Germaine greer

I expected more from Caitlin Moran

I first met Caitlin Moran at Julie Burchill’s flat in Bloomsbury. This was in the early 1990s and she was a precocious teenager who’d written a play and published a few pieces. Julie had asked her to write for the Modern Review, a magazine I co-owned with Julie and her then husband Cosmo Landesman, and Caitlin’s stuff was really good. After that, she became a kind of junior member of our gang and I remember liking her a great deal – she was warm and funny and didn’t seem remotely intimidated by older, more experienced journalists. It was obvious that she was going to have a brilliant career. I tried

From Middlemarch to Mickey Mouse: a short history of The Spectator’s books and arts pages

The old masters: how well they understood. John Betjeman’s architecture column ran for just over three years in the mid-1950s. Yet during that short run he experienced the moment that comes, sooner or later, to every regular writer in The Spectator’s arts pages. ‘It is maddening the way people corner one and make one discuss politics at the moment,’ he wrote on 23 November 1956, clearly as bored of the Suez crisis as the rest of us were, until recently, by Brexit: Because I write in this paper, people assume that I share its Editor’s views about Suez… But I don’t know what the views of this paper about Suez


Fiore de Henriquez, a sculptor, had a wonderfully high-windowed studio at the bottom of Cadogan Square, where I sometimes visited her. She was passionate and outspoken. My husband was of course terrified of her. She did not mind mentioning that she was a hermaphrodite. ‘If God made me hermaphrodite, that is how I stay,’ she said. I mention Fiore because if she were alive today she would come in for public obloquy. Sex and gender are a battleground, and words are made shibboleths. Take terf. Terf is an unlikely acronym, deriving from trans-exclusionary radical feminist. It is a label given by their enemies to feminists who reject alliances in their

Boozing and bitching with Germaine Greer: David Plante’s Difficult Women revisited

Difficult Women: A Memoir of Three  David Plante New York Review of Books Classics, 2017, £10.99 Worlds Apart: A Memoir David Plante Bloomsbury, 2016, £10.99 Becoming a Londoner: A Diary David Plante Bloomsbury, 2014, £9.99 The novelist David Plante has been keeping a diary of his life since 1959. Now running to many millions of words, it covers several decades of literary and artistic life in London and Europe, and is archived every few years in the New York Public Library. His first foray into its publication came early, too early, with Difficult Women in 1983. Now, following closely after Becoming a Londoner and Worlds Apart, two substantial volumes covering the 70s and

A cacophony of complaint

What sort of monster gives a bad review to a book by someone who was gang raped as a 12-year-old and subsequently goes on to eat herself to over 40 stone? Probably the sort of monster who’s never read a book about fatness as a feminist issue which she found convincing. Here we go again: ‘This is what most girls are taught — we should be slender and small. We should not take up space. And most women know this — that we are supposed to disappear.’ This ignores the fact that plump women were a benchmark of beauty in the past — when women had no rights whatsoever —

A disgrace to feminism

‘I was single, straight, and female,’ Emily Witt begins, with all the élan of an alcoholic stating her name and what’s wrong with her. Only there isn’t anything wrong with Emily Witt. (The book jacket tells us she has three degrees and won a Fulbright scholarship to Mozambique.) Unless you count not having a fella in your fourth decade. Which she does. And doesn’t. Future Sex is a collection of essays about sex and society, originally published in magazines including N+1, GQ and the London Review of Books, packaged into book form. In America, it enjoyed rave reviews. Here, it’s had a sexy reprint by Faber. I got very excited

An unmagnificent seven

One of the most interesting developments in modern publishing has surely been the revival of interest in women writers of the past. Beginning with Virago Press, publishers have delved back and rediscovered exceptional female writers from the 17th century onwards. These have either been rescued from oblivion, or from the frequent fate of being dismissed as middle-brow and narrowly domestic. Editors and a new generation of scholars have unearthed excellent writers, from Fanny Burney to Elizabeth Taylor, and have changed literary taste forever. The success of the enterprise probably means that it is now easier to find a new readership for a once-popular female author than for a largely forgotten

