that she has been around for decades, but I'm not aware of 'Germaine Greer' ever truly being a household name, a name on everybody's lips. She wasn't on Mum's lips. My present-day female friends and neighbours never mention her. I doubt if her name and her ideas are, or ever have been, especially familiar to the ordinary British public. Nor that government policy is in any way based on her views. 

I'm not going to see her at the Dome. I wouldn't pay good money to listen to someone who has always irritated me every time I've ever seen her speak on TV. She comes across as a bad-tempered academic type with cranky views. There are plenty of that sort around. I have no time for any of them.

Something else caught my eye on the Dome website:

Psychopath Night. 7.30pm on Monday 13th March. £21 per ticket. It doesn't sound like my cup of tea, but my goodness, I'd rather go to that, even though I've never heard of this Jon Ronson. Actually, I won't have to. I'm having my friends around for an evening meal, with cards to follow. We intend to be dreadfully binary.


  1. We clearly live in very different worlds, Germaine Greer is a regular guest on a variety of radio and TV programs a successful author and has been a leading feminist since the 1970s. I would have said that she is a household name, certainly I know that my Mother (now 93) and my Daughter (only 19) have been familiar with her work and opinions. It is those opinions, vigorously expressed that many find offensive. As a leading voice of the Trans Exclusive Radical Feminists (TERFS) her very public statements have caused a lot of upset and have seriously set back Trans Inclusion by shifting any debate back to what constitutes a woman rather than how do we become more inclusive.

  2. It seems that Mum really should have expressed an opinion about her! I'm pretty sure that neither of my parents felt that Germaine Greer offered an analysis they could accept as correct or natural or likely to make society any better. They probably put her down as a troublemaker who should be ignored.

    And surely this is still the prevailing view, otherwise she would be revered and her thinking enshrined in a general change of attitude. As I said, she is never mentioned by any of my current girl friends. Admittedly, none of us are politically-minded, but we are all nevertheless assertively ourselves, and have definite opinions on current events and trends. As I hope all ordinary thinking women do, whatever their background.

    That's the thing. We do think, and we resent someone like Germaine Greer trying to speak for us. We know the score. We see the realities. We don't need her spitting venom on our behalf, and raising hackles where we'd do it differently.


  3. Unleashing the power of women to save the planet is a fine subject that, I'm sure, needs to be aired. Injustices continue to be wrought against women, and their opinions and insights continue to be undervalued. Hence, much of what Germaine Greer has said - and continues to say - needs to be heard. But therein lies the problem, for it legitimises the harmful rubbish she says about the rights and aspirations of the trans community. As we know only too well from articles in the Daily Mail, those of a conservative (small 'c') mindset are happy to accept her ideas and build on them.

    I therefore feel it wholly right that we continue to find ways of countering Ms Greer's rhetoric, and a wholly inclusive gathering at The Marlborough, on International Women's Day, seems as good as any.

  4. Oh yes, let a gesture be made. I imagine she will be informed that there is a peaceful 'sit in' at The Marlborough, in defiance of her bad attitude towards the persons there. Indeed I hope it is effective, but I fear it won't be.

    She is not the only one to say some common-sense, sane things that shouldn't be denied, while at the same time some nasty things that amount to hate speech and compromise her message. Politicians generally are guilty of this.

    It isn't only what she and her cronies actually say. It's their personalities, and their assumption that they have some divine right to speak for millions. That's academic arrogance. I hate it.



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