Girl talk from a feminist firebrand

Her new book is about Shakespeare's wife. But Germaine Greer also has opinions to spare on Hillary Clinton, Carrie Bradshaw, Ian McKellen's private parts, and what she calls 'the stupidest people on Earth'

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

LONDON 'Oh, you're going to visit her, are you?" the taxi driver says, as he drives, apparently aimlessly, through the back roads of rural Essex. "I don't think I'd like to mention her name." His irritation seems to have impaired his sense of direction.

He finally finds the farmhouse, where the chatelaine is waiting, not altogether patiently, and where the feeling of scorn is clearly mutual. "That one must be missing a synapse," says Germaine Greer as the car rumbles back down the driveway. "He's the only taxi driver in these parts who doesn't know where I live."

The poor man should feel honoured, in some way: He has entered the pantheon of those who've had their paint blistered by the world's most famous feminist. He joins the late Diana, Princess of Wales ("a devious moron"), Salman Rushdie ("megalomaniac") and, most famously, Greer's fellow Australian Steve Irwin, whose death, she felt, represented the justified retribution of the animal world, a deserved punishment chased with crocodile tears. They're still screaming mad about that one in Oz.

Now, add to that list the Shakespeare scholars who have spent entire biographies slating Mrs. Bard, Anne Hathaway.

It is Greer's great mission, in the pages of her new book, Shakespeare's Wife, to rescue Hathaway from the remainder bin of history. The "Bardolators" might want to hide under their desks.

Greer is standing on the staircase of her garage office, solid and imposing, silhouetted against the sky like Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments - except that, where he clutched the memo from God, she is leaning on a walking stick that she calls her "prong." She recently broke her ankle, and had to cancel a trip to North America. "My agents wouldn't let me go," she says. "If I'd died on the flight, they'd lose their bloody 10 per cent."

Add agents to that list, then. She advances down the stairs, and it's hard not to think: Germaine Greer's coming at me, and she's got a weapon. But she's not bent on violence. She's heading for a ridiculous, billowing peacock strutting across the lawn: "Get out of here, George, you great, silly bird."

George is named for Byron; one of his family members was recently killed by a mink that had been set free from a lab nearby by animal rights' activists. "Those people," she says, fuming, "are some of the stupidest people on Earth." The fierce energy is awesome to behold, like watching a fully loaded siege engine trundling down a steep incline.

The energy isn't all fierce, however. In fact, Greer is remarkably jolly, her insults delivered with good-humoured brio. (Wait till you hear what she thinks of Ian McKellen's manhood.) At 69, she's a tall, shapely drink of water, her grey-blond hair freshly highlighted, blue eyes merry behind rimless glasses. She's a laugher, an arm-toucher, a generous employer of profanity, a woman in love with her own ability to terrify.

"Someone will say to me, 'Do you know how much you frighten people?' " she says, settling into a wooden bench in the farmhouse's shade. "The only thing I can say is, 'Not enough. Nowhere near enough.' "

This brings us to Shakespeare's Wife, which is in many ways the continuation of a feminist recipe that began simmering with The Female Eunuch, reached a rolling boil in Sex and Destiny, and blew its menopausal lid with The Change. The new book is Greer's attempt to stitch together a portrait of Hathaway from history's crumbling threads, to challenge the "Shakespeare wallahs," who seemed to think that "wife is a four-letter word."

Her rage began building on an airplane, as she read Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World. Greenblatt, now a professor at Harvard, had been her fellow student at Cambridge when Greer was completing her dissertation on Shakespeare's early comedies. Forty years later, she found him dismissing Hathaway (who was eight years older than the Bard) and suggesting there was "something seriously wrong with his marriage."

"I just couldn't get over it," Greer says. "Where did it come from, his idea that Shakespeare hated his wife?" She was sitting on the plane, "frothing at the mouth" when it occurred to her that she finally had an outlet for the mountains of doctoral research she'd done into Elizabethan marriage: She would write about the marriage of Shakespeare himself, long thought to be a loveless union - after all, he left his wife nothing in his will but his second-best bed. Greer was sure there was more to the story; she would fill the "wife-shaped hole" with a picture of what Anne Hathaway might have been.

