'F' is not just for feminist as Greer enters the house

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The Independent Online

She is a respected academic, writer and critic, until recently professor of English at Warwick University and one of the world's best known feminist voices. And now Germaine Greer, author of the seminal The Female Eunuch, is on Celebrity Big Brother, along with the usual clutch of faded soap stars, models and boy-band members.

She is a respected academic, writer and critic, until recently professor of English at Warwick University and one of the world's best known feminist voices. And now Germaine Greer, author of the seminal The Female Eunuch, is on Celebrity Big Brother, along with the usual clutch of faded soap stars, models and boy-band members.

By taking part, Professor Greer, 65, is succumbing to her more raunchy side. This is, after all, someone who in the past has posed nude for men's magazines, written extensively about her own sex life and has told the Big Brother website she rarely wears underwear, so will have to remember to "have my bits covered".

Her invitation suggests that the participation of an intellectual and outspoken woman is now compulsory for reality television. The programme-makers are hoping for a repeat of the performance of Janet Street-Porter, an Independent columnist, on I'm a Celebrity Get Me out of Here!, who clearly won over viewers and won more than normal attention from the serious newspapers, giving the show credibility bonus points.

But Professor Greer has been deeply critical of reality television, saying watching was "as dignified as looking through the keyhole in your teenage child's bedroom door".

"Whatever made her do it?" asked the critic Nicholas de Jongh in the London Evening Standard, saying her appearance was akin to Tony Blair admitting he was wrong about Iraq. "Was it madness or masochism? Did the lure of the camera appeal to her vanities? Will the truth seep out in coming weeks?" Professor Greer has a more prosaic reason: she is doing it to raise money for Buglife, a charity of which she is vice-president. And she has entered into the spirit of the occasion, saying she is there "to strike a blow for the old ladies'' and confessing that the hardest part will be never being alone.

The feminist has clearly been set up against a male opposite - the chauvinist, anti-intellectual John McCririck, a racing pundit for Channel 4. McCririck, who sports a deerstalker, sideburns and professes a liking for "big breasts", admits to being "a deeply unpleasant person" with unpalatable views and said beforehand that his worst nightmare was being incarcerated with Professor Greer.

The two clashed within hours of the show starting on Thursday night, when they became involved in a row with another contestant, Caprice, a model, whom he accused of "having it easy" on account of her looks. Professor Greer leapt to her sister's defence, telling him: "For fuck's sake John, leave the woman alone. You know sweet fuck-all about her." Whether Professor Greer will side with the other female contestants - Brigitte Nielsen, the actress, and Lisa L'Anson, the DJ, or end up sharing the waterbed with one of the other males remains to be seen.

What is known about this year's show - the first since 2002 - is that the production company, Endemol, has been forced to scratch around for contestants, who have been reluctant to participate in what many see as a show overtaken in the popularity stakes by I'm a Celebrity... The opener attracted around 5.2 million viewers, two million down on 2002. Those who have turned down an offer are said to include the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and Cherie Blair's style guru, Carole Caplin.

For the first time, the contestants are being paid appearance fees, of between £30,000 and £100,000, and are competing for a £50,000 first prize. Proceeds from text and telephone votes will be divided equally among their chosen charities. A percentage of money made from each public vote will be donated to the victims of the tsunami disaster.

Favourite to win at 2-1 is Jeremy Edwards, 33, a former actor in the medical soap Holby City, while McCririck is 3-1 favourite to be evicted first. Greer is currently 16-1 to win.

WHO'S IN THE HOUSE

BEZ

Real name Mark Berry, 40. Former "freaky dancer" with the Happy Mondays and drinking partner of frontman Shaun Ryder. Now an occasional DJ.

Chosen charity: tsunami DEC. Joint favourite to win: 2/1.

LISA I'ANSON

A presenter and DJ for BBC London. Her Radio 1 career nosedived after she missed a show through too much partying on Ibiza. She said she intends to break the rules of the house: cue compliance.

Chosen charity: Action Aid. Odds: 7/1.

JEREMY EDWARDS

Aged 33, his break as an actor came in Hollyoaks and he later starred in Holby City. Once the boyfriend of singer Rachel Stevens; the pair split a year ago.

Chosen charity: Mind. Joint favourite to win: 2/1.

JOHN McCRIRICK

Channel 4's racing pundit, known for his clothes and using tic-tac, the bookies' sign language. Has a sideline as a right-wing chauvinist.

Chosen charity: Greatwood Caring for Retired Racehorses. Odds: 8/1.

KENZIE

From the east London top 10 pop band Blazin' Squad and 19 on Thursday, he is the youngest Big Brother housemate yet. Still lives at home.

Chosen charity: the tsunami Disasters Emergency Committee (the DEC). 5/1

BRIGITTE NIELSEN

Danish actress and singer, 41. Claims to fame are height (6ft 1in) and a marriage to Sly Stallone. Been in Rocky IV, Beverly Hills Cop II, and Denmark's BB VIP.

Chosen charity: The Abandoned Streetkids of Brazil. Odds: 12/1.

CAPRICE BOURRET

Aged 33, for some years, rose to fame by wearing an almost see-through dress at an awards event. Nominally a model, she has appeared in minor TV roles, dated footballers and had a lingerie line.

Chosen charity: Childline. Odds: 7/1.

GERMAINE GREER

The oldest contestant, at 65, has been a feature of academic and critical life in Britain since The Female Eunuch in 1970; retired as professor of English at Warwick University in 2003.

Chosen charity: Buglife. Odds: 16/1.

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