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Camille Paglia: A Feminist Defense of Masculine Virtues

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  • Camille Paglia: A Feminist Defense of Masculine Virtues

    What you're seeing is how a civilization commits suicide," says Camille Paglia. This self-described "notorious Amazon feminist" isn't telling anyone to Lean In or asking Why Women Still Can't Have It All. No, her indictment may be as surprising as it is wide-ranging: The military is out of fashion, Americans undervalue manual labor, schools neuter male students, opinion makers deny the biological differences between men and women, and sexiness is dead. And that's just 20 minutes of our three-hour conversation. When Ms. Paglia, now 66, burst onto the national stage in 1990 with the publishing of "Sexual Personae," she immediately established herself as a feminist who was the scourge of the movement's establishment, a heretic to its orthodoxy. Pick up the 700-page tome, subtitled "Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, " and it's easy to see why. "If civilization had been left in female hands," she wrote, "we would still be living in grass huts."
    The fact that the acclaimed book—the first of six; her latest, "Glittering Images," is a survey of Western art—was rejected by seven publishers and five agents before being printed by Yale University Press only added to Ms. Paglia's sense of herself as a provocateur in a class with Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern. But unlike those radio jocks, Ms. Paglia has scholarly chops: Her dissertation adviser at Yale was Harold Bloom, and she is as likely to discuss Freud, Oscar Wilde or early Native American art as to talk about Miley Cyrus.
    Ms. Paglia relishes her outsider persona, having previously described herself as an egomaniac and "abrasive, strident and obnoxious." Talking to her is like a mental CrossFit workout. One moment she's praising pop star Rihanna ("a true artist"), then blasting ObamaCare ("a monstrosity," though she voted for the president), global warming ("a religious dogma"), and the idea that all gay people are born gay ("the biggest canard," yet she herself is a lesbian).
    Enlarge Image


    Neil Davies




    But no subject gets her going more than when I ask if she really sees a connection between society's attempts to paper over the biological distinction between men and women and the collapse of Western civilization.
    She starts by pointing to the diminished status of military service. "The entire elite class now, in finance, in politics and so on, none of them have military service—hardly anyone, there are a few. But there is no prestige attached to it anymore. That is a recipe for disaster," she says. "These people don't think in military ways, so there's this illusion out there that people are basically nice, people are basically kind, if we're just nice and benevolent to everyone they'll be nice too. They literally don't have any sense of evil or criminality."
    The results, she says, can be seen in everything from the dysfunction in Washington (where politicians "lack practical skills of analysis and construction") to what women wear. "So many women don't realize how vulnerable they are by what they're doing on the street," she says, referring to women who wear sexy clothes.
    When she has made this point in the past, Ms. Paglia—who dresses in androgynous jackets and slacks—has been told that she believes "women are at fault for their own victimization." Nonsense, she says. "I believe that every person, male and female, needs to be in a protective mode at all times of alertness to potential danger. The world is full of potential attacks, potential disasters." She calls it "street-smart feminism."
    Ms. Paglia argues that the softening of modern American society begins as early as kindergarten. "Primary-school education is a crock, basically. It's oppressive to anyone with physical energy, especially guys," she says, pointing to the most obvious example: the way many schools have cut recess. "They're making a toxic environment for boys. Primary education does everything in its power to turn boys into neuters."
    She is not the first to make this argument, as Ms. Paglia readily notes. Fellow feminist Christina Hoff Sommers has written about the "war against boys" for more than a decade. The notion was once met with derision, but now data back it up: Almost one in five high-school-age boys has been diagnosed with ADHD, boys get worse grades than girls and are less likely to go to college.
    Ms. Paglia observes this phenomenon up close with her 11-year-old son, Lucien, whom she is raising with her ex-partner, Alison Maddex, an artist and public-school teacher who lives 2 miles away. She sees the tacit elevation of "female values"—such as sensitivity, socialization and cooperation—as the main aim of teachers, rather than fostering creative energy and teaching hard geographical and historical facts.
    By her lights, things only get worse in higher education. "This PC gender politics thing—the way gender is being taught in the universities—in a very anti-male way, it's all about neutralization of maleness." The result: Upper-middle-class men who are "intimidated" and "can't say anything. . . . They understand the agenda." In other words: They avoid goring certain sacred cows by "never telling the truth to women" about sex, and by keeping "raunchy" thoughts and sexual fantasies to themselves and their laptops.
    Politically correct, inadequate education, along with the decline of America's brawny industrial base, leaves many men with "no models of manhood," she says. "Masculinity is just becoming something that is imitated from the movies. There's nothing left. There's no room for anything manly right now." The only place you can hear what men really feel these days, she claims, is on sports radio. No surprise, she is an avid listener. The energy and enthusiasm "inspires me as a writer," she says, adding: "If we had to go to war," the callers "are the men that would save the nation."
    And men aren't the only ones suffering from the decline of men. Women, particularly elite upper-middle-class women, have become "clones" condemned to "Pilates for the next 30 years," Ms. Paglia says. "Our culture doesn't allow women to know how to be womanly," adding that online pornography is increasingly the only place where men and women in our sexless culture tap into "primal energy" in a way they can't in real life.
    A key part of the remedy, she believes, is a "revalorization" of traditional male trades—the ones that allow women's studies professors to drive to work (roads), take the elevator to their office (construction), read in the library (electricity), and go to gender-neutral restrooms (plumbing).
    " Michelle Obama's going on: 'Everybody must have college.' Why? Why? What is the reason why everyone has to go to college? Especially when college is so utterly meaningless right now, it has no core curriculum" and "people end up saddled with huge debts," says Ms. Paglia. What's driving the push toward universal college is "social snobbery on the part of a lot of upper-middle-class families who want the sticker in the window."
    Ms. Paglia, who has been a professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia since 1984, sees her own students as examples. "I have woodworking students who, even while they're in class, are already earning money making furniture and so on," she says. "My career has been in art schools cause I don't get along with normal academics."
    To hear her tell it, getting along has never been Ms. Paglia's strong suit. As a child, she felt stifled by the expectations of girlhood in the 1950s. She fantasized about being a knight, not a princess. Discovering pioneering female figures as a teenager, most notably Amelia Earhart, transformed Ms. Paglia's understanding of what her future might hold.

