Here’s to You, Ms Macpherson

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Scorning Germaine Greer is, as you know, a minor national sport. And it’s undertaken by types of all stripes. Every few years, the polemicist delivers perfect conditions for her own isolation. And, in the tradition of great critics, she seems untroubled by the variety of folks baying for her ideological slaughter.

When Greer, rather memorably, dared to etch in acid her thoughts about Steve Irwin, mainstream Australia was aghast. When Greer, rather memorably, elected to join the UK chapter of Celebrity Big Brother, academic Australia was aghast. When Greer, rather memorably, renounced her nationhood until such time as full restitution was afforded to indigenous Australians, just about everyone made the cuckoo noise. Including a number of eminent Indigenous Australians.

I’ll admit to initial disbelief on all these occasions. We with half-decent lives facilitated by Greer’s feminisms tend to wish she’d just behave nicely. And she never does. However, after initial moments of revulsion, I always quietly concede: the mad old bizatch had a point.

Yes, Steve Irwin was an overweening embarrassment. Yes, those of great erudition should muck about in the populaire just to keep the wankers guessing. Yes, radical statements made by white Australians about an appalling legacy, although risible, may be effective and necessary. Greer, if nothing else, manages to mine some rich seams of shame.

Back in 2003, Germs was at it again. With her release of a coffee table tome, which could have easily been called Young Blokes I’d Really Like to Pork, she defiled the name of feminism further.

If you didn’t see The Boy, here’s a précis: with centuries of Western visual art as her channel, Greer celebrated hot and hairless hunks. It looked like an adult "dating" site surf by a learned and discerning perv. And she wrote captions like, "Correggio is the only artist ever to have depicted the anus and scrotum of an airborne angel."

Well. I never.

The work was marketed as radical, iconoclastic, saucy et al. In fact, it was none of these things. Initially, of course, average thinkers such as moi reflexively yelled, "You dirty, smutty Stop Out." Why would a critic who had so clearly and humorously enunciated the absurdity of sexism bother to tell everyone how hot she was for young male flesh?

Again, as much as I hate to admit it, Greer was a prescient Head Mistress.

Recent times have seen undue and unexamined emphasis on the older woman/younger man liaison. Certainly, female ephebophiles have been depicted in the culture before Greer chose to get her rocks off on beautiful male angels. But, there’s a world of difference between a rapacious Mrs Robinson, stinking of vodkatini and desperation, and this scholarly old broad.

Greer not only refused abasement in her appreciation of young, hard male bodies. She dared to describe, visually and in text, why old ladies might find them so gorgeous.

Since then, entire rainforests have been sacrificed to the record of Ashton and Demi. Fame Franchise mags asked: why would he? And, less often, asked, why would she? Greer provides a partial answer to the latter in her coffee table porn. And she’s brave for doing so. Like Robert Mapplethorpe inserting a bullwhip into his anus for a self-portrait, Greer boldly and publicly violated herself to make a point: what masculinity becomes in the culture is not terribly attractive.

And now we have the spectacle of gorgeous model Elle Macpherson and her "toy boy" Vito Schnabel. (Yes. Julian’s son. Give the strumpet points for choosing from a tasteful dynasty.) Although Macpherson has dared to turn 44, she remains unfairly hot. Anyone who asks "why would he?" plainly has a head full of rocks and a libido crammed with silicon imagery. She still looks like a beautiful colt. She speaks perfect French. She is immensely wealthy. And, at 44, I imagine she goes off like a firecracker.

Few publications have asked: why would she?

Perhaps, as Greer says, this is because everyone secretly knows exactly why she would. This youngster is not yet a man. As Germs tells, with her bullwhip indiscreetly placed: what masculinity has become is just not that attractive.

The desire of the older woman gives us some lessons and bears some scrutiny. Outside of those adult "dating" sites.

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.

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