Germaine, your shock-jock musings just alienate today’s young feminists | Barbara Ellen | Opinion


How can older women, even fiendishly brainy, internationally celebrated feminist academics, expect respect from, in particular, younger women, if they spout embarrassing, offensive, outdated claptrap?

Many will have heard by now of Germaine Greer’s remarks about rape at the Hay literary festival, turning what could have been a worthwhile discussion – about the legal complexities of consent, and strategies for more successful conviction – into an inglorious display of shock-jock showboating.

It seems that, because Greer wasn’t upset by her own rape, no one else is allowed to be. For her, most rape isn’t violent and should just be seen as “bad sex… where there is no communication, no tenderness”. Sure, this is how people feel after a rape, crying indignantly to their attacker: “What, no dinner, no flowers?” Except that it isn’t how rape victims feel. It’s a boorish, diminishing thing to say, dangerous, too, echoing the fallacy that people “cry rape” when they have sex they merely regret. When people talk about rape fantasies, they often forget the biggest fantasy of them all – that the raped “wanted it”. When the effects of rape are so casually minimised, this turns even rape that isn’t denied into a cavalier “no biggie”.

What do younger women think when older women say such things – hopefully not that they’re in any way representative? It matters because, with feminism having a charged time, there’s an opportunity for generations of women to come together, bringing different things to the table: older women, experience and perspective; younger women, energy and fresh takes; or vice versa. Then you get someone as eminent as Greer rattling away like a rad-fem Katie Hopkins.

Novelist Jilly Cooper was also at Hay, talking about how men are terrified of women and turning to each other instead, “crying … growing beards” and how “you can’t flirt any more”. What a crock. Bearded weeping straight men are not turning gay to avoid women, nor are they required to be “terrified” (just to behave appropriately) and no one wants flirting to stop.

Again, what do younger people make of such absurd, ill-informed outbursts? Away from Cooper in particular, there’s a weird cyclical phenomenon, where famous older women suddenly loom up out of the ether to tell younger women off for being “meany-poos” to men. Never mind not addressing the complex issues of ever-evolving modern feminism, the subtext often seems to be: we put up with it, so you should, too.

Greer is a different matter, but arguably even worse. Ultimately, Greer only represents Greer, but she’s a famous, feted, therefore presumably credible, feminist voice. If her cartoon attitudes are off-putting and jarring, even to middle-aged me, you can only shudder at how they come across to younger generations. Younger women couldn’t be blamed for feeling that, if this is representative of the high-profile older feminist voice, it’s not one worth listening to.

I always knew that the pale and interesting look was best

Are tans making a comeback to a dangerous degree? As skin cancer rates in the UK continue to rise, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has for the first time published a consumer-friendly online guide on how to choose and use sun protection.

Woman sitting on deck chair by the swimming pool applying sun cream onto her legs. Female model sunbathing at the poolside.



‘Some people tan deeply all their lives, look great and get away with it. Others aren’t so fortunate.’ Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Prominent among the concerns of the RPS was widespread failure to understand the “dual protection” system. SPF offers protection from UVB, while the star rating gives protection from UVA. As both types cause damage and, potentially, skin cancer, merely using a high SPF cream isn’t enough. The RPS also said people needed to put on enough sunscreen and apply it much more regularly than is often advised.

Please excuse me while I have an ugly moment – screaming at the humid skies: “Vindication is mine!” for all the years I’ve been scoffed at for sourly immersing myself and my children in vats of Factor 50. Granted, I’m a raddled former goth, with skin that’s never seen daylight and a hue verging on “Nouveau Morgue”. However, it still amazes me how reckless and underinformed some British people can be about the dangers of tanning.

Some people tan deeply all their lives, look great and get away with it. Others aren’t so fortunate. It may now be time to think about not only sun protection, but why it seems to be coming back into vogue for people to sunbathe, or use sunbeds, when fake tan is available.

My theory is that Britons aren’t particularly sun-literate, in the way that, say, Australians are. People seem to presume that, if they use any kind of sun cream, in any old slapdash way, they’re protected, when, sadly, they’re not. Wake up, Britons, and smell the Fake Bake – that thing you proudly call a tan is just sun damage with great PR.

Who wouldn’t forgive Melania her mysterious vanishing act?

Is Melania Trump still “missing”? At the time of writing, Melania hasn’t been seen for more than 20 days. She’d last appeared in public, greeting US citizens returning from North Korea, who were presumably already so stressed that they’d pleaded not to have to deal with the president on his own.

Melania Trump:



Melania Trump: ‘She’ll become the White House Shergar’ Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

After that, Melania underwent treatment for a benign kidney condition, spending longer in hospital than anticipated. As speculation swirled about her health/marriage, a tweet suddenly appeared from Melania, or “Melania”, making light of her absence. Then Trump made everything look normal by misspelling his wife’s name in his own tweet (in any relationship, it’s the little romantic gestures that count).

Last I heard, Melania had successfully skived off on a weekend trip to Camp David. If this goes on much longer, she’ll become the “White House Shergar”, or maybe she’ll start only appearing in the moonlight, wearing a Phantom of the Opera mask.

If it’s her health, one hopes that Melania is well. If it’s her marriage, everyone should back off. Who could begrudge Melania nigh on a month off from publicly being Mrs Trump? If there’s a union for first ladies, therea re surely grounds for a lengthy “Eat-Pray-Hide”-type sabbatical.

Barbara Ellen is an Observer columnist



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