Germaine Greer Quotes

Germaine Greer (January 29, 1939 - )

Germaine Greer - March 13, 2008
Germaine Greer - March 13, 2008. Don Arnold/WireImage/Getty Images

Germaine Greer, Australian feminist later living in London, published The Female Eunuch in 1970, with its feisty tone (and her own attractive self and unapologetically straight sexuality) assuring her place in the public eye as an "in your face" feminist. In her later books, including Sex and Destiny: the Politics of Human Fertility and The Change: Women, Ageing, and Menopause, drew fire from feminists and others.

Less well known is her career as a literature scholar and professor, where her unique perspective comes through, as in her 2000 essay, "Female Impersonator," about male poets speaking as female voices, or her book, Slip-shod Sibyls: Recognition, Rejection, and the Woman Poet, where she suggests that a reason many pre-modern women poets are absent from standard curricula is that they were not that skilled, focused on the "morbid exercise" of wallowing in emotion.

Greer was featured on the cover of LIFE magazine on May 7, 1971, with the title "Saucy Feminist That Even Men Like."

Selected Germaine Greer Quotations

• Women's liberation, if it abolishes the patriarchal family, will abolish a necessary substructure of the authoritarian state, and once that withers away Marx will have come true willy-nilly, so let's get on with it.

• I think that testosterone is a rare poison.

• The real theater of the sex war is the domestic hearth.

• The surest guide to the correctness of the path that women take is joy in the struggle.

• Revolution is the festival of the oppressed.

• I didn't fight to get women out from behind vacuum cleaners to get them onto the board of Hoover.

• The house wife is an unpaid employee in her husband's house in return for the security of being a permanent employee.

• Man made one grave mistake: in answer to vaguely reformist and humanitarian agitation he admitted women to politics and the professions. The conservatives who saw this as the undermining of our civilization and the end of the state and marriage were right after all; it is time for the demolition to begin.

• Yet if a woman never lets herself go, how will she ever know how far she might have got? If she never takes off her high-heeled shoes, how will she ever know how far she could walk or how fast she could run?

• One may not reach the dawn save by the path of the night.

• After centuries of conditioning of the female into the condition of perpetual girlishness called femininity, we cannot remember what femaleness is. Though feminists have been arguing for years that there is a self-defining female energy, and a female libido that is not expressed merely in response to demands by the male, and a female way of being and of experiencing the world, we are still not close to understanding what it might be. Yet every mother who has held a girl child in her arms has known that she was different from a boy child and that she would approach the reality around her in a different way. She is a female and she will die female, and though many centuries should pass, archaeologists would identify her skeleton as the remains of a female creature.

• The blind conviction that we have to do something about other people's reproductive behavior, and that we may have to do it whether they like it or not, derives from the assumption that the world belongs to us, who have so expertly depleted its resources, rather than to them, who have not.

• The compelled mother loves her child as the caged bird sings. The song does not justify the cage nor the love the enforcement.

• The management of fertility is one of the most important functions of adulthood.

• Perhaps women have always been in closer contact with reality than men: it would seem to be the just recompense for being deprived of idealism.

• All that remains to the mother in modern consumer society is the role of scapegoat; psychoanalysis uses huge amounts of money and time to persuade analysis and to foist their problems on to the absent mother, who has no opportunity to utter a word in her own defense.

Hostility to the mother in our societies is an index of mental health.

• Mother is the dead heart of the family, spending father's earnings on consumer goods to enhance the environment in which he eats, sleeps and watches the television.

• There has come into existence, chiefly in America, a breed of men who claim to be feminists. They imagine that they have understood 'what women want' and that they are capable of giving it to them. They help with the dishes at home and make their own coffee in the office, basking the while in the refulgent consciousness of virtue. Such men are apt to think of the true male feminists as utterly chauvinistic.

• The sight of women talking together has always made men uneasy; nowadays it means rank subversion.

• Women fail to understand how much men hate them.

• All men hate some women some of the time and some men hate all women all of the time.

• The tragedy of machismo is that a man is never quite man enough.

• For a male child to become a man, he has to reject his mother. It's an essential part of masculinisation.

• Freud is the father of psychoanalysis. It has no mother.

• All societies on the verge of death are masculine. A society can survive with only one man; no society will survive a shortage of women.

• The most threatened group in human societies as in animal societies is the unmated male: the unmated male is more likely to wind up in prison or in an asylum or dead than his mated counterpart. He is less likely to be promoted at work and he is considered a poor credit risk.

• Human beings have an inalienable right to invent themselves; when that right is pre-empted it is called brain-washing.

• Freedom is fragile and must be protected. To sacrifice it, even as a temporary measure, is to betray it.

• Older women can afford to agree that femininity is a charade, a matter of colored hair, ecru lace and whalebones, the kind of slap and tat that transvestites are in love with, and no more.

• Women over fifty already form one of the largest groups in the population structure of the western world.

As long as they like themselves, they will not be an oppressed minority. In order to like themselves they must reject trivialization by others of who and what they are. A grown woman should not have to masquerade as a girl in order to remain in the land of the living.