"Might" is the operative word here, for despite Greer's combing through church and court records, contemporary histories and the libraries of Cambridge, she was unable to unearth definitive evidence about Hathaway's life during and after her marriage. Instead, she has painted a somewhat theoretical portrait: The talented young poet may have taught his wife to read as an erotic gambit; Hathaway may have survived Shakespeare's absences by becoming a skilled knitter or malt-maker; she might even - oh blasphemy! - have been involved in the publication of the First Folio.

Not surprisingly, she has a theory about why great men's wives are vilified or ignored through history, and it has to do with the keepers of the great men's flames: "They want to believe that wives are menial and don't occupy the psychic space of their subject because they're jealous, I think.

"They want to think that if they'd been around drinking in the Mermaid Tavern, Shakespeare would have found them very interesting and then they would have been best buddies. But Shakespeare was tough on sycophants. He would have disliked them to a man."

At this, she smiles the contented smile of a cat that's just swallowed a biographer, or at least a canary. You couldn't tell her that, though, because she despises cats as soulless killing machines. You'd probably get a swat with the prong.

She wanted to write the book, in part, to rescue her own sense of her beloved Shakespeare - she couldn't respect a man who had coldly abandoned his wife. She managed to maintain her affection for his plays, although she no longer goes to see them performed. "It's all that ... acting. Stop acting! Just say the bloody words." Her voice becomes more Australian by the minute. She loathes Stratford, home of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

"The last thing I saw was Lear, in which the great Ian McKellen hung his cock in the face of these American schoolgirls. I was absolutely disgusted! And then I found that he had hung his cock out when he played Edgar," in an earlier Lear production. "Obviously, the challenge is to keep his cock in his pants - great, pale, rubbery thing it was. Ugh!"

Well, then. There's not much to add to that. She sits for a minute in peace, her wonky ankle out in front of her, looking out over her menagerie: the snowy geese, the doves in their dovecote, the peacock, the poodle and the greyhound. Maybe she likes living with animals because they're less disappointing than humans?

After a minute Greer answers. "No, I wouldn't say that. I don't like much company, though. Like most writers, I'm fairly solitary. I never feel lonelier than when I'm with people discussing Sex and the City or something." Don't expect to find her in line at the multiplex; some commentators might vainly scramble to turn Carrie Bradshaw's story into a feminist parable, but Greer has never been able to sit through an episode: "I always found myself covered in self-loathing before I got to the end."

Earlier this year, on a trip home to Australia, where the locals can't decide whether to tie her to a stake or put her face on their money, she addressed a crowd of would-be acolytes: "Don't follow my flag," she told them. "I'm not a tour operator."

She spoke in vain, of course. Feminism may be as popular in current discourse as rain at a picnic, but for those who want to believe and fight for change, she is a totemic figure. As far as she's concerned, "feminism has yet to begin. We haven't even worked out who the enemy is."

Her writing has always represented the ballsy (womby?), slightly loony face of women's struggle in the late 20th century. ("Women have very little idea of how much men hate them," she wrote in The Female Eunuch). So the requests pour in, to join committees (she hates committees) or stump for a candidate (ditto for politics). Sometimes, the requests are hallucinatory in their strangeness. One woman recently asked her to support a campaign to get men to give up their seats on London's Underground, in return for a badge. "And the badges say" - she begins to roar with laughter, so that she can barely get to the best part - " 'Only women bleed!' "

After a moment or so, the laughter peters out. Hillary Clinton, she thinks, is ineffectual; Condoleezza Rice, terrifying. "I think if I were involved in feminist politics, I'd be terribly, terribly disheartened. Miserable."

What keeps her sane is her land. She has a piece of forest in Australia where she has a crew replanting trees, and this converted mill in the lush fields of Essex, an hour outside London, where she makes cider from the apples in her orchard. It's a jarringly domestic picture; she's more closely associated with her flamethrower attacks or for storming off the set of Celebrity Big Brother, where she was a contestant in 2005.

That public image is soon to be augmented by two more fictional accounts: In Beeban Kidron's upcoming film, Hippie Hippie Shake, about the wild Australian expatriates in London in the late 1960s, she'll be played by Emma Booth. This thought does not make her happy, to say the least. At the time filming was announced, she wrote: "You used to have to die before assorted hacks started munching your remains and modelling a new version of you out of their own excreta."