    In The Wall Street Journal, Bari Weiss interviews Camille Paglia, who argues that ignoring the biological differences between men and women risks undermining Western civilization.
    Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
    Robert Southwell, S.J.

  • #2
    It's a good thing you're straight, because the women you choose to admire are downright scary.

    Paglia would make an excellent Eastern European dictator.
    "Since the historic ruling, the Lovings have become icons for equality. Mildred released a statement on the 40th anniversary of the ruling in 2007: 'I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, Black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.'." - Mildred Loving (Loving v. Virginia)

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Celeste Chalfonte View Post
      It's a good thing you're straight, because the women you choose to admire are downright scary.

      Paglia would make an excellent Eastern European dictator.
      Wow.

      You had a frickin' conniption when people criticized Hillary's looks years ago. You were very clear that such behavior was sexist and small-minded. I remember defending you when you did so, because I agree that people should not be judged on their looks.


      Apparently that's not really your philosophy.
      "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."
      -John Locke

      "It's all been melded together into one giant, authoritarian, leftist scream."
      -Newman

      Comment


      • #4
        Okay, I missed something. What did Celeste say that had anything to do with the author's appearance?
        Colonel Vogel : What does the diary tell you that it doesn't tell us?

        Professor Henry Jones : It tells me, that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try *reading* books instead of *burning* them!

        Comment


        • #5
          Interesting article. Misses the root cause of our sneering attitude toward labor, though.
          Colonel Vogel : What does the diary tell you that it doesn't tell us?

          Professor Henry Jones : It tells me, that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try *reading* books instead of *burning* them!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
            Okay, I missed something. What did Celeste say that had anything to do with the author's appearance?
            Right here

            Originally posted by Celeste Chalfonte View Post
            It's a good thing you're straight, because the women you choose to admire are downright scary.

            Paglia would make an excellent Eastern European dictator.
            "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."
            -John Locke

            "It's all been melded together into one giant, authoritarian, leftist scream."
            -Newman

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
              Interesting article. Misses the root cause of our sneering attitude toward labor, though.
              You mean "organized labor" because it's clear that you have a sneering attitude towards individual labor.

              That said, I'll bite: what do you think is the root cause?
              "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."
              -John Locke

              "It's all been melded together into one giant, authoritarian, leftist scream."
              -Newman

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by scott View Post
                Wow.

                You had a frickin' conniption when people criticized Hillary's looks years ago. You were very clear that such behavior was sexist and small-minded. I remember defending you when you did so, because I agree that people should not be judged on their looks.


                Apparently that's not really your philosophy.
                May I ask WTF you're talking about? What do looks have to do with anything? Philly's other girl-crush, Ann Coulter, is pretty much the classic American beauty. Paglia has great bones and while not traditionally beautiful, she's very striking and actually more attractive to my eye than Coulter. It's their worldview that's scary. Did you miss the "Eastern European dictator" part? The category, Jeopardy fans, was politics.
                Last edited by Celeste Chalfonte; Sunday, December 29, 2013, 2:38 AM.
                "Since the historic ruling, the Lovings have become icons for equality. Mildred released a statement on the 40th anniversary of the ruling in 2007: 'I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, Black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.'." - Mildred Loving (Loving v. Virginia)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Celeste Chalfonte View Post
                  May I ask WTF you're talking about? What do looks have to do with anything? Philly's other girl-crush, Ann Coulter, is pretty much the classic American beauty. Paglia has great bones and while not traditionally beautiful, she's very striking and actually more attractive to my eye than Coulter. It's their worldview that's scary. Did you miss the "Eastern European dictator" part? The category, Jeopardy fans, was politics.
                  I apologize for my mistake. I thought you were criticizing her on appearance.

                  Why bring up Adam's sexual orientation?
                  "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."
                  -John Locke

                  "It's all been melded together into one giant, authoritarian, leftist scream."
                  -Newman

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by scott View Post
                    I apologize for my mistake. I thought you were criticizing her on appearance.

                    Why bring up Adam's sexual orientation?
                    Adam's?
                    "Since the historic ruling, the Lovings have become icons for equality. Mildred released a statement on the 40th anniversary of the ruling in 2007: 'I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, Black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.'." - Mildred Loving (Loving v. Virginia)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by scott View Post

                      Why bring up Adam's sexual orientation?
                      He'd like to think he still has one.
                      The year's at the spring
                      And day's at the morn;
                      Morning's at seven;
                      The hill-side's dew-pearled;
                      The lark's on the wing;
                      The snail's on the thorn:
                      God's in his heaven—
                      All's right with the world!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I saw this over the weekend. Paglia is an equal opportunity social critic. Whether you agree with her or not, she makes her points on principles, not outcomes, which is refreshing.
                        "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by scott View Post
                          I apologize for my mistake. I thought you were criticizing her on appearance.

                          Why bring up Adam's sexual orientation?
                          I think you missed Celeste's point. Infrequently Celeste ribs me about my affection for Ann Coulter and Camille. I didn't take her comments to have anything to do with their looks and am well aware of her distaste for each of their politics. As for the sexual orientation thing, again, I believe that was directed towards me and a commentary that if I were to be a lesbian my partner surely would not be someone of whom Celeste approved.

                          No harm. No foul, just some good natured ribbing, imo.
                          Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
                          Robert Southwell, S.J.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Celeste Chalfonte View Post
                            Adam's?
                            Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
                            I think you missed Celeste's point. Infrequently Celeste ribs me about my affection for Ann Coulter and Camille. I didn't take her comments to have anything to do with their looks and am well aware of her distaste for each of their politics. As for the sexual orientation thing, again, I believe that was directed towards me and a commentary that if I were to be a lesbian my partner surely would not be someone of whom Celeste approved.

                            No harm. No foul, just some good natured ribbing, imo.
                            Funny.

                            I totally thought Adam posted it the OP.

                            "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."
                            -John Locke

                            "It's all been melded together into one giant, authoritarian, leftist scream."
                            -Newman

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I'm so fucking confused.
                              It's been ten years since that lonely day I left you
                              In the morning rain, smoking gun in hand
                              Ten lonely years but how my heart, it still remembers
                              Pray for me, momma, I'm a gypsy now

                              Comment

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