Big Sisters vs Big Brother: feminists subject Germaine to trial by television

It's the most controversial TV casting since our own Janet Street-Porter did 'I'm a Celebrity'. She approves, but not everyone does ...

Day three in the Big Brother house, and Germaine Greer is wallowing in offal. Yesterday, her reputation as Britain's most celebrated feminist and academic was at risk of being eviscerated too. Her television colleagues warned she may be making the biggest mistake of her career - instead of being known as the author of The Female Eunuch, she is now in danger of becoming famous to a younger generation as a grumpy old woman from a downmarket reality television programme.

Bonnie Greer, a co-panellist on the BBC's highbrow arts review show Newsnight Review, told The Independent on Sunday: "It's a shame for her admirers and a shame for her. If she had asked for my advice I would have said 'don't do it'. Germaine is one of the icons of my life, but because of the way culture is, she will now be known for Big Brother rather than for everything else she's done.

"The first time I heard Orson Welles's name he was advertising Gallo wine. I had no idea he was one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema. I spent my childhood thinking he was the fat man who advertised wine."

Rosie Boycott, also a panellist on Newsnight Review, the founder of the feminist magazine Spare Rib and a former editor of The Independent on Sunday, agreed. "I'm devoted to Germaine; I think she's wonderful," she said. "But ... it concerns me that younger people will see her as a grumpy, cantankerous, argumentative person rather than the inspirational woman that she is. They've cast her and John McCririck as the old farts. There is a danger that her legacy will become that. She won't be able to preach feminism in the BB house."

As her friends, contemporaries and sparring partners revealed their fears yesterday, the iconic feminist and inspirational author was joining her fellow "celebrities" in a Big Brother task called "Spin for your Dinner". While her housemates wobbled dizzily on a roundabout behind her, one of Britain's leading Shakespeare scholars and most controversial writers launched herself gamely at an assault course made up of "the abattoir", "the compost skip", "the ashtray" and other gruesome obstacles in order to win food for her housemates. The ashtray was full of stale alcohol and cigarette butts; the abattoir consisted of a vat containing a blood-like substance; the compost was just that: a heap of rotting vegetables - not something that impressed fans who admire Greer for her lofty intellectualism and outspoken views. "Big Brother is not set up for a person like Germaine to do her thing," added Greer. "She's going to be defeated by the editing suite. If they see something that's dramatic or ridicules her they will use it. She's not as smart as television."

Even at this early stage in the 18-day TV show, Greer has made her presence felt. For her argumentative ways in the kitchen and her intolerance of smoking, she has already earned the nickname "the Gorgon". During negotiations over the shopping list yesterday, she interrogated the DJ Lisa I'Anson, asking: "How fatty is it? How many in a packet? Do they have pumpernickel?" However, she has also earned a grudging respect. "I disagree with everything she says," announced the racing presenter John McCririck, who said before entering the house that his nightmare housemate would be "flat-chested, bossy women. Someone like Germaine Greer". "She's a left-winger and trendy and environmentalist and women's equality and all that nonsense," he added. "But she's saved us in this house."

Outside the house, she does have support. The feminist writer Beatrix Campbell described her as "quixotic, anarchic, impressive, surprising, game, witty and up for a laugh". "She's full of curiosity and she'll want to make it work," she added, "to show us how a mature, radical woman can be: funny, sexy, serious and capable of managing a complex congregation of people having a good time."

The writer Tim Lott is also a fan. "I couldn't believe it when I heard, but when I thought about it, it made perfect sense," he said. "It's typically eccentric of her. She's wonderfully loopy." But like Campbell, Lott thinks Greer will have a hard time keeping her patience and dealing with the crushing boredom of life in the Big Brother house. "I very much hope she wins it but I can't imagine what she's doing in there with all those losers," he said. "It's like there are all these minnows and this brilliant icon has appeared among them. She's very impatient with people who aren't very clever."

While her supporters are wishing her the very best of luck, the suspicion that Greer has sold her soul to the reality TV devil is gaining currency. Even Ann Widdecombe, the star of ITV's Celebrity Fit Club, sneers at the format. "I hope she'll be herself but I won't be cheering anybody on because I shan't watch Big Brother," she said. "Fit Club has a point because you lose weight. But there's no point to Big Brother. I don't know why she's doing it, whether she's dumbing down. Well, that she must answer for herself."

News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
News
Jennifer Lawrence at the Vanity Fair Academy Awards party in February 2014
people12 undisclosed female victims are seeking $100m in damages
Arts and Entertainment
Adam Levine plays a butcher who obsessively stalks a woman in Maroon 5's 'Animals' music video
music'Animals' video 'promotes sexual violence against women'
News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
voicesI like surprises - that's why I'm bringing them back to politics, writes Nigel Farage
News
Bear and hare woodland scene from John Lewis Christmas advert
newsRetailer breaks with tradition, selling real festive fir trees online for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Anthony Horowitz will write the next 007 novel
booksAnthony Horowitz to write new instalment in spy series for 2015
News
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
people
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
Kicking on: Nathaniel Clyne is relishing the challenge of the Premier League after moving from Crystal Palace
footballSurprises include a first ever call-up for one Southampton star
Voices
4 May 2013: The sun rises over Tower Bridge in London. Temperatures across the UK could be higher than several European holiday destinations by Monday, including parts of Italy and France (Andy Hepburn/PA)
voices
News
The moon observed in visible light, topography and the GRAIL gravity gradients
science

...and it wasn't caused by an asteroid crash, as first thought

News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Account Director / AD

£Competitive + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Director with a ba...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?