Germaine Greer Criticism - Essay

Anne Richardson Roiphe (review date 17 May 1971)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Of Mothers and Sisters,” in The New Leader, May 17, 1971, pp. 8-10.

[In the following review of The Female Eunuch, Roiphe objects to Greer's disavowal of motherhood, family, and monogamy.]

Germaine Greer is a charming, spunky, honest woman; I admire her direct style, and enjoy her pleasure in words and ideas. She achieves a vital fusion of intellect and passion in her book that places it among the best of Feminist literature—neither a cold tract, cataloguing male abuses, nor a fervid call for revenge on mankind. Her energy, female energy, is strong and free and, like the center-forward on the field-hockey team, she urges us all on to victory. For...

(The entire section is 1550 words.)

Claudia Dreifus (review date 7 June 1971)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Selling of a Feminist,” in The Nation, June 7, 1971, pp. 728-9.

[In the following review, Dreifus offers negative evaluation of The Female Eunuch, which she describes as “shallow, anti-woman, regressive.”]

Early last year, when the high priests of publishing began to discover that their female readers were insatiably curious about the women's liberation idea, there was much discussion as to which of the bountiful crop of feminist authors would become the big femme lib superstar. Betty Friedan had no appeal for the literary lions—she was too old, too bourgeoise, too organization-conscious. Shulamith Firestone, the author of The Dialectic...

(The entire section is 1370 words.)

Barbara Ehrenreich (review date 21 May 1984)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Feminism Interruptus,” in The New Republic, May 21, 1984, pp. 32-5.

[In the following review, Ehrenreich offers unfavorable evaluation of Sex and Destiny.]

Apostasy is the last resort of the political writer. Angry, provocative best-sellers do not lend themselves to sequels, for, as editors and agents are quick to remind us, it is novelty that oils the wheels of commerce. So writers who would like to sell books and at the same time hold on to their followings are driven at least to revisionism. For example, four years ago Betty Friedan published The Second Stage, in which she announced—a bit prematurely for some of us—a d‚tente in the battle...

(The entire section is 2269 words.)

Linda Gordon (review date 26 May 1984)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Bringing Back Baby,” in The Nation, May 26, 1984, pp. 645-6.

[In the following review, Gordon offers unfavorable assessment of Sex and Destiny.]

Because this book about fertility was written by a woman suffering from infertility it elicited my sympathy even before I opened it. I would not mention Germaine Greer's personal situation had she not reported it herself in The New York Times and in several other interviews. And that too—her openness about a painful and stigmatized subject—won my respect. Nevertheless, and despite Greer's opinion, the pain of infertility is not biologically determined; instead the meaning and experience of...

(The entire section is 1821 words.)

Peter Singer (review date 31 May 1984)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Sex and Superstition,” in New York Review of Books, May 31, 1984, pp. 15-6, 18.

[In the following negative review of Sex and Destiny, Singer finds fault with Greer's cultural relativism, inconsistencies, and “absurdities.”]

Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch was perhaps the most brilliant, and certainly one of the most influential, of the wave of feminist books that appeared in the early 1970s. As the title suggested, Greer pictured women as pressured into a stereotypical female role which effectively castrated them, forcing them to deny their sexuality and to see themselves as wives and mothers, ministering to the needs of others instead...

(The entire section is 3257 words.)

Carol Iannone (review date August 1984)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Feminism Ad Absurdum,” in Commentary, Vol. 78, No. 2, August, 1984, pp. 71-2.

[In the following review, Iannone offers unfavorable assessment of Sex and Destiny.]

Anyone reading this book might find it hard to believe that its author also wrote one of contemporary feminism's pioneering texts. The Female Eunuch (1970) was a racy, radical, best-selling manifesto that posited sexual freedom as the key to women's liberation. Germaine Greer, with her disheveled Anna Magnani-style sexiness and sharp dry Cambridge wit, became a talk-show and counterculture celebrity, shocking her then perhaps eager-to-be-shocked audiences with outrageous ideas, such as the...

