Saturday, May 19, 2007

Germaine Greer - feminist crumpet

Think of a sexy Australian.


Hmmm. Nice try, but no, not Cate Blanchett...

Oh come ON!


Ah, much better, but I mean a really sexy Australian.

No, not Clive James. Not Dame Edna. Not the bloke from 'Wolf Creek'. Not Delta Goodrem, Rolf Harris, Jason Donovan, Steve Irwin, David Gulpilil, Russell Crowe, Paul Hogan, Angus Young, Mel Gibson, Olivia Newton-John, Peter Garrett, Kimberley Davis, Nicole Kidman or even Skippy.

Can you guess which is which by the way?

I'm talking, of course, about the epicentre of classy Australian eroticism, the inestimably gorgeous Germaine Greer.

Above: "You'd better not be taking the piss, young man!"

When I was young I used to sit up late at night, long after my parents were abed, and watch the offbeat films which BBC2 showed in the small hours. Emotionally involving films, often in foreign languages, sometimes featuring (then unusual) nudity, usually subtitled, such films as 'Belle de Jour' or 'All Quiet on the Western Front', or strange, idiosyncratic hallucinatory things like 'Johnny Got His Gun'. They opened my teenage eyes to a filmic world beyond Hollywood.

Remember, this was in the days when we had just three TV channels broadcasting evenings only and that was it. 24 hour telly was a distant nightmare.

One night, the late slot on BBC2 was occupied, not by the usual dose of strange offbeat foreign dramatic fiction, but by a documentary feature film. I almost went to bed, I remember, but idly half-watched the first 10 minutes or so, which was long enough for me to notice this strong-faced woman with a shock of dark hair and this coolly appraising gaze, which she turned witheringly on her antagonists in a debate on feminism filmed in 1971 by D.A. Pennebaker and Charles Hegedus as the peerless Town Bloody Hall .

The film was fascinating, even to me as an 18 year old, and the verbal sparring between chair Norman Mailer and the woman, Germaine Greer, was the equal of any boxing match.

What really held my attention though was Germaine Greer in her black dress, arms and shoulders bare, as she utterly dominated the stage, completely refusing to back down or be intimidated by Mailer's grizzly bear performance. It wasn't just her manner, which was assured and confident, without ever seeming arch, that captivated me. Nor her hot/cool, half-hooded eyes and knowing half-smile. No, it was her ferociously projecting sexuality, which seeped from the TV like gas, making my head reel. God she was sexy!

Above: bored by Norman Mailer's anti-feminist polemic in 'Town Bloody Hall', sexy feminist icon Germaine Greer dreams about the day that someone will write a blog article extolling her outrageously under-represented virtues as a total babe

Now, I can hear many men, the men who don't read my blog anyway, snorting in derision, and turning away to flick though the non-threatening girls in the laughably titled 'FHM 100 sexiest women'. Well, to me, much as I like a nice safe little kitty cat, I'm in awe at the beauty and power of a tiger, and there is no more tigerish woman walking this earth than Germaine Greer.

Not convinced? OK, let me break you in gently. These next three pics are Germaine snapped by photographer Bryan Wharton in 1969.

Below: Germaine shows a typically Australian open-minded attitude

Below: From the same shoot. NOW are you coming round to my viewpoint?

I hope Bryan Wharton won't mind my including a couple of his shots on my blog. To view the full set, go here.

See? Bet they got your interest. Now you might be wondering "So what did you see in Town Bloody Hall that had you all falling out of your stupid pyjamas late one night in 1980?"


...Germaine laughing openly at Mailer's evident discomfort, showing her unrestrained sense of humour...and her luxuriant mane of wild, dark hair...

...and now Germaine laughing with her antagonist, showing her empathy...and those tanned, bare, sexy shoulders...

