2 Dec 2007, Comments Off on Girl Germs at the Capitol

Girl Germs at the Capitol

Author: Helen

I took Girlchild to the Germaine Greer lecture on Jane Austen on Wednesday night. It was part of the Jane Austen and Comedy conference organised by Laura. I’d expected to have to drag this Millenial along under gentle duress, eyes rolling, in the hope that she might be intrigued in spite of expectations, and that she’d look back on it as an interesting experience, hearing a public lecture from one of our most prominent intellectuals and shit-stirrers. How I underestimated that girl. She, like, totally got it at once, came cheerfully and willingly and listened attentively (with the odd chuckle), despite not being a huge Austen fan.

Shameful confession: I’ve never been inside the Capitol Theatre before. The theatre itself is a larger than life personality which would upstage a lesser speaker. It was nice to hear a voice say hello in the queue outside and turn around to see Genevieve from Reeling and Writhing, who I’d met at a couple of blogmeets.

If you didn’t want girl cooties, it was the wrong place for you. I was amused to see that the crowd was overwhelmingly biased to women my age or older, and that many of them – Genevieve included – had the same idea of bringing a daughter along. Initiating them into TEH HIVEMIND. (Tim T was in the audience, but I didn’t spot him.)

“Check out the estrogen level in this place,” said Girlchild. I wondered if we’d all start menstruating at the same time the next day. Hell, with this many women in one room, the men would be, too.

Germaine Greer has an image in the popular mind as a ballbusting terror on wheels. It doesn’t reflect her real-life persona, as most of the people who read here would know. She’s like your favourite auntie, the generous and funny one who nevertheless doesn’t take any crap from anyone, and might come out with Outrageous Remarks after a few sherries. “Hello, there,” said a sweet voice to kick off the lecture. She spoke self-deprecatingly of not doing written lectures very much, but aiming to please anyway, and her disappointment at not being able to see our faces because of the stage lighting. She took us on a magical mystery tour around the Bildungsroman (with reference to The Getting of Wisdom and Mansfield Park), the eighteenth century, Colin Firth’s wet shirt (she’s over it); Why she doesn’t write fiction herself; Psychoanalysing Fanny Price in Mansfield Park; the invention of scottishness, Percy Shelley, and many other fascinating side trips, rather like the alleyways of Melbourne into which we spilled afterwards – you never know what you’ll find, but like Greer, you always return to the firm grid of Bourke/Elizabeth/Swanston which keeps us on topic.

Maybe shamefully, I was hoping for a hint of controversy – a provocative remark, a hint of intellectual stoush maybe – and blow me down if Pamela Bone didn’t stand up right at the very end, in question time, and ask why, if Germaine was able to talk about the patriarchal structures binding Fanny Price and other female heroines, why she wasn’t … I forget here what she was actually advocating Greer do at the time, but anyway, feminists aren’t doing enough.

I recognise not everyone frequents the same corner of the blogosphere, so if you don’t immediately recognise this popular strawargument, I’ve blogged it before here, and you can find much robust discussion (cough) here and here.

Greer’s reply was a study in fluency and civility, although her voice was fighting irritation in response to Bone’s, which was sullen and accusatory. I wonder how many times Greer has had to take on that stuff from the Decents in her own home base. Rather than focusing on the savagery and needless suffering caused by the West’s concept of direct “intervention”, as well as the fact that our incursions onto middle-eastern soil have not really been prompted by concern for the status of Muslim women, Greer’s central point is that in the places where the barbarities happen, we have no standing. We can only help people on the ground who have some standing in that society. Otherwise, we can denounce until we’re blue in the face, but nothing will happen– the people practicing the barbarities just think we’re weak and degenerate for doing so. Also, as we can’t seem to get the justice system to do much for rape victims in Australia, we won’t be very effective anywhere else.

No stoush ensued. Laura asked a question about the reading of Jane Austen, and do we read it in the wrong way – that is, as a romance novel? Greer’s answer is that there is nothing to worry about, the text is always there and we will always have it no matter how many production companies make bodice-ripper movies out of it.

I wish we could always have Germaine, but at least we had the experience of hearing her speak; Girlchild and I were exceedingly diverted.

Update 2/12/07: Laura and Another Outspoken Female debrief. Other people we failed to spot in the audience: Gina Riley and Judith Lucy.

LP has more – and that hilarious Andrew Bolt has weighed in too, wouldn’t you know.

Update 6/12/07: Dr. Cat, who was part of the JA conference, debriefs too.
 
 
 
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

Comments (0)

  • Paul W. says:

    I’ve wondered this – why is John Howard criticised for being “disconnected” and “out of touch” for being born in 1939 and shaped by the ’40s and ’50s while Germaine Greer, also born in 1939 and also shaped by the ’40s and ’50s, is seen as still relevant? why the double standard?

    (of course the same might eventually happen again – people like Helen, born in the ’60s and shaped by the ’70s and ’80s, would be seen as equally “out of touch” and “disconnected” from a world and culture 30, 40, 50 years later.)

  • JahTeh says:

    I read Germaine’s book on women poets through the ages and it was an eye-opener. I’ve found that every time she makes a television programme on any subject, its always a joy to watch and I’ll love her forever for saying you’re never too old to look as long as you don’t touch.
    A great comfort in my declining years.

  • suse says:

    Wonderful review, thanks. I so wish I could have been there.

  • Ann O'Dyne says:

    What a night.
    blogpal Health Philosophy Politics And Other Rants was there too and posted about worrying that somebody might stand and yell “We love you Germaine!”

    (sorry no link but she is in my blog Links)

    You’ve never seen the Capitol ?
    Glad you fixed that up.
    XXX

  • Nabakov says:

    “I’ve wondered this – why is John Howard criticised for being “disconnected” and “out of touch” for being born in 1939 and shaped by the ’40s and ’50s while Germaine Greer, also born in 1939 and also shaped by the ’40s and ’50s, is seen as still relevant?”

    Perhaps because Germs kept on being shaped by the 60s, 70s, 80s and and 90s while Howard didn’t?

  • Kim says:

    Thanks for a great post, Helen.

    Dunno if you’ve seen it but Bolt has joined the fray, very predictably:

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/egreergious_greer/

  • […] Who’s afraid of Germaine Greer? Filed under: blogosphere, culture, feminism, media, politics — kimberella @ 2:34 am In case you missed it, Germaine was in Melbourne over the weekend speaking at a conference on Jane Austen and Comedy organised by blogdom’s own Laura. Helen went along and has all the good oil posted at the Cast Iron Balcony. Another Outspoken Female was there too. And so, Helen reports, was that lioness of teh Decent Left, Pamela Bone, who, as you would expect at a conference on Jane Austen and Comedy, seized the chance to ask Greer why she wasn’t doing teh loud condemnation thang about rape in Darfur: Maybe shamefully, I was hoping for a hint of controversy – a provocative remark, a hint of intellectual stoush maybe – and blow me down if Pamela Bone didn’t stand up right at the very end, in question time, and ask why, if Germaine was able to talk about the patriarchal structures binding Fanny Price and other female heroines, why she wasn’t … I forget here what she was actually advocating Greer do at the time, but anyway, feminists aren’t doing enough. […]

  • Thanks for such a coherent round up of the lecture content – much appreciated as it all got a bit of a blurry for me in the light of the pre and post lecture drinks!

  • Laura says:

    Top post Helen, as usual. That Bolt IS hilarious, isn’t he? Should have asked him to contribute his ideas about comedy. A roomful of English-teaching women with inquiring minds desperately want to know.

  • tigtog says:

    Honestly, what a numpty Pamela Bone is. Hijacking a conference on comedy that every other attendee had paid good money for to attempt to drag it down into the culture wars. Greer’s response sounds perfect.

    Off to read Bolt now. I feel certain that he won’t disappoint me with a lack of numptiness either.

  • Hattie says:

    Gosh, from the comments on Bolt’s column it sounds to me as if Australian men hate women even more than American men do.
    I like Germaine Greer a lot. We were born in the same year, not exactly a claim to fame, I guess, but having something in common with her makes me feel good.

  • I was there too. It was a good lecture. Pity about the gender imbalance in the audience. I also thought Greer answered the question about Darfur very well.

  • Helen says:

    *snort*

  • […] A project for the Decents Filed under: Middle East, activism, blogosphere, feminism, media, religion — kimberella @ 1:50 pm Predictably, I guess, Pamela Bone’s question to Germaine Greer on behalf of ALL DECENT LEFTIES EVERYWHERE (discussed in this post from me and by Helen at the Balcony) didn’t just get play on Andrew Bolt’s blog, but also resulted in… (drum roll) the inevitable op/ed!!! […]

  • blue milk says:

    Yeah isn’t Germaine Greer fantastic as a speaker, I’ve loved hearing her speak and you’re right she is so much less prickly than everyone is expecting. She is incredibly inspiring.

  • […] Reading Mansfield Park, inspired by this. (I was going to post on the Holiday Reading thread over there, but my God, so bloody interlecktuwal. That’s their holiday reading? I’m embarrassed to fess up to my fiction and lesser non-fiction reading, deadset. The Coetzee sounds like a good read but.) […]

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