no show without Paddy
afternoon was quiet at the cafe. The Mardi Gras folk had left for the
parade assembly points, leaving a scatter of sequins glittering in the
lane. It was threatening to rain, so I hunkered down over the Saturday
Herald, nursing a cider and chuckling over Paddy McGuinness's latest
was the Great Fulminator at his finest: in a sweaty embrace of his old
colleague Germain Greer that was almost beyond satire.
it might be funny to you", Joadja snorted, "But, lots of younger
people wouldn't understand the Germaine joke because they weren't there.
And anyway, most people get so confused after a couple of paddygraphs
that they just give up and flip over to Alan Ramsay or Kaz Cooke, or
even Richard Glover".
was right or course. We learn so much history by rumour that sometimes
it's a shock to actually read the black letters on the white paper and
think about the implications.
of people live with the vague impression that Germaine Greer was a pioneer
feminist, so Paddy's endorsement probably seemed weird, but The Great
Fulminator and the author of The Female Eunuch go back a long,
long, way -- to the early 60s in fact. They go back to the Sydney Push,
a bohemian heterosexual drinking and rooting club run for the benefit
of a handful of pretentious "libertarian" men who made a living
gambling, or were awaiting the moment when their field of professional
endeavour would offer them fame, respectability and huge salaries.
women, the price of entry to the Push was widepread sexual availability,
and the Push had a fatuous justification for this: sexual freedom was
the root of all other freedoms. There was even a bizarre party line
on orgasm -- the vaginal orgasm was superior to the clitoral.
love letter to the Untamed Shrew started with a long gushing buildup
in which he favourably compared Germs with most other feminists through
the old Paddy technique of the straw woman.
laid the groundwork with a portrait of the feminist as selfish, rich
and middle class -- a woman stacking up problems for society by treating
her children like "pets or furniture" while pursuing a career
as a man-hating academic; sleeping her way to the top while whining
at her long-suffering husband about housework and the "non-existent"
many professional feminist academics are there in all of Australia?
Maybe 50 or 60. How many fit Paddy's caricature? Maybe one.
knocked the stuffing out of the straw feminist, Paddy came back to Germs,
but a cuddle can be a dangerous thing -- you can suddenly take a thumping
at close range from someone who knows your history well. When the stick
came down it was well aimed:
Greer has gone through a long intellectual evolution and rethought many
things. After a bohemian youth in which she did not make a career of
flashing her knickers (there is a famous underground film by Albi Thom
[sic] in which she appears nude, and she went even further in a photo
for the dreadful rag Suck), she gradually realised that there
is more to a woman's life than sleeping around and she came to admire
the traditional family loyalities of marriage and children."
Germaine didn't make a career of flashing her knickers but she certainly
wrote a lot about taking them off. How about this, from Oz magazine
during her late 60s counterculture group sex period:
guess I'm a starfucker really. You know it's the name I dig, because
all the men who get inside me are stars. Even if they're plumbers they're
star plumbers. Another thing I dig is balling the greats before the
rest of the world knows about them, before they get the big hype."
fact Germs was writing some of her dumbest pornographic rubbish for
Suck while she was penning The Female Eunuch -- in which
she attacked every possible variety of feminist for being fat, belligerent,
sexually unliberated and probably lesbian.
view of the ideal marriage? In The Female Eunuch she returned
to her old obsession with the Petruchio-Kate relationship in Shakespeare's
The Taming of the Shrew. Kate has the "uncommon good fortune
to find Petruchio who is man enough to know what he wants and how to
get it. He wants her spirit and her energy because he wants a wife worth
keeping. He tames her like he might a hawk or a high-mettled horse,
and she rewards him with strong sexual love and fierce loyalty ... The
submission of a woman like Kate is genuine and exciting ..."
while we're at it, here's Germs on domestic violence: "It is true
that men use the threat of physical force, usually histrionically, to
silence nagging wives: but it is almost always a sham. It is actually
a game of nerves, and can be turned aside fairly easily".
the Paddy and Germs show. It'll keep the kiddies giggling for decades
to come about how it was in the old days.
Greer, untamed shrew, By Christine Wallace, Picador, Sydney 1997
Sex and anarchy: the life and death of the Sydney Push, By Anne
Coombs, Penguin, Australia 1996.
in Whispers from the mean streets
-- Best of 1999