The third and final part of Rita Banerjee’s essay, “The Female Gaze,” an excerpt from her new memoir and manifesto on how young women of color keep their cool against social, sexual, and economic pressure debuts in PANK Magazine today.
In Part 3 of “The Female Gaze,” Banerjee writes:
III. I see you seeing me
In Town Bloody Hall, Germaine Greer engages in a battle of wills and wits with Norman Mailer as he argues that men are merely passive slaves to women, who are the ones who really hold power, in The Prisoner of Sex.
The debate takes place at NYU in 1971.
In the film, Mailer introduces Greer as the “lady writer” from “England,” although Greer is clearly exhibiting an Australian accent and despises the term “lady” to qualify anything.
Her fur stole drags on the floor as she responds to Mailer:
“I turned to the function of women vis-à-vis art as we know it. And I found that it fell into two parts. That we were either low, sloppy creatures or menials, or we were goddesses, or worse of all, we were meant to be both, which meant that we broke our hearts trying to keep our aprons clean.”
Mailer doesn’t look up, Greer doesn’t pause:
“I turned for some information to Freud. Treating Freud’s description of the artist as an ad hoc description of the psyche of the artist in our society, and not in any way as an eternal pronouncement about what art might mean. And what Freud said, of course, has irritated many artists who’ve had the misfortune to see it: He longs to attain to honor, power, riches, fame, and the love of women but he lacks the means of achieving these gratifications.”
Greer pronounces the words and the camera settles on Mailer’s worried face. The audience chuckles at his unease. She does not stop:
“As an eccentric little girl who thought it might be worthwhile, after all, to be a poet, coming across these words for the first time, was a severe check. The blandness of Freud’s assumption that the artist was a man sent me back into myself to consider whether or not the proposition was reversible. Could a female artist be driven by the desire for riches, fame, and the love of men?