Germaine ‘Bloody’ Greer

I said I’d get to Germaine Greer at some point, and here we are.  I’ve been having emergent thoughts along the lines of ‘what the hell has happened to her?’ for quite some time now: as I’ve mentioned before her comments on trans women (‘just because you chop off your d*ck doesn’t make you a woman’) and rape (‘most rape is just bad sex’) are at best unhelpful and at worst bloody awful.

And yet she was a hero of mine for a long time.  So what the hell happened?

Like most women of my generation ‘The Female Eunuch’ was for me a seminal (perhaps I should say ‘ovulary’) book.  Previously I’d been blundering along, half in denial, half aware that there was such a thing as sexism but not having put together all the ways in which misogyny was embedded in society and how this had affected me.  My sense of myself, of who I was and what I was capable of – my very self-confidence – had been radically curtailed by growing up female in a patriarchal society.  What Germaine did was put it all brutally together and lay it out.  It was liberating, devastating and provided me with food for thought to last several decades.  But now there is a problem.

I can’t understand why Greer would say, as she has done, that ‘nothing has changed’ since she wrote the book.  Things have changed enormously; so much so that I hardly know where to begin.  From women sitting on the board to rape suites in police stations; from the #metoo campaign to the sheer unacceptability of so much everyday sexism that used to be taken for granted, there has been a tremendous shift in attitudes.  Many men have genuinely taken on board the major demands of feminism; some merely go along with it, but what is certain is that the culture has shifted hugely.

Of course it would be ridiculous to assert that Everything Is Now OK.  Everything is not OK: we have upskirting and sexting; we have harassment in the workplace; we have Harvey Weinstein and the Presidents’ Club.  But here’s the thing: thirty years ago these would not have been news.  Everyone would have just shrugged and said ‘what do you expect?  It’s the casting couch/don’t wear short skirts/it’s just a bit of fun/she was asking for it’ and so on ad nauseam.  Men invented countless spurious reasons why women couldn’t do certain jobs (like Paul Daniels saying women can’t do magic because ‘they can’t keep a secret’).  If he said that now he’d be vilified everywhere.  Look at the hassle Christopher Chope got for trashing the Upskirting Bill (he maintains he’s not a dinosaur but I think the jury’s out:)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44513497

Sexism still goes on; the difference is that it’s no longer acceptable.  Look at the mass reaction by women to Trump’s election; look at the change in the abortion laws in Ireland.  Such things would have been unthinkable thirty years ago.

So much for ‘nothing has changed.’  Harder to forgive are the comments on trans women, though it appears here that she’s softened her response a little:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/12/germaine-greer-tells-qa-her-trans-views-were-wrong-but-then-restates-them

But worse than this were her comments on rape.  She began by saying that a lot of rape is just bad sex, meaning really the reverse; that a lot of bad sex (a husband turning over and digging in without eliciting any kind of consent) is basically rape.  I would agree with that.  But she goes a lot further and claims that rape is not a big deal unless violence is involved.  I cannot understand this attitude; it’s as though she’s saying that unless you have physical scars no harm has come to you.  This is how the police used to think: unless you could show injuries they didn’t believe anything had happened.  Of course there weren’t many female officers back then either…

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/may/30/germaine-greer-calls-for-punishment-for-to-be-reduced

And there’s more: apparently the #metoo campaign is a load of whinging: if a man harasses you, you should just knee him in the balls.  Never mind if you’re alone, scared, intimidated, confused – just knee him in the balls.

https://www.smh.com.au/world/germaine-greer-challenges-metoo-campaign-20180121-h0lpra.html

There’s a sort of convoluted logic to these arguments but it all ends up too close to victim-blaming for comfort.  If Germaine suffers from self-doubt she hides it well, and whilst that in itself is not a weakness she seems utterly lacking in compassion for the timid, the shy, those lacking in confidence.  And it is axiomatic in any liberation movement that you stand up for the weak, the shy, the timid and the nervous.  You act like Martin Luther King getting a black crowd to chant ‘I am somebody’.  You don’t scornfully tell the victim of groping that they should have kneed the guy in the balls.

Perhaps we all become parodies of ourselves as we grow older: or perhaps one characteristic takes over and becomes our defining trait.  Greer always could be perverse and critical; she was also incisively intelligent and – most importantly – fun!  But now the fun has gone and all we’re left with is the perversity.

