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1971: Germaine Greer defends The Female Eunuch

The Story


Sparks are flying between feminist Germaine Greer and CBC TV host Larry Zolf. Greer, author of the blockbuster 1970 feminist manifesto The Female Eunuch, is supposed to debate anti-abortion politician Joe Borowski. But the discussion is lacklustre until Zolf jumps in, sneering at Greer's middle-class background and accusing her of ignoring ethnic and class differences among women. "I think that solidarity of women is possible beyond those bounds," Greer responds in this clip. Greer is backed up by a member of the studio audience, who shouts at Zolf about his "(bleep)ed-up views." Later, Zolf attacks Greer for advising university girls to date truck drivers. "The truck driver is not castrated, you're suggesting, while the advertising executive is," says Zolf. "You liar!" responds Greer. "I never suggested any such thing. I cannot have you sitting here distorting my book for the people who are foolish enough to think that you know about things."

Medium: Television
Program: Midweek
Broadcast Date: Oct. 28, 1971
Guests: Joe Borowski, Germaine Greer
Interviewer: Larry Zolf
Duration: 5:29

Did You know?


• Born in 1939 near Melbourne, Australia, Germaine Greer completed a PhD in literature and went on to teach at the University of Warwick in England.

• In 1970 Greer published The Female Eunuch. Trade magazine Publishers Weekly said: "In her book she talks candidly, often relying on four-letter sexual terms, about the differences between the sexes, woman's role and the relationship of men and women to each other."

• The book's title referred to Greer's theory that modern women had become "eunuchs," or, according to Publishers Weekly, "castrated creatures who have been deprived during their education in "femininity" of their true individuality and sexuality... If they are unhappy in their marriages they think it is their own fault, that they have done something wrong."

• "I wrote the book for these women," said Greer. "They read it and it works like a shock of recognition."

The Female Eunuch was a remarkable success and was translated into at least 12 languages. The New York Times called it "the best feminist book so far." Newsweek said it was "a dazzling combination of erudition, eccentricity and eroticism."

• According to Greer's biographer, the book ignited heated arguments between the sexes. One woman concealed her copy in plain brown paper because her husband didn't want her to read it.

• At the time she appeared on this CBC Television program, Greer was visiting Canada not to promote her book but to speak out for women's liberation. She told the Toronto Star she wasn't doing it as a member of the movement but "as an individual who's drawn enough attention to herself so that the public will listen."

• Greer went on to teach and published several more books on women, sexuality, menopause, literature and art.

• Greer also did a short stint as an actress. She played a hippie in the 1971 movie Universal Soldier.

• In January 2005 Greer appeared as a contestant on the British reality TV series Celebrity Big Brother alongside an assortment of has-beens from the British entertainment industry. She left the show after five days.

• Australian feminist and politician Susan Ryan defended Greer's legacy in a 1999 biography. "Women who were housewives, who were pretty miserable ... felt inspired by her book and their life changed. They didn't become megastars, but they became a librarian or something. I've heard women say again and again when the subject of Germaine comes up: 'Well, her book changed my life for the better.' And they'll be modest women living pretty ordinary lives, but better lives."

• Interviewer Larry Zolf began his CBC career in 1962. He was a host and contributor on the 1964-66 current affairs program This Hour Has Seven Days and many others.


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