It’s been forty years since Clayesmore School became fully co-educational and this blend of boys and girls was celebrated with their 37th annual lecture. Led by the Germaine Greer, the lecture, entitled ‘Forty Years of Feminism and Fun’, rhymed with the school’s own co-educational journey and highlighted the fact that Professor Greer has been immersed in ‘feminism and fun’ the same length of time as girls have been benefitting from a Clayesmore education.
Germaine Greer was introduced by Head Girl, Tatiana Dyer, and went on to describe the development of her feminist voice and what drove her to write the ‘Female Eunuch’. She touched on the influences of her early life and delved into the effects of the Second World War on women who were forced to take on traditionally masculine roles and then, after the war ended, required to become the epitome of femininity, maintaining an ultra glam look while keeping their homes all spick and span for the returning heroes. She suggested how difficult this must have been for women who had “sniffed independence” for the first time in their married lives.
Though she said she hadn’t felt like “a suffragette”, she was struck by the lack of freedom and opportunity for women and this dissatisfaction led to the creation of the iconic feminist tome. She also explained how she wrote this defining book in a short episodic way so women could read it during a brief moment of respite from housework.
She discussed how female sexuality had been very much feared and controlled in the past but is equally so today, particularly via social media that can be used for the immediate humiliation of young girls. Unexpectedly perhaps, she praised Beyoncé for declaring herself a feminist and exaggerating her womanly curves and said she was a fan of her hit song ‘If I were a boy’. She also offered up some criticism of women who despise other women for being too sexually expressive and suggested it was the haters own unresolved repression that led to this unsisterly loathing.
She talked of unequal pay and the very low paid workers in traditionally female roles such as hairdressing and care homes. She went on to describe the “tyranny of motherhood” and the lack of decent, affordable childcare that could be solved by “professionalising” this important area of work, to attract high quality, competent carers. There was also talk of the general misogyny surrounding the experience of childbirth, her thoughts on abortion and women having control over their fertility.
She expressed her views on the future plight of women, suggesting that the gender is “disappearing” (including ever decreasing dress sizes) and that, one day, a baby could be made to develop outside the womb in a baby-making chamber that could render women redundant.
Questions from the audience included a request for her opinion about women on the front line and an inquiry into her past dalliance with Playboy magazine. She finished off her talk by stressing the vital importance of protecting the whole human race and taking care of our planet. She then thanked the audience and gleefully remarked that she had seen “many eyebrows leaping about”.
Head Boy, Eric Newland, concluded the lecture by thanking Professor Greer for a talk that had raised lots of chuckles, a few frowns and a little blood to several cheeks, but that was sure to encourage everyone, including both the girl and boy pupils, to have a long hard think about the societal treatment of women.