Tennis star Serena Williams has been roundly criticised for her US Open outburst. Picture: AP Photo/John Locher
Tennis star Serena Williams has been roundly criticised for her US Open outburst. Picture: AP Photo/John Locher

Bold new claim about Serena's cartoon outrage

GERMAINE Greer says we were all so caught up in a race debate surrounding the controversial Aussie cartoon of Serena Williams that we missed a crucial point.

In a fiery Q&A debate, the outspoken feminist claimed that while the world was discussing whether or not Mark Knight's caricature was racist, we should also have been asking whether or not it was sexist.

But she also called the 36-year-old's behaviour "repellent", as the storm over Williams' outburst during her US Open women's final against Naomi Osaka rages on.

"We are so caught up in the fact that it is racist in that it gives you a version of a cliche account," Greer told the audience.

"In fact, the game was gone already because she dropped the first set and she was looking for a way out. I mean, she is surrounded by people who expected her to win.

"I found the way she behaved really repellent, especially when she put her arm around the poor young woman who actually won the bloody thing to say, 'I am the grand dame and you have done quite well, deary'.

"When what she had really done is thrown the match. That is what the cartoon should have been about, but it wasn't because it was simply a coarse account of what a woman of Afro-American heritage might look like. As far as I am concerned, it missed the point."

She was challenged on the point by host Tony Jones twice.

"Sorry, where was the issue with gender then?" he asked.

"Her behaviour was unbecoming (of) a woman," Greer responded.

"You are saying the cartoon was sexist. I am trying to work out where the cartoon was sexist as opposed to racist?" asked Jones again.

"Because it made her into a grotesque female figure and we are used to grotesque female figures," said Greer, before the host decided to move on.

It came during a debate about the Herald Sun cartoon in which two of the show's panellists,

Andrew Neil - a UK politics TV show host - and Australian journalist David Marr, said the cartoon was "publishable".

British political editor Andrew Neil said he would have published the cartoon. Picture: ABC
British political editor Andrew Neil said he would have published the cartoon. Picture: ABC

 

"I would have published it," said Neil. "It is a caricature. Caricatures exaggerate features. It is a caricature of a particular individual. It is not generic like the Jim Crow cartoons.

"This is a particular individual and it captures the appalling strop that she had and her behaviour which on the court was disgraceful.

 

Germaine Greer said the Herald Sun cartoon was not only racist, but sexist. Picture: Mark Knight/Herald Sun-News Corp
Germaine Greer said the Herald Sun cartoon was not only racist, but sexist. Picture: Mark Knight/Herald Sun-News Corp

"I don't see what is wrong with that and it also got the point across that it overshadowed the victory of the woman who actually had won the Grand Slam."

 

GENDER QUOTAS WERE A 'DISASTER'

The panel also tackled bullying and the effectiveness of gender quotas in politics, following the revelations of Liberal Julia Banks, who is quitting politics over "appalling" bullying, intimidation and harassment during the recent leadership spill.

Greer said quotas were tried under Tony Blair in Britain, and they backfired spectacularly.

"In 1997, we had 101 women elected to the House of Representatives it would be, the Commons - good word, that - we had 101 women elected that were Blair's 'babes'," she said.

"These women because they had a dreadful time and they were not helped by their male colleagues. They were allowed to collapse in Prime Minister's Questions.

"They got things wrong. They were sneered at. They were told that the timetable of the Commons would be changed so it was more family-friendly. It wasn't.

"It was still a bear pit and they were humiliated and the whole thing was in some ways a disaster."

Tennis star Serena Williams has been roundly criticised for her US Open outburst. Picture: AP Photo/John Locher
Tennis star Serena Williams has been roundly criticised for her US Open outburst. Picture: AP Photo/John Locher

However, Aussie author Sisonke Msimang disagreed, saying she would not have been able to get where she was without a quota system.

"I think that it is a false economy, this idea that somehow if you get an opportunity due to a quota system or affirmative action that, therefore, you are not worthy of that opportunity," she said.

"So I am a proud beneficiary of affirmative action and what I am clear on is I wouldn't have gotten a second look were it not for affirmative action and often I have gotten jobs because affirmative action allowed them to see me when they would have dismissed me again. I was the best person for the job."

Greer said gender quotas can backfire. Picture: ABC
Greer said gender quotas can backfire. Picture: ABC

However, Mr Neil said the only way to deal with bullying in the Liberal party is to expose the pollies who have been carrying it out.

"Bullying is too important to be dealt with internally," he said. "As I understand it, there are mechanisms in the Australian Parliament that can deal with this. If it is bad enough there are the criminal codes that can deal with this.

"If it is as bad as the women claim - and it is not for me to doubt it at all - they shouldn't just be presenting the evidence. They should be naming names. I saw somebody today saying, 'you don't have to name names'. You do.

"Nothing will change if you keep it behind closed doors. They need to speak up now and name names."

 

'IT'S BECAUSE WE'RE TOO OLD TO F**K!'

In a debate which often bordered on bizarre, the panel also discussed Ms Greer's new push to "rethink rape".

"It's because we're too old to f**k!" she exclaimed at one point when she was challenged by Aussie teacher Elena Jeffcoat about the relevance of her arguments about rape within marriage to a younger generation.

"I think my generation has benefited hugely from your (Ms Greer's) earlier works," Ms Jeffcoat said.

 

"But, it is wrong to characterise our marriages, the marriages of people of my generation as being ones where the women are submissive and powerless and I take offence to that."

However, Ms Greer explained why she wrote her controversial essay, called On Rape, which details how women are often forced into having sex inside the institution of marriage.

"If you are asleep, you can't give consent," she said. "If you are drunk, you can't give consent. If you are being terrorised, you can't give consent. If your husband won't speak to you for a week unless you spread your legs, you can't give consent. You can only give in.

"Now, I don't know what the figures are there. I only know that nobody goes there. If you read the things that women say online about sex within their marriages you realise these women are being systemically raped and they have never protested.

"Now, we have either got to start men thinking that women are not things, that women are not things that they can play with when they feel like it, that sex is as hard as conversation and most of us have no conversation at all on this issue. Now, this is serious. That is why I wrote this little essay."


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