Anyway, check out this interesting profile of her on the Beeb:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0b6q27f/germaine-bloody-greer?suggid=b0b6q27f

Kirk out

 

 

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Up and Out and Poeting in Leicester and Thurnby

Well first of all a quick catch-up.  I’m always gratified to see that my readership doesn’t slide into the abyss when I’m absent for a few days, but as you will see I’ve been busy.  First, the gigs.  All poets are basically frustrated rock stars: we talk about ‘gigs’ and ‘touring’ as though we were Mick Jagger or Suzie Quattro (that dates me I expect although someone last night commented that they’d recently been to see the Stones and said they were brilliant.)  So on Saturday four of us (three musicians et moi) took the stage for a fundraiser for Momentum at Leicester’s Criterion pub.  Thirty or so people came along to listen and I did a 20-minute set featuring a poem about Corbyn (JC4PM), ‘Spike’ the homeless poem, a couple of poems about Blair and a couple about Jo Cox and her memorial picnic.  These were very well-received and you could hear a pin drop even when the waitress came in to serve pizza.  I like hearing pins drop.

Then last night I finally made it to TABAC which sounds like some underground wartime group but in fact stands for Thurnby and Billesden Acoustic Club, where a good crowd of musicians assembled.  I’m always slightly dubious as to how poetry will be received at these events but I needn’t have worried; it was received with enthusiasm.  It was a great evening with a terrific variety of instruments being aired including a whole caseful of harmonicas, a piano-accordion played by a retired headmistress; a concertina and several guitars and of course Jan with her recorder.  I did three poems: ‘Is Vic There?’ for Victoria Wood; ‘The Lady in the Van’ and ‘Spike’ again.  The evening ended quite late with a lengthy impromptu rendition of ‘Yellow is the Colour of my True Love’s Hair’ to which my contribution was ‘black is the colour of my true love’s feet’.  And so to bed; except that first we had to drive back from Thurnby with missed turnings and diminishing petrol.

What I missed last night (but will catch up on, thanks to the miracle of iplayer) was the final episode of A Very English Scandal, a dramatisation of the Jeremy Thorpe affair in the ’70’s.  Hugh Grant is a revelation in this!  I had him down as this generation’s John le Mesurier, only good for one particular brand of romantic comedy – but I was wrong.  In this miniseries, a drama with a touch of farce, he is utterly thrilling as the dark and menacing Thorpe; in fact he has the man (appropriately enough) to a T.  Ben Wishaw is also brilliant as his victim-turned-blackmailer Norman Scott and Alex Jennings (Charles in ‘The Queen’) plays his Machiavellian sidekick.

I could also have been watching the latest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.  So I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Toodle pip!

Kirk out

Have You Eyes?

The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that in yesterday’s sign-off I said it was Tuesday when it was in fact Monday.  All day.  For some reason yesterday seemed like a long day.  Maybe it was because I felt tired – the close, thundery weather that never seems to break can be quite oppressive – or maybe it was because of the sheer Bank-holidayness of it all, but whatever the reason I became a day ahead of myself.

I also wondered if I’d get comments about the title.  Why Jason?  Then again maybe you’re all far more educated than I give you credit for and had sussed straight away the connection between Argos and the story of Jason and the Argonauts:

https://www.google.co.uk/search?client=opera&q=jason+and+the+argonauts&sourceid=opera&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

Argos (the store) is of course named after the hundred-eyed monster of Greek myth:

https://www.google.co.uk/search?client=opera&q=argos+greek+mythology&sourceid=opera&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

Eyes also feature strongly (and disturbingly) in King Lear, the latest production of which was broadcast last night.  More on this later as I have yet to catch up with it since we were catching up with The Handmaid’s Tale having watched A Very English Scandal on Sunday night:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-44259959/jeremy-thorpe-the-true-story-of-a-very-english-scandal

It’s all go.

Happy Tuesday.

Kirk out

This Post Will Self-Destruct in Ten Seconds

When I was a child one of my favourite TV series was ‘Mission: Impossible’ (not the films – those came later.) 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission:_Impossible

At the beginning of each programme a disembodied voice would say: ‘Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is…’ and I would be on tenterhooks lest they choose not to accept it and there would be no programme.  In fact one week they did choose not to accept it, though thankfully they changed their minds a moment later.  Phew!  The music was thrilling and there was a fuse burning down across the screen – very exciting:

I must have had a deep attachment to programmes back then (I know my life was ruined if I didn’t get to watch ‘Batman’) but somehow as you grow up the attachment wanes: and one programme I have never been tempted to watch is anything with Matey Popkins on it.  In fact I think as a media troll Matey should get as little publicity as possible, which is why I’ve given her a pseudonym, and why this post will self-destruct once it has been read.

