Still relevant?Flickr: Diamond Geyer


That was Germaine Greer’s assessment of Murray Edwards’s new, widely-applauded policy to allow students who identify as female into their single-sex college. Considering she is considered a pioneer of second-wave radical feminism, she is doing little to identify herself with the movement now.

Her theories about transgender people have always been problematic, giving voice to an incredibly harmful, complex strand of modern feminism: what’s become known as TERF (that is, trans-exclusionary radical feminism). She refuses to discuss trans people using their proper pronouns. She says that “just because you lop off your dick… doesn’t make you a fucking woman”, and that any “man” who does that is “inflicting an extraordinary act of violence on himself”.

“Greer is hurting what she dedicated her academic life to because of her own bigoted beliefs”

She also claims to know the minds of people who she clearly has no sympathy with, and no desire to understand. In The Whole Woman, she claims that the demand for male-to-female sex change operations would change overnight if a uterus and ovary transplant was made a compulsory element of the procedure.

These comments are morally wrong. They are socially exclusive, and they rail against what modern radical feminism should, and mostly does, look like.

Any feminist who claims relevance now has to believe in intersectionality. To ignore the compounded struggle that non-white women, or poor women, or LGBTQ+ women face is to discredit your feminism. If you are willing to drown out those voices with your own privilege, you cannot genuinely claim to care about the advancement of women.

By incorporating and even amplifying such discriminatory voices in a movement that is (at least currently) centred on inclusivity and understanding, feminism itself suffers. Greer is hurting what she dedicated her academic life to because of her own bigoted beliefs.

Radical feminism sprang up because women on the left hated the misogyny of their male peers, being relegated to administrative work as well as suffering sexual harassment. They split and started a movement for themselves. Do we really want to drive LGBTQ+ women away from feminism because they do not believe they are truly wanted and respected here?

Obviously, the answer to that is no. But it’s not so obvious when ‘TERFs’ – feminists like Greer – say what they say from platforms of power.

Greer cannot be seen as a force for progressive good any longer. Second wave feminism was all about changing attitudes. Society needed to look at the way it treated women, but LGBTQ+ women were not an accepted public presence then. They are more so now. Greer is utterly stubborn in her refusal to admit that society might be progressing to a point well beyond her comfort zone. The sad fact is that feminism has outgrown one of its pivotal thinkers.


Mountain View

Cambridge women react to Murray Edwards policy change

Feminism that excludes any women – including those who have not lived their whole lives as women – cannot be genuinely progressive. It is prioritising the wants and comfort of some women over the needs of others, and that defeats the whole purpose. All women’s experiences are valid. All women’s experiences deserve a voice. Germaine Greer was that voice for a time, and, if she wanted to, she could continue to be. If she interrogated herself and her values as she rightly demanded the patriarchy be interrogated, perhaps she would.

Trans women have enough to deal with without the people who are supposed to be standing with them, making space for them, spewing bigotry. In the US, trans women are 4.3 times more likely to be murdered than cis women (those whose gender matches the sex they were given at birth). It isn’t a matter of academics: it’s a matter of life or death.

She is refusing to let trans people get on with their lives, including the opportunity to come to this university and feel safe. To pick on trans women because they interfere with a gender theory that was developed more than forty years ago is to be incredibly arrogant, not to mention ignorant about social change.

Greer is now just an old, white woman who has forced herself into exile. Her comments are irreparably damaging, reflecting a total lack of regard for trans lives. Thinking what she thinks, she cannot be a prominent feminist any longer. She no longer stands for the same things we do