...lastly, a volcanically powerful Germaine gives poor beleaguered growly bear Norman Mailer that LOOK which says "I like you, but you're talking bollocks"

I guess what I'm trying to say with those three grainy images is that, when I sat there in my Parent's living room, aged 18, and watched 'Town Bloody Hall' into the small hours, it was Germaine Greer's humour, her warmth, her strength, her humanity, as much as her obvious physical attractiveness, which caught and held my attention. I damned sure hadn't met a woman like her before. Not then, not at that age, in that time.

Up until then I think I'd always tended to focus on the way a girl looked, and I think the same narrowness of focus also clouded my vision when I considered my teachers, or my friend's mothers. It was as if I couldn't see beyond this facade of eyes and skin and breasts and hair and physical womanhood to the fact that there was a human being underneath it all. Of course, I knew that there was, but somehow the physical landscape obscured the person.

Hey...back to the subject! Me!
Now, here on the telly was a woman whose personality was so bloody huge, so powerful that, despite the fact that she was physically, by any standard that might have been set in my hyperactive teenage mind, quite gorgeous, it spilled out and through and round and over the contours of her body, and overwhelmed them. Her looks became almost an accessory to the force of her psyche, and the combination was mesmerising. It was the moment when I realised, perhaps, that no matter how lovely someone may look, the inner, psychological, spiritual essence of that person is at least as important as what you see on their exterior.

But hey, it helps when you look like this...

Or indeed, this...

See, when I see Germaine Greer on Newsnight Review, being argumentative and good-naturedly opinionated, I don't think to mself "She used to be really tasty". Because the things that made her really tasty when I watched 'Town Bloody Hall' as an 18 year old still make her so now, 26 years later. Her face wears its age lightly, and her eyes still shine with the same humour and warmth and lack of pretension that popped locks in my mind in 1980. She always appears to be open-minded and full of laughter, carried along on an undercurrent of sexuality, which she was happy to reveal to a laughably indignant public with her book in praise of the physical beauty of adolescent boys (oh that she'd met me when I fitted the bill!).

So many people believe the hype about her, and see her as some sort of bra-burning anti-male radical, which I don't think she ever was, at any time in her life. Despite her rather disastrous attempt to show her fun side in the horrible Celebrity Big Brother last year, too many people in the UK and elsewhere, still see Germaine Greer as stern, crabby, hard-faced.

Below: "Come here at once!"Germaine tries to look stern, crabby and hard-faced...

I'm sure she has a temper and an intolerance of idiots, and can indeed be stern, crabby and if pushed, perhaps even hard-faced, though I suspect the latter sits ill on her shoulders at those times it's required.

Below: Germaine fights hard to remain hard-faced, but can't keep it up...

Below: Germaine, frustrated at her inability to keep her sense of humour in check whilst trying to be stern, glances wistfully out at the quadrangle...

Below: Gathering her sternest thoughts, she pulls it together, but an unexpected flashback from her acid taking days ruins the effect...

Below: "Oh BUGGER!" Germaine's attempt to look stern, crabby and hard-faced, merely to meet the expectations of an ignorant public, collapse into the laughter which swam in her eyes all along anyway...

I apologise to the uncredited photographers whose pictures I've used, but whose names weren't available on the sites where I found the photos.

The Germaine Greer whom I saw and whom I still see on TV, although I don't know her in any personal sense, and may never meet her, displays qualities which, when seen together, make her, for me, as idealistically beautiful a woman as any Bardot, Loren, Monroe or Minogue.

'100 sexiest women'? Don't make me laugh. I'm not knocking the women referred to one little bit. Sexy they undoubtedly are, or many of them are, at least, BUT the 'sexiness' of the title is just the glittery wrapping on the parcel. Yeah, looks nice, but what's inside?

Below: Exquisite wrapping, but crucially, full of goodies. A radiant Germaine shows her delight at Brian's blog in praise of her multi-dimensional loveliness...

NOTE: If Germaine Greer ever does find her way here and read this: Germaine, the whole thing is tongue in cheek but it's not a piss-take and it's not meant to be offensive or insulting. If nothing else, I hope it made you laugh, or got you mildly aroused. And no, I'm not a stalker, nor do I have a room in my house wallpapered with press clippings and pics of you. Just one wall.