The trouble with trolls is that they feed on attention, which is why it may have been a mistake for Theatr Clwyd to put on a play entitled ‘The Assassination of Matey Popkins’:

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2018/apr/27/the-assassination-of-katie-hopkins-review-theatr-clwyd-mold

Of course Matey, impulsive little scamp that she is, didn’t trouble to find out what the play was actually about and turned up out of nowhere with a giant billboard saying something about free speech or whatever (yeah, yeah).  But the trouble with satire is that unless you know it’s satire, it can look exactly like the thing you’re satirising: so that if all you know is the title, ‘The Ass of Matey Popkins’, rather than coming across as an examination of social media, seems like something much more sinister and intolerant.

Which brings us back to the world of dear old Matey – who has had enough publicity for one day and needs to go back to bed.  Night, night Matey!

Please click the ‘like’ button, after which this post will self-destruct in ten seconds.  Please stand clear of your computer. 

Ten… nine… eight…

Kirk out

Oh, Not To Live on Sugar Mountain

Last night I caught up with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s latest offering, ‘Hugh’s Fat-Fight’.  It’s the most recent in a line of campaigning series by the food writer, who previously took on wonky veg and persuaded many of us to buy less-than-perfect vegetables.  I enjoy his style – it has neither the manipulativeness of a Louis Theroux or the self-righteousness of many a didactic voice-over: instead he makes friends of local people; acknowledges and thanks corporations when they do the right thing and holds them to account when they don’t.  Some of his methods are highly imaginative, such as turning up to Kellogg’s and Nestle with a huge set of traffic lights to get them to use the ‘traffic light’ system properly.  (It may come as a shock to realise that some breakfast cereals are nearly 50% sugar.)

The programme (I have to fess up here) did make me feel a tad smug since we eat very little processed food, never add salt or sugar, don’t have puddings and eat a fair proportion of fresh fruit and veg.  Down sides: we don’t eat as much wholemeal stuff as we used to (pasta, rice or bread) nor as much raw food (coleslaw, salads etc.)  However, I can report that I am not only able to bypass entire aisles of crisps and chocolate without feeling the slightest twinge of regret (in fact they annoy me mightily) to me, crisps are like bits of flint with salt on and I don’t like chocolate bars as much as biscuits.  I do have one indulgence though, which is chocolate digestives.

My BMI is within healthy range, though I wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds: but on the whole I’m happy with my weight.  I could be more physically active: for exercise I do yoga every day but I don’t walk or cycle as much as I used to.  So there’s room for improvement there.  As for alcohol, I would drink a lot more if I could afford it, but I can’t.  So my consumption is virtually zero at the moment.

None of which is any help at all except in developing my already entrenched sense of smugness about being healthy.  On the other hand, for years I smoked, drank too much, had a rubbish diet and hardly exercised at all.  So it’s a luxury for me to feel that for once I’m on the side of the gods.

As for the obesity crisis, of course individuals are responsible for their actions, but many areas have few outlets for fresh veg and fruit and takeaway food outlets are on the rise.  But big companies have to shoulder a large part of the blame; and as well as the frightening quantity of sugar in cereals, one thing that shocked me about Hugh’s programme was his trip to WH Smith’s.  It really pisses me off that even clothes shops nowadays have sugary snacks by the till: but Smiths’ (whom I never visit because they are so overpriced) have a positive maze of chocolate – walls of the stuff which you have to negotiate before you can get to the till.  So Hugh is asking people to tweet WH Smith’s with the hashtag #WHSugar.

It’s dispiriting to see the once highly-principled Kellogg’s (it was started by Seventh-Day Adventists) descend to the same level of corporate nastiness as every other multinational:

https://www.google.co.uk/search?client=opera&q=Kelloggs+history&sourceid=opera&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

but as for Nestle, they are pure evil.  Nothing will persuade me to buy any of their products:

https://www.mintpressnews.com/nestle-spent-11m-lobbying-congress-to-control-water-cocoa-trade-since-2013/220853/

Anyway, here’s the programme:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/b0b15qt7?suggid=b0b15qt7

Oh, and here’s a bit of Neil Young to keep you going:

Kirk out

 

Sex and Profanity and Nuclear War? It’s Christie, Spock, But Not as we Know It

Christie is everywhere on the BBC at the moment and I’ve been watching ‘Ordeal by Innocence,’ one of three novels recently adapted by Sally Phelps.  The production has done away with the cliches that so often dog Christie’s work but kept the central point: the murder of an unpleasant character for which each of the other characters has a motive.