A wildlife notebook

The morning is cold and dark but the orchard is thronged with birds. Moorhens dash from one side to the other; woodpeckers drill the damp ground for worms; fieldfares bounce from hawthorn hedge to apple tree and back again; magpies terrorise all of them. They freeze when the buzzard comes over until, crows and blackbirds having risen up to harass it, its great wings float it away. The red kites are a different matter. They slice through the air like thrown knives, before the other birds have had time to look up. One of the 50 doves that were wheeling above my workshop now lies panting feebly as a kite

Forget ‘soft’ feminism. I want my feminism ‘hard’

Can you be a Disney princess and the feminist messiah? I wondered this earlier this week, upon seeing new images released for the new Beauty and the Beast film. It stars She Almighty – Emma Watson – the woman who hates female subjugation, gender stereotypes and all-round sexism, yet will be in a franchise that romanticises all three. In fact, Watson’s career choice confirms my suspicions that she is not the militant campaigner the world has taken her for, but mushy and romantic. As I saw her in Belle’s yellow gown – which I had myself aged four – I tried to imagine Germaine Greer and Camille Paglia doing the same,

Brendan O’Neill

Why are student-union officials censoring criticism of Islamic State?

Just when you thought the self-important, ban-happy uber-bureaucrats who run student unions couldn’t get any worse, they go and No Platform a guy who fought with the Kurds against Isis. Yes, not content with expunging lads’ mags from campus, crying for the censorship of everyone from Germaine Greer to Dapper Laughs, and wailing about Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ like outraged nuns at a school disco, now they have silenced someone who spent five months facing down the head-choppers of the Islamic State. Macer Gifford, a former student at University College London (UCL), was due to give a talk at UCL this week on his experiences with the YPG, the fighting

The Swinging Sixties should be renamed the Seedy Sixties

You know you’re getting old not when the policemen start looking young, but when a public figure dies and you say ‘O, I thought they were dead already!’ So it was for me when I heard that the Australian writer Richard Neville had died of dementia at the age of seventy four last week. Neville was never any sort of hero of mine – I was too busy promising my soul to Satan for a quick lick of Marc Bolan. But when I was thirteen and at the peak of my shoplifting prowess, I nicked his book Play Power on exactly the same robbing rampage that saw me take proud possession of The Female Eunuch,

Women are becoming more and more infantile. It’s time to grow up, girls

I consider myself such an extreme feminist that I make Germaine Greer look like Greer Garson. (Ask your gran.) But this doesn’t mean that I have to believe women are superior to men in every way. Yes, we violently attack, sexually assault and feel the need to commit murder far less than they do. But when it comes to the little things, there are many ways in which manning up would make women better. Maturity is one of them. We are told from the get-go that females ‘mature’ far earlier than males. It’s weird that feminists go along with this, because it’s one of the main justifications for adult men

A new taste of Twitter nastiness

Whenever I hear a leftie complain about being abused on Twitter, I think: ‘You should try being me.’ A case in point is the journalist Caitlin Moran, who has often taken up the cause of feminists threatened with violence. Among other things, she campaigned for a ‘report abuse’ button in the hope of making Twitter a safer place, more in keeping with ‘the spirit that the internet was conceived and born in — one of absolute optimism’. A noble sentiment, but I couldn’t help taking this with a pinch of salt after the abuse I’ve suffered at the hands of feminists on Twitter. Take the time I appeared on a

Oldie of the Year 2016: Germaine Greer honoured for her transgender feud

To Simpson’s-in-the-Strand for the annual Oldie of the Year awards. This year a panel including Gyles Brandeth, Libby Purves, John Lloyd, Craig Brown, Roger Lewis, James Pembroke and the magazine’s editor Alexander Chancellor were responsible for awarding the gongs. Perhaps the most controversial choice for an award was Germaine Greer. The ardent feminist made headlines last year when she claimed that transgender women could not be classed as women: ‘just because you lop off your d–k doesn’t make you a f—ing woman’. While Greer became the subject of much vitriol from the transgender community for the comments, she has now received a more positive response. The Oldie magazine awarded her the

