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Last Updated: Friday, 14 January, 2005, 18:04 GMT
Faces of the week: Germaine Greer
Faces of the Week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are Germaine Greer (main picture), with Prince Harry, Sir Mark Thatcher, Angela Cannings and Bob Marley.

Germaine Greer

The doubts of friend and foe were confirmed when feminist author and broadcaster Germaine Greer walked out of the Celebrity Big Brother house on the sixth day of the reality television show: what was she thinking of?

She once said Big Brother was "as dignified as looking through the keyhole in your teenage child's bedroom door".

And, explaining her decision not to enter the I'm a Celebrity jungle, she declared: "My nightmare would be having to endure the twittering of a bunch of has-beens and wannabees, interested only in themselves and how they come across."

A scenario not unlike the one in which Greer was to find herself with her Big Brother housemates. After quitting the Channel 4 show, in which a clutch of celebrities must live together under one roof for two weeks, Greer reflected: "I'm 65 and you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I was a little nave. I didn't realise agendas."

"Slavery" of marriage

Throughout her life, she has been contrary, and often contradictory.

If she won Big Brother, she said, she would donate the 50,000 prize to rainforest conservation; she owns 125 acres of Australian rainforest. In fact, her chosen charity was Buglife, which is concerned with the protection of Britain's insect population.

Germaine Greer
Germaine's as contrary as ever
Germaine Greer was 31 when she became a celebrity through her book, The Female Eunuch, which touched a universal nerve by likening marriage to a form of legalised slavery.

Born into a strict, Roman Catholic, middle-class family in Melbourne, Australia, her own childhood wasn't happy.

The title of her autobiography, Daddy, We Hardly Knew You, tells part of the story. And while one of her books characterises the love of mother and daughter as the most beautiful of all human relationships, her own mother was accused of slapping her about, and they were later estranged.

Nor were ideas of female liberation encouraged by the nuns who taught her at the Star of the Sea Convent school.

Coloured condoms

And when she arrived at Melbourne University, Greer proceeded to act on the fundamental assertion that was to make her famous: that a woman's energy was channelled by the denial of her sexuality into a system of repression that extended into every area of her life.

In 1959, she became a one-woman sexual revolution. She carried a velvet bag on her wrist containing a variety of coloured condoms, she boasted about her sexual exploits in the crudest language and made a point of advertising that she didn't bother with underwear.

But one of her male friends from the time felt that "for all her toughness and brazen displays of sexuality, she was really vulnerable and lonely".

At 25, Germaine Greer arrived in Britain after winning a Commonwealth Scholarship to Cambridge and later became Professor of English at Warwick University.

Along the way, there were more lovers, including Hollywood star Warren Beatty, author Martin Amis and one-time Conservative minister Jonathan Aitken, and more exhibitionism, most blatantly a naked gynaecological pose in a Dutch sex magazine.

Men are sad, fantasy-ridden, fragile, bizarre creatues
Germaine Greer

Looking for illogicality in Germaine Greer's life is like looking for hay in a haystack, observed one writer.

Having railed against marriage, she wed, although the union lasted only three weeks. Children were a burden, she argued in The Female Eunuch, only to acknowledge that she "could have bought a Picasso" with the money she spent later on trying to conceive.

And the exponent of sex, sex and more sex, has now been celibate for several years.

She lives alone, lavishing affection on her garden and her cats, but retains a ready capacity for anger. While most of her books have a strong autobiographical thread, she believes biographers are "parasitic".

Unfair to women

When she heard that an Australian female author was planning to chronicle her life, Greer was characteristically forthright, calling her a "dung beetle" and warning: "If you go near my mother, you'll have your kneecaps broken."

It's with women that Germaine Greer tends to have her most bitter spats. She argues that men still win the war of attrition that is housework, that women still don't earn as much as men, and that society does women no favours with its relentless focus on sexual attraction.

Yet it's women she tends to anger most, with sometimes savage barbs about the ageing process.

A radical embraced by the British establishment, a feminist enjoying the widespread affection of men, Greer mystifies even her friends: "I have never been able to decide," said one, "whether she is a celeb pretending to be a serious person or a serious person disguised as a celeb."

Her Big Brother appearance - and departure - suggests Germaine Greer might be uncertain too.


Criticism: Prince Harry
Prince Harry

Prince Harry found himself at the centre of a storm of criticism after being pictured dressed as a Nazi soldier at a fancy dress party. The photograph, published by The Sun newspaper, and subsequently around the world, shows him wearing an Afrika Korps shirt and swastika armband. In a statement, the Prince said: "I am very sorry if I caused any offence or embarrassment to anyone. It was a poor choice of costume and I apologise."

Sir Mark Thatcher: Guilty plea
Sir Mark Thatcher

Lady Thatcher's son, Sir Mark, pleaded guilty in a South African court to being unwittingly involved in the alleged plot to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea. He was given a four-year suspended prison sentence and fined 265,000. Speaking after the hearing, he said: "There is no price too high for me to pay to be reunited with my family." Sir Mark promptly left the country to join them in the United States.

No compensation: Angela Cannings
Angela Cannings

A woman wrongly jailed for killing her two baby sons says she will challenge a Home Office decision not to pay her compensation. Angela Cannings spent 18 months in prison before medical evidence at her trial was discredited. She says someone must take responsibility for what's happened to her and her family, telling the BBC: "Physically and mentally I am shattered but because of what this has done to my family I will continue to fight."

Bob Marley: Reburial
Bob Marley

The body of the reggae star Bob Marley is to be exhumed from its grave in Jamaica and re-buried in Ethiopia, the spritual home of Rastafarians. The plan, announced by his widow, Rita, will be part of a month-long celebration in February marking 60 years since Marley's birth. "We are working on bringing his remains to Ethiopia," said Rita, a former backing singer for Marley's band, The Wailers. "It is part of Bob's own mission."

Compiled by BBC News Profiles Unit's Chris Jones.




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