SPOILER ALERT

Bill Nighy plays a villain for once, wealthy landowner Leo Argyll, while his wife Rachel, whose murder begins the story, has Anna Chancellor ramping up the cold haughtiness of her previous roles in Pride and Prejudice and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

The couple have adopted several children from widely differing backgrounds and subjected them to an abusive childhood.  We find out the history in a series of swooping back-and-forth scenes, and sometimes it’s hard to know what’s happening when, let alone why.  But it makes for exciting action, especially when the maid Kirsten enters the mix (this is the fifties) along with a strange young man who claims he can give one of the now-adult children an alibi for the time of the murder.

So much is updated in this version that I feel like coining a new word: adupdation or updatation, perhaps.  First, there’s the sex and, whereas in the original this would have been subtly suggested, here it’s well and truly out in the open.  Then there’s the language: people effing and blinding and calling each other all sorts of names; and I have to say that while the sex seemed in keeping, the swearing jarred.  People just didn’t talk to each other like that in the ‘fifties.  I know – I was there.

Since this is the fifties the Cold War is never far away, and Leo has built a nuclear shelter in the cellar of the large house.  This bunker, like cellars in all murder mysteries, is a repository for secrets including the birth of an illegitimate child; and in a blinding twist of irony Leo ends up being locked in there by the maid whom he raped years before.   This ending is not in the book, and Christie purists have complained, but I found it deeply satisfying.

Here’s the series:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09yswj5/ordeal-by-innocence-series-1-episode-1

here, just to prove a point I made earlier about TV/book crossovers, is the novel:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/909932.Ordeal_by_Innocence

and here, just in case you’re interested, is a discussion of the differences between them:

http://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2018-04-15/how-is-that-ordeal-by-innocence-ending-different-from-the-agatha-christie-novel/

And finally – the other day I came across a prize for a mystery novel NOT featuring the murder of a woman.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  A propos of which I’m writing a short story called The Boy on the Bus….

Kirk out

PS  Oh, and you will have spotted there’s a new theme.  I’m having a bit of a revamp – of which more anon.

Death of the Novel: Reports Greatly Exaggerated?

There has been a furore of late about comments by Will Self on the death of the novel: or, to be precise, on the death of literary fiction.  As anyone can see, certain types of novel are flourishing: fantasy (Philip Pullman, J K Rowling), Sci-Fi (can I mention ‘Replicas’ and the Hugo Prize once more here?https://amzn.to/2IygeeB) crime (‘Girl on Something Somewhere’) and soft porn (you know which) are clearly selling well.  But there’s an argument that TV box sets have replaced narrative; and whilst it’s true that we are living in a golden age of TV drama (I’m glued to ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’ right now) some of those same box sets are based on novels and sales of said novels go up when the series are aired.  Examples include Vera, Game of Thrones, Poldark and of course Sherlock, which caused me to take out and re-read some of Conan Doyle’s stories and relate them to the TV ‘updates’.  That’s not to mention all the literary classics which get box-setted * every few years, such as The Forsyte Saga and anything by Dickens or Austen.  * OMG what a terrible compound verb!

Will Self may have a point, though I suspect pundits have been predicting the novel’s demise ever since it was born.  Like a sickly baby – like Stephen Hawking as soon as he was diagnosed – people have been expecting LitFic to pop its clogs for ever, yet valiantly it carries on, like a bee who doesn’t know that it can’t fly.  Or like Snoopy who doesn’t know that the world is too miserable for him to be dancing:

https://bit.ly/2GFYnlh

The most recent argument for the demise of the novel is the decrease in our attention spans.  It’s a fair point; we have so many distractions now that to sit for several hours with a novel is much more difficult than it used to be.  Then there’s online publishing and self-publishing, plus the recession – all leading to the decline in traditional outlets.

I have a dream (oo!  Did you hear about Martin Luther King’s granddaughter saying she had a dream that ‘enough is enough’ for guns?  Terrific:

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/yolanda-renee-king-mlks-granddaughter-enough-is-enough/

Anyway – I have a dream.  It’s not the same order of dream but it’s a dream nevertheless, that somehow the future lies in the oral tradition.  I am convinced that we have to go back to our oral roots: spoken word is already massively popular, especially with young people, because it’s the antidote to an automated, virtual world.  It is direct and personal, it is up-front and face to face.  It’s healthy too, as Michael Rosen says in this article:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/09/performance-poetry-turner-prize-judges-spoken-word

So now we need to do for prose what performance has done for poetry.  I don’t mean endless readings; of course a novel can’t be performed in the way that a poem can.  But if Dickens did it, so can we; and in my mind there is a stage where I will perform parts of novels along with poetry.

Anyway, here are some of Will Self’s musings:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/may/02/will-self-novel-dead-literary-fiction

and here are some counter-arguments:

http://theconversation.com/will-self-why-his-report-on-the-death-of-the-novel-is-still-premature-94050

Happy reading!

Kirk out