In defence of gender

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Melanie Phillips and Jacqui Gavin, a trans activist and civil servant, discuss gender”] Listen [/audioplayer]Once upon a time, ‘binary’ was a mathematical term. Now it is an insult on a par with ‘racist’, ‘sexist’ or ‘homophobic’, to be deployed as a weapon in our culture wars. The enemy on this particular battleground is anyone who maintains that there are men and there are women, and that the difference between them is fundamental. This ‘binary’ distinction is accepted as a given by the vast majority of the human race. No matter. It is now being categorised as a form of bigotry. Utterly bizarre? Scoff at your peril. It’s fast

It’s dangerous and wrong to tell all children they’re ‘gender fluid’

This is the cover piece of this week’s Spectator, out tomorrow: Once upon a time, ‘binary’ was a mathematical term. Now it is an insult on a par with ‘racist’, ‘sexist’ or ‘homophobic’, to be deployed as a weapon in our culture wars. The enemy on this particular battleground is anyone who maintains that there are men and there are women, and that the difference between them is fundamental. This ‘binary’ distinction is accepted as a given by the vast majority of the human race. No matter. It is now being categorised as a form of bigotry. Utterly bizarre? Scoff at your peril. It’s fast becoming an enforceable orthodoxy, with children

Diary – 21 January 2016

Quarrelling about the date of Easter has been a Christian pastime for centuries. The chief bone of contention is whether Easter should be held on 14th Nisan in the Jewish calendar — that is, at a fixed point of the lunar month — or whether it should be held on the nearest Sunday to this date. The Celtic church(es) evidently had their own ideas on the question. In the year 651, Queen Eanfleda of Northumbria was fasting on what she regarded as Palm Sunday on the very day that her husband, Oswy, King of Northumbria, was celebrating Easter. Behind the seemingly batty arguments lay the world-changing conviction that Christ’s death

Free speech is the natural ally of transgender rights

Transgender men and women have a powerful story to tell. Their experiences are often heartrending: we should be appalled that nearly half of young trans people have attempted suicide. Meanwhile, there is compelling neuroscientific evidence to suggest that male and female can overlap, and that for some people gender dysphoria is no more eradicable from their nature than, say, being an introvert. How all this plays out, in terms of law and culture and surgery and public bathrooms, is another series of questions. But the basic point – that trans people should be listened to and helped, and neither explained as a problem nor scorned and marginalised – is a

Germaine Greer can say whatever she likes about trans politics

If you want to know how crazy, even Kafkaesque, this young millennium has become, consider this: yesterday it was reported that a person with a penis — Caitlyn Jenner — will be named Glamour magazine’s Woman of the Year, while over at Cardiff University a woman who has done more than most to secure the liberation of womankind — Germaine Greer — was denounced by a swarm of Stepford Students as ‘transphobic’, someone who should make all right-minded people feel ‘sick to [their] stomachs’. This is the world you live in, folks. One in which a bloke can be globally celebrated as an inspiring woman — and heaven help the

The end of feminism

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Charlotte Proudman and Emily Hill debate whether feminism is dead” startat=35 fullwidth=”yes”] Listen [/audioplayer]It would be easy to believe from the papers these days that women have never been more oppressed. From the columnist Caitlin Moran to the comedian Bridget Christie, a new creed is preached: that we are the victims, not the victors, of the sex war. Feminists claim we are objectified by the builder’s whistle, that a strange man attempting to flirt with us is tantamount to sexual assault. Suddenly, just as it seemed we women were about to have it all, a new wave of feminists has begun to portray us as feeble-minded — unable