Germain Greer says we were all so caught up in a race debate surrounding the controversial Aussie cartoon of Serena Williams that we missed a crucial point.

In a fiery Q&A debate, the outspoken feminist claimed that while the world was discussing whether or not Mark Knight's caricature was racist, we should also have been asking whether or not it was sexist.

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.

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"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."