• You're only young once, but you can be immature forever.

• The older woman's love is not love of herself, nor of herself mirrored in a lover's eyes, nor is it corrupted by need. It is a feeling of tenderness so still and deep and warm that it gilds every grass blade and blesses every fly. It includes the ones who have a claim on it, and a great deal else besides. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

• Love, love, love -- all the wretched cant of it, masking egotism, lust, masochism, fantasy under a mythology of sentimental postures, a welter of self-induced miseries and joys, blinding and masking the essential personalities in the frozen gestures of courtship, in the kissing and the dating and the desire, the compliments and the quarrels which vivify its barrenness.

• Oh, because falling in love turns you into an immediate bore. And it's dreadful.

• Every time a woman makes herself laugh at her husband's often-told jokes she betrays him. The man who looks at his woman and says 'What would I do without you?' is already destroyed.

• The only perfect love to be found on earth is not sexual love, which is riddled with hostility and insecurity, but the wordless commitment of families, which takes as its model mother-love. This is not to say that fathers have no place, for father-love, with its driving for self-improvement and discipline, is also essential to survival, but that uncorrected father-love, father-love as it were practiced by both parents, is a way to annihilation.

• Every time a man unburdens his heart to a stranger he reaffirms the love that unites humanity.

• If a person loves only one other person, and is indifferent to his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism.

• English culture is basically homosexual in the sense that the men only really care about other men.

• The principle of the brotherhood of man is narcissistic... for the grounds for that love have always been the assumption that we ought to realize that we are the same the whole world over.

• Woman cannot be content with health and agility: she must make exorbitant efforts to appear something that never could exist without a diligent perversion of nature. Is it too much to ask that women be spared the daily struggle for superhuman beauty in order to offer it to the caresses of a subhumanly ugly mate?

• It is fatally easy for Western folk, who have discarded chastity as a value for themselves, to suppose that it can have no value for anyone else. At the same time as Californians try to re-invent 'celibacy,' by which they seem to mean perverse restraint, the rest of us call societies which place a high value on chastity 'backward.'

• Loneliness is never more cruel than when it is felt in close propinquity with someone who has ceased to communicate.

• Even crushed against his brother in the Tube the average Englishman pretends desperately that he is alone.

• I mean, in Britain it's two women a week killed by their partner. That's a shocking statistic.

• Most women still need a room of their own and the only way to find it may be outside their own home.

• There is no such thing as security. There never has been.

• Probably the only place where a man can feel really secure is in a maximum security prison, except for the imminent threat of release.

• Security is when everything is settled. When nothing can happen to you. Security is the denial of life.

• Developing the muscles of the soul demands no competitive spirit, no killer instinct, although it may erect pain barriers that the spiritual athlete must crash through.

• Women are reputed never to be disgusted. The sad fact is that they often are, but not with men; following the lead of men, they are most often disgusted with themselves.

• I have always been principally interested in men for sex. I've always thought any sane woman would be a lover of women because loving men is such a mess. I have always wished I'd fall in love with a woman. Damn.

• A full bosom is actually a millstone around a woman's neck. ... [Breasts] are not parts of a person but lures slung around her neck, to be kneaded and twisted like magic putty, or mumbled and mouthed like lolly ices.

• The only causes of regret are laziness, outbursts of temper, hurting others, prejudice, jealousy and envy.

• Perhaps catastrophe is the natural human environment, and even though we spend a good deal of energy trying to get away from it, we are programmed for survival amid catastrophe.

• Only one thing is certain: if pot is legalized, it won't be for our benefit but for the authorities. To have it legalized will also be to lose control of it.

• Act quickly, think slowly.

• Energy is the power that drives every human being. It is not lost by exertion but maintained by it, for it is a faculty of the psyche.

• Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark. The pleasure they give is steady, unorgastic, reliable, deep and long-lasting. In any library in the world, I am at home, unselfconscious, still and absorbed.

• The essence of pleasure is spontaneity.

• Australia is a huge rest home, where no unwelcome news is ever wafted on to the pages of the worst newspapers in the world.

• Psychoanalysis is the confession without absolution.

• Evolution is what it is. The upper classes have always died out; it's one of the most charming things about them.

• We in the West do not refrain from childbirth because we are concerned about the population explosion or because we feel we cannot afford children, but because we do not like children.

• Never advise anyone to go to war or to get married. Write down the advice of him who loves you, though you like it not at present. He that has no children brings them up well.

• It is in our interests to let the police and their employers go on believing that the Underground is a conspiracy, because it increases their paranoia and their inability to deal with what is really happening. As long as they look for ringleaders and documents they will miss their mark, which is that proportion of every personality which belongs in the Underground.

• Well, that's all right. I don't mind. They've called me mad ever since I was born.

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About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

Citation information:
Jone Johnson Lewis. "Germaine Greer Quotes." About Women's History. URL: . Date accessed: (today). (More on how to cite online sources including this page)