(The entire section is 1279 words.)

Sara Maitland (review date 21 November 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Her Own Thing,” in New Statesman, November 21, 1986, pp. 29-30.

[In the following review, Maitland offers unfavorable assessment of The Madwoman's Underclothes.]

When I was an undergraduate I heard Germaine Greer speak: she was indeed weird and wonderful and, as it turned out, the evening transformed my life. A short while later I bought a copy of The Female Eunuch and pored over it—alone and with others—and thus she was the instrument, if the image may be so pressed, of my birthing into feminism. I owe her a debt of gratitude which I suspect is shared by many women, even though I am sure that if I read the book again I would be appalled by its...

(The entire section is 661 words.)

Linda Blandford (review date 11 October 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Notes of a Nag and a Roisterer,” in New York Times Book Review, October 11, 1987, p. 14.

[In the following review, Blandford offers positive assessment of The Madwoman's Underclothes.]

Germaine Greer has never truly been a writer. Her spirit has illuminated her written word as if the very act of expressing herself were but a brief, rushed gathering-up of her living. She is, perhaps, one of the marvelous letter writers of an age that no longer trifles with them much. Her essays, columns and books—transcripts as they are of a heroic heart and intellect—seem to have been dashed off in the fire and dispatched to her many sisters. Feminism as a literary...

(The entire section is 932 words.)

Hermione Lee (review date 26 March 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Mother Country,” in The New Republic, March 26, 1990, pp. 33-5.

[In the following review, Lee offers positive evaluation of Daddy, We Hardly Knew You.]

The real problem is Mummy. “Reg Greer” is called Daddy by his middle-aged daughter, even after his death, because she would still like to love him, and would like him to have loved her. But Mummy, very much alive, is never called anything else but “Mother,” a word, we are told at the outset, “admirably adapted for saying through clenched teeth.” As the world's most famous feminist sets out, teeth clenched, across the world in search of her father's true life story, she is balked, mocked, and...

(The entire section is 2487 words.)

Nancy Mairs (review date 8 April 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Germaine Greer as Dogged Daughter,” in Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 8, 1990, p. 8.

[In the following review, Mairs offers unfavorable assessment of Daddy, We Hardly Knew You.]

“The Quest,” Germaine Greer titles the opening chapter of Daddy, We Hardly Knew You, a memoir of her search for her father's past begun after his death in 1983, as if to lift her pursuit to mythic heights. But the premise of the heroic quest is that its object possesses unique, often mysterious, even sacred, value, capable of transforming at least the searcher and generally the wider world as well. In these terms, Greer's is an anti-quest: “a classic...

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Sara Maitland (review date 11 October 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Hagiography,” in New Statesman and Society, October 11, 1991, p. 23.

[In the following review, Maitland offers positive evaluation of The Change, though finds fault in Greer's lack of practical instruction.]

I am 41 years old; my menstrual cycle, which for over 20 years has behaved with discreet but impeccable regularity, has recently turned funny on me; I have odd pains in my wrist, and attacks of savage ill temper; my lovely daughter has left school, started being kind to me and departed for Paris. I am full of strange regrets (that I didn't have eight children, that I didn't become a contemplative nun) and strange desires (to live alone in the...

(The entire section is 901 words.)

Natalie Angier (review date 11 October 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Transit of Woman,” in New York Times Book Review, October 11, 1992, pp. 1, 32-3.

[In the following review, Angier offers favorable analysis of The Change, though finds fault in Greer's “loose and flippant” medical recommendations and attacks on the healthcare establishment.]

This is a brilliant, gutsy, exhilarating, bruising, exasperating fury of a book, broadly researched, boundlessly insightful and yet so haphazardly presented that this reader was driven more than once to slam shut the volume and curse the author for what seemed like a willful lack of discipline. It may not be fair to judge Germaine Greer for having failed to produce the...