But perhaps vanity has more to do with it than disgust at her life being mined for comedy gold: "This Emma Booth girl has no tits, I hear," she says, contrary to the last. "She's certainly got a lot less ass than me."

If anything, Greer is more upset about a play, soon to be staged in London, that's a very thinly disguised account about an upsetting event from her life. Eight years ago, the peace of Greer's farm was destroyed when she was held captive in her house for a few hours by a disturbed woman who kept calling her "mummy." The woman was sent to jail, even though Greer protested that she needed medical treatment. These events have been turned into a comic play called The Female of the Species, with the great English actress Eileen Atkins playing a loud, egomaniacal feminist icon. Greer views this even more sourly than she does poor, flat-chested Emma Booth.

"I thought it was bloody cheeky to make up a story using an event like that." Her words sink in and, perhaps realizing the irony that lies in her accusing anyone else of gratuitous provocation, she smiles. "I regard it all as very cheeky."




Ottawa Mens, from Ottawa, Canada wrote: Normal men & women want real equality. For decades, men have also supported the feminist ideals of equality, the problem is we have some some extreme feminists, generally the victims of some childhood tragedy at the hands of trusted male that absent appropriate counseling can turn into a seething hatred of men and they spend the rest of their lives attempting to do men the maximum amount of harm.

Movies like Thelma and Louise, The Three Wives club all pander to those in society who just want revenge and don't care that innocent men are going to pay, often the very men who have supported equality between the genders.

In Canada, extreme feminists have been extremely successful in holding "brain washing sessions for Judges", thats right, every family court judge in Canada must go to feminist indoctrination sessions and face extreme political pressure to do indirectly what is not permitted directly.

Take the Ontario Court of Appeal, Any time a male appeals a support order and wins, he is hit with a massive cost penalty.

If you think Muslim women have it tough having to produce 4 witnesses to obtain a conviction for rape, the burden of proof is even more difficult for a male in family court.

Judges simply invent any reason often reasons that are totally unsupported by the "evidence" to justify orders that are blatant pandering to their feminist political bosses.

Some judges actually take orders, agree to hear a case and make a decision in advance, it goes beyond Judge Shopping, you would think a corrupt judiciary would only occur in some cesspool of corruption in a third world country.

Wrong, the cesspool of Judicial Corruption is exactly what we have in Canada, its a horrifying experience that leaves a trail of incalculable destruction, it means we do NOT have the Rule of Law in Canada.

We have something else, its called a pathological hatred of men,
Its real crime and its starts in Family Court.


Ottawa Mens, from Ottawa, Canada wrote: "Revenge of The Animal World" is how Germaine Greer described the tragic death of world renown dedicated father Steve Irwin and she came out with this pathological statement immediately after Steve's tragic death.

It begs the question, what kind of person would say something so offensive.

Just walk into any Family Court Room, odds are the judge, court staff and the lawyers will be female. The court staff frequently contain bitter divorced women who snicker and portray body language to silently voice their opinion during hearings. After the hearings, female court reporters frequently frustrate attempts to obtain transcripts, especially when they know that transcripts affect time lines. In Ottawa once court reporter simply took the money and never provided the transcripts, that is she stole the money.

Court management also direct the proceedings, its like having a group of umpires who are going to hand out penalties to the opposing side for breathing and allow the other side to kick beneath the belt all the time.

Our Ontario Family Court Judges know its goes on, some underbellies, actually give instructions on how to do it to their staff who even quote the fact that Judge so and so told them not to include something in the transcripts.

In Ontario at least, transcripts if damaging to the judge are likely to go missing and create delays where fatal prejudice results.

Our feminists have gained control of the courts, they use the courts as a weapon of destruction against men sending thousands of Canadian Men to Canadian Concentration camps for the crime of being a father and asking for access.

These dedicated brave fathers are often totally destroyed, have their reputations destroyed, often falsely vilified as child abusers or wife beaters on dubious affidavit evidence that never gets to be cross examined because judges order pleadings stuck, order astronomical security for costs.

Justice in Canada is becoming something of the upper class only, unless you can "buy" a lawyer who knows the judge, judges routinely abuse those who are victims of injustice by making sure their case

There is no Rule of Law in Canada thanks to feminist influence in the Judiciary.