Tuesday, November 5, 2013

the greer woman

I have not read The Female Eunuch. I don’t know that much about Germaine Greer except that she did her best work in the 1960s and 70s and more recently has been known for criticising a former female prime minister’s choice of outfits because they made said PM’s bum look big.
I have watched Greer on ABC’s Q & A and enjoyed her witty retorts at right-wing nutcases, and last night’s program was no exception, featuring possibly the biggest right-wing nutcase I’ve ever seen, one UK author Peter Hitchens. The rest of the panel, writer Hanna Rosin and writer/activist Dan Savage, did their level best not to jump over Tony Jones and punch Hitchens in the face when he suggested the world was hurtling towards certain doom led by same-sex couples and their evil, selfish, drug-taking, alcohol-chugging ways.
It was a lively affair, despite the more eloquent surroundings of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall. But then it was part of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, so we had fair warning.
But then a woman, probably in her 40s, dared stand and pose a question to the panel. Specifically to Greer, she asked was it possible the women’s movement had gone too far? Had women moved away from their roles as nurturers by outsourcing the raising of their own children to paid strangers? Were we raising ever more narcissistic children as a result, and missing out on time with them, more tired and depressed than ever?
From my position on the lounge, I gave this woman a standing ovation. Because for the past several months I’ve been asking myself the very same thing. I am at home with my three-year-old daughter every day, for lots of reasons: because I was made redundant last year, because I did not have formal childcare arranged for her, because I do not have a job and therefore cannot afford childcare but also because I cannot get a job without first having childcare arranged. Turn left at the rock and you’ll find me just in front of the hard place. But I am also at home because I choose to be. I want to be. I know from experience, having had two other three-year-old daughters in my life at various times in the past decade, that this time does not last. One day you’re sitting on a very small chair opposite your sweet child, sharing Vegemite toast and discussing the various shades of green, and the next you’re driving home from school in tears because they are not in the back seat any more and you won’t see them again until 3.30.
This is not to say it’s all peachy. I have had many days in the past year where I’ve felt like I almost ceased to exist. I am the unpaid washerwoman, cook, cleaner and scullery maid, and on the lowest of low days I question my sanity and my ability to be a good mother. Actually, I question that last bit almost on a daily basis.
There are working women who do all these things too, I know. I did them all and worked part-time up until last year, but even that small window when I was at work was enough for me to come up for air. It gave me some balance. And sometimes I struggle to find any silver linings, but the struggle always passes and I am so grateful for the time I get to share with my littlest little girl.
Now back to the studio. What will Greer say? How will she respond to this woman who is asking, almost pleading, why is it not okay to just be with our children? I’m afraid the answer made me feel sick, and it still does make me so angry and frustrated and disappointed that I’m not sure what to do with it. This woman, who stood before a huge audience inside the Opera House and thousands more watching from home, was laughed at. Openly. By everyone on the panel except the right-wing nutcase. Savage gave a flippant “Well we should just enslave women again ..” and Rosin was similarly dismissive. When she finally got her turn, Greer was equally condescending and even concluded that what we need is more nursery schools (daycare centres) and preschools. Now Germaine Greer may be many things, but maternal is not one that instantly springs to mind. I think she might benefit from giving women the right to decide what is best for their own children.
I can’t believe that such a lively, informed and educated debate on subjects as diverse as hook-up apps and the decline of Christianity descended so rapidly. I was so disappointed I just wanted to slink into bed and forget it ever happened. But I couldn’t. The questioner (one Kimberley Adler, and I wish I could thank her and say how sorry I am for the way she was treated) even had to clarify her point because it was taken and shredded like a lump of raw meat in the lions’ enclosure. But it was to no avail. They weren’t listening.
I just want to know, if Germaine Greer’s whole life has been dedicated to making women’s lives better, and fighting the good fight for equality in the workforce and in society as a whole, why is there still this one category of women who are worthy of nothing more than denigration, humiliation and contempt? I thought it was about a woman’s right to choose. I thought we were all in this together. I thought we could decide to just be women, and for once stop trying to be men.


kellie said...

Oh Jodi…….BRAVO!!!!!!!!!!! I didn't see last night's show, however I am familiar with the attitude of Germaine Greer towards mothers in general. I can only imagine her dismissal of women who actually choose to stay at home and raise their own offspring. This concept may seem quite bizarre to a woman who has had no children of her own and who has spent many decades commenting, usually in quite a disparaging way, on the lives of ordinary Australians from afar. I have read her work over the years, and whilst I applaud her efforts in trying to achieve, so called, 'equal rights' for women by highlighting and discussing feminist issues, I do believe feminism has gone way too far.
Yes, we should be seen as being equal human beings to men, respected and given equal opportunities in the workplace if desired. However, I think what is forgotten is that women also have the right to choose to be women. Women have the ability to conceive and carry and deliver babies. Women are biologically designed to be the primary caregivers and nurturers of their children. This should be the default. The women who choose not to raise and nurture their own children should be seen as the exception, not the rule:(
I know many women, some younger, some my age, who have given up their careers ( or chosen to work part-time, which usually ends their career anyway), in order to stay at home and spend time with, nurture, breastfeed and parent their lovely little people. Women who are very highly educated, interesting, sensitive, compassionate, strong women. I see these women (and I count myself in this group) struggle everyday with the negative societal and media attitudes that seem to belittle the important art of mothering. What is the next generation of children going to be like? Children whose formative years have been spent away from their parents in large groups of other children, supervised by well meaning good people, but people who have no emotional investment in who these little people are to become:( Some women, through no fault of their own do not have a choice to stay home with their children. However, many do! I believe what feminism has done is to deceive women. To allow them to believe that they can have it all. They can work at the same level as men, they can have a flash house with an enormous mortgage, a nice new car, a yearly holiday, and, as the icing on the cake, have a couple of kids. The trouble is that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone has to pay. Unfortunately it is often the children who pay. Over the longer term, as a result of this, so does society as a whole:( It is a sad day when someone like Germaine Greer, the supposed champion of women, joins in the generalist chant that says that mothering is not valuable enough to be done by actual mothers, that it should just be rented out to the cheapest service provider. Just like the housecleaning, washing, ironing, cooking and all those other menial tasks. Hmmm…..sorry for my rant. I get quite upset about this issue. Please excuse my ranting writing style and spelling:) I can't bear to re-read it as I just get more angry.
Keep your fabulous observations coming Jodi. I am a big fan of your writing and opinions:)

jodi said...

Oh Kelly, where were you this morning when I just wanted to rant over a nice cup of tea! I'm glad we could both vent from our corners of the country, and thankyou so much for your support. I whole-heartedly agree with everything you've said, and I know there are so many more mothers out there just like us .. unfortunately not with the status of those like Ms Greer but we only have to stick together to know it will all be okay. Thanks again, much love to you and yours xo