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."

Arts and Entertainment
books
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
people
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from the rise of Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

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

Head of Marketing (Online & Offline, Media, Digital, Strategy)

£85000 - £100000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing - Slough, Berkshi...

Administration Assistant / Office Assistant

£18 - 20k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An Administration Assistant / Office Assistan...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution