Sunday, March 8, 2015

Camille Paglia's Critique of Feminism

Camille Paglia 

In my experience, people mostly seek out people whose beliefs confirm their own views. Those people probably avoid the commentary and writings of Camille Paglia.

As you might guess, I think this is their loss.

Paglia, a professor at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, is an interesting intellectual.  She trained in the classics and yet is absorbed with modern culture.  Lesbian and raised Catholic, she has let fly with challenging observations in books and articles discussing everything from serious poetry to the Real Housewives.

For this, she has earned the disdain of hard-line feminists and conservatives and religious people. She writes for the general audience as well as the group-think eggheads who flourish in the groves of academe.  You don't have to agree with Paglia on every issue -- who could? -- to appreciate what she has to say.

Today I share her critique of the current state of feminism in an answer to a question posed by a Jesuit interviewer. Like most of her observations, it is energetic and challenging.

In your view, what’s wrong with American feminism today, and what can it do to improve?

After the great victory won by my insurgent, pro-sex, pro-fashion wing of feminism in the 1990s, American and British feminism has amazingly collapsed backward again into whining, narcissistic victimology. As in the hoary old days of Gloria Steinem and her Stalinist cohorts, we are endlessly subjected to the hackneyed scenario of history as a toxic wasteland of vicious male oppression and gruesome female suffering. 

College campuses are hysterically portrayed as rape extravaganzas where women are helpless fluffs with no control over their own choices and behavior. 

I am an equal opportunity feminist: That is, I call for the removal of all barriers to women's advance in the professional and political realms. However, I oppose special protections for women, which I reject as demeaning and infantilizing. 

My principal demand (as I have been repeating for nearly 25 years) is for colleges to confine themselves to education and to cease their tyrannical surveillance of students' social lives. If a real crime is committed, it must be reported to the police. College officials and committees have neither the expertise nor the legal right to be conducting investigations into he said/she said campus dating fiascos. 

Too many of today's young feminists seem to want hovering, paternalistic authority figures to protect and soothe them, an attitude I regard as servile, reactionary and glaringly bourgeois. The world can never be made totally safe for anyone, male or female: there will always be sociopaths and psychotics impervious to social controls. 

I call my system "street-smart feminism":  There is no substitute for wary vigilance and personal responsibility.
"The Catholic Pagan:
10 Questions for Camille Paglia"
Sean Salai
America Magazine
February 25, 2015 

Note:  Paglia's answers to the other questions in the article are also interesting and worth a look.   

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