In 1956 Ms Greer was awarded a teaching scholarship which took her to Melbourne University where she graduated with a degree in English and French Language and Literature, at which time she took the opportunity to leave her unhappy home environment permanently.
Upon graduating from Melbourne University, Ms Greer moved to Sydney to take up a teaching post at the University, at the same time enrolling to do a Masters Degree in Romantic Poetry. She became involved with a group known as the Sydney Push, an intellectual sub-culture of left-wing professional people. She graduated with a first class Masters and on the strength of her thesis about Lord Byron she was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship, which she used to fund her studies for a Ph.D at Cambridge University, England. She joined the all-female Newnham College and soon became known for her strong opinions and ability to express them; not typically accepted female gender traits in the mid-1960s.
Whilst at Newnham College Ms Greer became a member of the Cambridge Footlights, the University’s renowned theatrical production company which has produced such talents as half of the Monty Python team, Peter Cook and Clive James (who was also part of the Sydney Push at the same time as Ms Greer). She wrote under the pen-name “Rosie Blight” for Footlights and Private Eye, a popular satirical magazine which has a long history of being generally unsuccessfully sued, and she also wrote under the pen-name Dr G for the underground satirical magazine “Oz”.
Ms Greer gained her Ph.D in1968, and in the same year married Paul de Feu. This marriage was to prove very short-lived, lasting only 3 weeks and even during this time Ms Greer stated she failed to be faithful to her husband, and the divorce was approved in 1973.
Upon gaining her Ph.D Ms Greer moved to Coventry, England, to take up a position as Lecturer in English at Warwick University; at this point she also began writing what would become her most famous work, “The Female Eunuch”. The Female Eunuch was published in 1970 and by 1971 was a huge success. Ms Greer travelled the world promoting the book, and had to resign her post in 1972, unable to maintain her teaching commitments and her literary career.
Much of the 1970s was spent travelling around the world, investigating gender-based oppressions such as the situation of women who had been raped as acts of war terrorism during the Bangladesh/Pakistan conflict, and promoting her publications. Ms Greer has also worked as a television presenter and writer, written many essays for various magazines, books and newspapers worldwide, written and presented radio shows, and guested on too many talkshows and magazine programmes to list.
Ms Greer has been subject to discrimination throughout her career, both for her views that equality is not the goal of women’s liberation and that gender differences should be celebrated and for her bucking of the gender stereotypes by, for example, frequent and copious swearing and sexual attitudes more commonly associated as male. In 1972 she was arrested in New Zealand for swearing during a lecture, although only received a fine as punishment.
Ms Greer has been linked with the creation of the feminist myth of ‘bra burning harridans’ because of her comments about the restricting nature of the 1960s bra and the unnatural binding and self-consciousness of form this caused. Ms Greer posited also that to make bra-lessness a rule was to also create another form of repressive rule; the anti-feminist urban legend was created by the right wing UK press in an attempt to suppress feminist activism.
Ms Greer is herself a controversial social commentator; she was appointed a Special Lecturer & Fellow of Newnham College in 1989 but resigned in 1996 after unsuccessfully opposing the election to a fellowship of a woman who identified as transgender, due to the negative publicity following her opposition. She has continued to express views which deny the identity of transgender women as women, a view which is present and creates debate in feminist ideology and activism to date. She has stated she courts controversy deliberately, believing that to annoy people is to do something right in one’s activism.
Ms Greer’s publications and lectures deal with myriad topics, from the practice of female genital mutilation throughout the world to the rights of Aborigines and the misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the white immigrant cultures in Australia with regard to Aboriginal peoples. Ms Greer is a feminist icon of the Second Wave of Feminism and is still active as a self-identified Marxist Anarchist Feminist today, although critics and fans alike state Ms Greer cannot be pinned down to the simplistic ideology this represents.
The Female Eunuch (1970)
Sex & Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility (1984)
The Change: Women, Ageing and the Menopause (1991)
The Whole Woman (1999)
The Beautiful Boy (2003)
Feminist of the Week No 49, “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” originally compiled by Kayla Calkin: https://www.facebook.com/groups/234694839904110/doc/445955712111354/
Blog by Tina Price-Johnson