Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I have to admit, I had high hopes for Germaine Greer.

I heard that she was an excellent public speaker and know just enough about her extensive career to appreciate the effect she has had without being able to form an overly educated opinion on her.

Germaine certainly has a way of captivating the audience. Even within a full room with compromised air conditioning and menopausal temperatures, all eyes were on her. Her talk, White and Black in Australia could have become a rant; instead it was an educated, thought-provoking and at times extremely moving account of the problems aborigines face in Australia. Admittedly, it would not be something I would ever think of researching, partly because I was unaware of the issues surrounding it. Germaine Greer brought the talk alive, with perfect timing and expression, and the sort of steamroller passion that I fear has died out in my generation. She did a wonderful job of sincerely exposing her subject matter with insightful knowledge and as expected, sharp wit. Towards the end of the talk I had to swallow my tears... "I think we have missed the boat" was far too poignant for anyone to dismiss. As she famously said herself, “words stay in there forever” and I don’t think anyone will forget White and Black in Australia.

What equally impressed me about Greer was how approachable she was towards the long line of people waiting to speak to her after the talk. As me and my friend Griff were second to last in the queue and had waited (a bit impatiently) for nearly two hours to meet her, I think it would be fair to say that if her patience was wearing thin, it would’ve been on us. Quite the contrary; Germaine Probably realised how awkwardly star struck we were and welcomed us kindly. She wanted to know all about us and complimented me on my afghan coat, commenting that she used to have a similar one in the 60s. This of course made my day, and she was warm to us in the way a person’s relative would be when you wished they were yours. When Germaine Greer had entered the room, I felt an overwhelming sense of insignificance. I realised that stood before me was a woman who had made a real difference in the world, and here she was at my University, asking me what I do as if I mattered. I am fully aware that being in awe of other human beings is an embarrassing trait to possess, but this wasn’t just a bland celebrity with (as my friend Griff puts it) “as much personality as a pair of damp socks,” she was someone who had changed the lives of thousands of women.

This made her talk feel even more genuine, and the night truly unforgettable.

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