But she also called the 36-year-old’s behaviour “repellent”, as the storm over Williams’ outburst during her US Open women’s final against Naomi Osaka rages on.
“We are so caught up in the fact that it is racist in that it gives you a version of a cliche account,” Greer told the audience.
“In fact, the game was gone already because she dropped the first set and she was looking for a way out. I mean, she is surrounded by people who expected her to win.
“I found the way she behaved really repellent, especially when she put her arm around the poor young woman who actually won the bloody thing to say, ‘I am the grand dame and you have done quite well, deary’.
“When what she had really done is thrown the match. That is what the cartoon should have been about, but it wasn’t because it was simply a coarse account of what a woman of Afro-American heritage might look like. As far as I am concerned, it missed the point.”
She was challenged on the point by host Tony Jones twice.
“Sorry, where was the issue with gender then?” he asked.
“Her behaviour was unbecoming (of) a woman,” Greer responded.
“You are saying the cartoon was sexist. I am trying to work out where the cartoon was sexist as opposed to racist?” asked Jones again.
“Because it made her into a grotesque female figure and we are used to grotesque female figures,” said Greer, before the host decided to move on.
It came during a debate about the Herald Sun cartoon in which two of the show’s panellists,
Andrew Neil — a UK politics TV show host — and Australian journalist David Marr, said the cartoon was “publishable”.
“I would have published it,” said Neil. “It is a caricature. Caricatures exaggerate features. It is a caricature of a particular individual. It is not generic like the Jim Crow cartoons.
“This is a particular individual and it captures the appalling strop that she had and her behaviour which on the court was disgraceful.
“I don’t see what is wrong with that and it also got the point across that it overshadowed the victory of the woman who actually had won the Grand Slam.”
GENDER QUOTAS WERE A ‘DISASTER’
The panel also tackled bullying and the effectiveness of gender quotas in politics, following the revelations of Liberal Julia Banks, who is quitting politics over “appalling” bullying, intimidation and harassment during the recent leadership spill.
Greer said quotas were tried under Tony Blair in Britain, and they backfired spectacularly.
“In 1997, we had 101 women elected to the House of Representatives it would be, the Commons — good word, that — we had 101 women elected that were Blair’s ‘babes’,” she said.
“These women because they had a dreadful time and they were not helped by their male colleagues. They were allowed to collapse in Prime Minister’s Questions.
“They got things wrong. They were sneered at. They were told that the timetable of the Commons would be changed so it was more family-friendly. It wasn’t.
“It was still a bear pit and they were humiliated and the whole thing was in some ways a disaster.”
However, Aussie author Sisonke Msimang disagreed, saying she would not have been able to get where she was without a quota system.
“I think that it is a false economy, this idea that somehow if you get an opportunity due to a quota system or affirmative action that, therefore, you are not worthy of that opportunity,” she said.
“So I am a proud beneficiary of affirmative action and what I am clear on is I wouldn’t have gotten a second look were it not for affirmative action and often I have gotten jobs because affirmative action allowed them to see me when they would have dismissed me again. I was the best person for the job.”
However, Mr Neil said the only way to deal with bullying in the Liberal party is to expose the pollies who have been carrying it out.
“Bullying is too important to be dealt with internally,” he said. “As I understand it, there are mechanisms in the Australian Parliament that can deal with this. If it is bad enough there are the criminal codes that can deal with this.
“If it is as bad as the women claim — and it is not for me to doubt it at all — they shouldn’t just be presenting the evidence. They should be naming names. I saw somebody today saying, ‘you don’t have to name names’. You do.
“Nothing will change if you keep it behind closed doors. They need to speak up now and name names.”
‘IT’S BECAUSE WE’RE TOO OLD TO F**K!’
In a debate which often bordered on bizarre, the panel also discussed Ms Greer’s new push to “rethink rape”.
“It’s because we’re too old to f**k!” she exclaimed at one point when she was challenged by Aussie teacher Elena Jeffcoat about the relevance of her arguments about rape within marriage to a younger generation.
“I think my generation has benefited hugely from your (Ms Greer’s) earlier works,” Ms Jeffcoat said.