(The entire section is 1667 words.)

Rhoda Koenig (review date 12 October 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Cronehood is Powerful,” in New York, October 12, 1992, pp. 74-5.

[In the following review, Koenig provides a summary of The Change and Greer's unconventional ideas. Koenig concludes, “it's unlikely that many readers will march behind Greer's custom-made banner.”]

No one following Germaine Greer's work would expect her to go gently into that good night—or anywhere else—but even her most devoted readers may not be prepared for the way she takes leave of her youth. “The stereotype of the snowy-haired granny beaming affectionately at her apple pie,” she says, “needs to be balanced by her dark side, with ‘tangled black hair, long...

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Katha Pollitt (review date 2 November 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Romantic Climacteric,” in The New Yorker, November 2, 1992, pp. 106-12.

[In the following review, Pollitt provides analysis of The Change and commends Greer's provocative observations and intelligence, though finds fault in the book's disjointed and one-sided arguments.]

It seems only yesterday that Germaine Greer was exhorting young women to throw away their inhibitions, their engagement rings, and their underpants. With the publication of The Female Eunuch, in 1970, Greer burst into international celebrity—an inescapable media presence, brash, brilliant, and beautiful, as exotically plumed as some wild Australian bird, and equally...

(The entire section is 2776 words.)

Fleur Adcock (review date 6 October 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Killed with Kindness,” in New Statesman and Society, October 6, 1995, pp. 37-8.

[In the following review, Adcock outlines and analyzes Greer's theses in Slip-Shod Sibyls.]

This long, scholarly book seems destined to be received simply as another instance of Germaine Greer putting the boot into feminists, this time by firing at some of their icons and questioning the place in the literary canon of most poetry by women before the present. Sappho is a myth; Katherine Philips, the “Matchless Orinda”, let her work be rewritten by male advisers; Aphra Behn was not a self-sufficient woman of letters but a victim; Christina Rossetti and Elizabeth Barrett...

(The entire section is 938 words.)

Christine Wallace (essay date 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Female Eunuch,” in Germaine Greer: Untamed Shrew, Faber and Faber, 1998, pp. 155-74.

[In the following essay, Wallace provides analysis of the feminist perspective, mass appeal, and critical reception of The Female Eunuch.]

The ‘advocacy of delinquency’ among women was Greer's chief purpose in The Female Eunuch.1 We have to question the most basic assumptions about ‘feminine normality,’ she argued, when for so long female sexuality has been denied and misrepresented as passivity. ‘The vagina is obliterated from the imagery of femininity in the same way that the signs of independence and vigour in the rest of her body are...

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Ferdinand Mount (review date 19 March 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Still Strapped in the Cuirass,” in Times Literary Supplement, March 19, 1999, pp. 6-7.

[In the following review, Mount provides a summary of The Whole Woman and unfavorable evaluation.]

“She's back and she's angry”—thus the Daily Telegraph puffed its extracts from Germaine Greer's new book. Can one imagine house-room being given in such a quarter to a serious enemy of comfortable society—Marx or Foucault, say? This kind of mock-alarming reception is normally reserved to drum up custom for an ageing boxer or tennis star whose legs have gone but who can still gouge an ear or terrorize an umpire. Despite her best efforts, Professor Greer...

(The entire section is 2739 words.)

Camille Paglia (review date 9 May 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Back to the Barricades,” in New York Times Book Review, May 9, 1999, pp. 19-20.

[In the following review, Paglia provides a summary of Greer's life and career through evaluation of Christine Wallace's biography of Greer and offers negative assessment of The Whole Woman.]

After a year of divisive White House scandals, the feminist movement in the United States has been struggling to regain its bearings. Reminiscence rather than innovation is the trend, as memoirs and biographies of older feminists pour from the presses.

Two books arrive as timely reminders that feminism is a world movement. The first, by Christine Wallace, an Australian...

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Michiko Kakutani (review date 18 May 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Female Condition, Re-explored 30 Years Later,” in The New York Times, May 18, 1999, p. E10.

[In the following review, Kakutani offers negative assessment of The Whole Woman.]

When Germaine Greer's swaggering call for sexual liberation, The Female Eunuch, appeared in 1970, it created a sensation. The book urged women to embrace their sexuality, to become self-reliant and to repudiate the passive roles in which they have traditionally been cast. It laid out these dictums with a rollicking sense of humor and a marked sympathy for men, two qualities in decidedly short supply among feminist theorists of the time. Indeed, Ms. Greer's book anticipated...

(The entire section is 1015 words.)

Elizabeth Ward (review date 23 May 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Trouble With Women,” in Washington Post Book World, May 23, 1999, p. 8.

[In the following review, Ward offers unfavorable assessment of The Whole Woman and Christine Wallace's biography of Greer.]

“It's time,” announces Germaine Greer in the preface—or “recantation”—to her new book, “to get angry again.”

Oh. Had she stopped? According to her biographer, Christine Wallace, “Dr. Grrrr” has been angry with the world since she was a child in 1940s Melbourne: with her parents, with men, with other women (especially other feminists, from the suffragettes to the ERA campaigners) and ultimately with society in all...

(The entire section is 1715 words.)

Margaret Talbot (review date 31 May 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Female Misogynist,” in The New Republic, May 31, 1999, pp. 34-40.

[In the following review, Talbot offers negative evaluation of The Whole Woman, citing serious faults in Greer's “men-are-dogs” perspective and contradictory arguments that undermine the well-being of women.]


Whatever else Germaine Greer's new book will be called, it will almost certainly be called a work of feminism. There are reasons for this, but they have almost nothing to do with the book itself, which is a sour and undiscriminating litany of charges against men—all men, men as nature created them—wrapped around the willfully obtuse...

(The entire section is 6992 words.)

Susie Linfield (review date 3 June 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Compelling, If Sloppy, Feminist Manifesto,” in The Los Angeles Times, June 3, 1999, p. E3.

[In the following review, Linfield offers tempered assessment of The Whole Woman.]

Germaine Greer may be a lunatic. But after years of cautious, tepid yuppie-feminism—of being told that women do, or at least can, have it all, and that “it” is well worth having—a lunatic may be just what we need. Many of Greer's more bizarre opinions will probably bewilder, if not appall, large groups of readers. (While she considers mammogram programs sadistic, she supports female genital mutilation.). Yet though too much of The Whole Woman—Greer's follow-up to her...

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Jennifer Frey (essay date 12 June 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Germaine Greer's Trouble With Men,” in The Washington Post, June 12, 1999, pp. C1, C5.

[In the following essay, Frey discusses Greer's views on men, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, children, and relationships.]

Germaine Greer is in a bit of a fuss over a man. Not men as a universal group, although she has quite a few issues with them, too. Greer is plenty clear in her new book, The Whole Woman, what she thinks about men. “To be male,” she writes, “is to be a kind of idiot savant.” Men are “freaks of nature.” They are slothful. They are spongers. They are mean.

But this fuss isn't about men, it's about A Man....

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Samuel McCracken (review date September 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Blast from the Past,” in Commentary, Vol. 108, No. 2, September, 1999, pp. 65-6.

[In the following review, McCracken offers a summary of Greer's “so-called” arguments in The Whole Woman.]

Three decades ago, the English writer Germaine Greer erupted into the world with The Female Eunuch, a cleverly titled book whose core argument, as she recently summarized it, was that “every girl child is conceived as a whole woman but from the time of her birth to her death she is progressively disabled.” As summary, that is accurate enough, but it fails to capture the qualities in the book that provoked such a remarkable mixture of admiration and outrage...

(The entire section is 871 words.)