Generally, International Women’s Day is an occasion to which I pay little mind. In 1979, Brown Owl flashed my non-regulation underwear as a caution to all assembled Guides. I have since reasoned that it is better to wrap one’s self in solitude than risk being multiply stung by the hive mind.
As I am terrified that the Sisters’ Army might want to examine my underwear, I tend to avoid IWD. The past week, however, has upchucked surprises sufficiently nasty to rev my angry parts. And these all, by chance, involve the feminine form.
I learned recently of the aesthetic practice: vajazzling. This, it seems, is an elective for those who have passed Advanced Brazilian. The female sex organ, bereft of its hair, is encrusted with crystals; Swarovski, of course. Apparently, demand outstripped supply when Jennifer Love Hewitt, a woman unencumbered by talent or charm, told press that she needed to paste jewels on her v-gina in order to feel good about it.
Here, there are two salient conclusions to which one might be led. These are (a) the desire for visual perfection has become unmanageable and (b) any bitch who dislikes her own c-nt so much as JLH needs to go to hospital.
As tempting as it is to disburse all time and thought on Love’s poonanny-loathing, it’s the broader implications of this twat-ritual that concern us today. Vajazzling has been greeted by many “liberated” women with the sort of You Go Girl finger snapping normally reserved for daytime television. Blogger Bryce Gruber is among the women who casually confuse sparkly flaps for “empowerment”.
I shan’t go on. Except to say, it makes Carrie Bradshaw read like Solanus. SCUM and the city.
Then, I learned of My New Pink Button. This vaginal pigment has already exploded online and unchained a tsunami of disgust. So, I shan’t go on about that much longer either except to say: is there no feminine crevice immune to pimping?
Which brings me to the third, and final, thing that prompted me to thought on IWD. Forty years ago almost to the day, the scholar Germaine Greer showed us a new site for insurgency. It was on the female body. “You might consider tasting your menstrual blood,” she dared her readers with The Female Eunuch. If in performing this test the revolutionary wannabe felt ill, she had “a long way to go, baby”.
A confidence that baby would go a long way informed this scorching, funny polemic. When Greer wrote about the yoke of grooming or the fear of menses, she did so with a purpose in mind: to move the body and, by extension, identity to the hub of discourse. The refusal to relegate the self and its associated flesh to absence was, and remains, a central project of feminism; or of gender studies, as the specialty is now more broadly known.
To sound less like my failed undergraduate self, Greer said: I’m a woman. Here’s my tits and bits. Now that you’ve seen them, can we please get on with the business of living outside of “man” and “woman” as we have known these categories? This fixation on the body was, in my reading, a project intended to remake woman as more than the sum of her looks; to free us from the fairytale idea that the true moral register of a woman is her appearance.
Last Friday, Australian magazine The Monthly published an essay on The Female Eunuch to “commemorate” the book’s 40th anniversary. Here was an opportunity to contextualise what is arguably the most popular work ever written by an Australian public intellectual. Instead, they decided to talk about how ugly Greer is. Which she isn’t. I hope I’m that hot at her age.
But THIS is not, at all, the point. This piece was written by a guy called Louis Nowra. And it was commissioned by Ben Naperstak, a 12-year-old whose stewardship of the august periodical might be kindly called uneven.
Basically, Nowra says: Greer bangs on about the body too much. Also, she is ugly and looks quite old. Besides which, my mother never read her book. And neither did a lot of other people’s mothers. Because, look, women are still obsessed by their own appearance. Did I mention that Germaine Greer was ugly?
If you don’t believe me, look here, here or here . But don’t, whatever you do, buy this effing magazine. I want Naperstak sent back to nursery school for not only defecating on his intellectual heritage but saying crap such as “political correctness is the enemy of intelligent debate” in Nowra’s defence. No, you’re the enemy.
And your mate, Louis Nowra, who goes on and interminably on about Greer, who looks like a “demented grandmother”, being too optimistic. How could she possibly think women would change their attitudes viz. “young women today love shopping more than ever”.
Seriously. Nowra is saying: the world didn’t change, so she shouldn’t have bothered. Should we apply this logic to Kapital and bitch that Marx ever wrote it because, clearly, expansionist capitalism was just going to get more and more complex? Should we fling a big old poop on the Gettysburg address while we’re at it and say: well, Abe, things are still pretty fucked for African-Americans, you should never have said any of that?
As for going on about Greer’s appearance? Wait until I have vajazzled in order that you may choke on the Swarovski crystals of my feminist unease. How dare you not accord this writer and thinker her due without resorting to cheap jibes.
In this forum, by the way, I can be cheap. You, however, were paid, at the rate of $1 a word, to write for a periodical that purports to be the voice of leftist erudition. And what did you do? You did what all your blokey mates have been doing with a little more elegance for years. To wit: you have reduced Greer to a desiccated caricature while claiming the detonation of “political correctness” to justify your out-and-out misogyny.
Greer attracts violent spittle of the type not because she is a polemicist, but because she has a cunt. Her every utterance or teeny, tiny op-ed column is the subject of scrutiny and fuel to the flame of what is, let it be said, pure hatred of feminism. I mean, Bob Ellis can vomit ad infinitum anything his cut-price shiraz provokes. And everyone says: Dear Old Bob. As much as I adore him, Clive James can write an entire work while pulling his pud and his sanctity and his oeuvre remain intact.
Greer DARES to say what we’d all be thinking several months later on the occasion of Steve Irwin’s death and she is called a hag. She DARES to write an informed history on the young male as visual object and she is called a dried-out old cougar.
Fuck off. She’s a bright and occasionally charming old ratbag who is far more erudite than most of what passes for an Australian “public intellectual” and should be revered. Greer may have done her utmost to change the world. Sadly, she was unable to undo the boring sexism that drives so many Australian female thinkers into silence.
Fuck off. I’m going to paint my vagina. We love doing that, we ladies. And shopping, too.
Happy fucking International fucking Women’s Day.
*This piece first appeared on Helen Razer’s blog Bad Hostess.