Camille Paglia on Contemporary Feminism

Camille Paglia has an interesting interview in America Magazine, of all places. Maybe I don’t give America enough credit. It is a fun article with some digs at Irish-Americans that hit a little too close to home and make me thank God I’m a quarter Bavarian.

I don’t claim to know or understand much about feminism, but I found this quote confirmed my suspicions about a deep divide within the feminist movement:

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.

It is hard not to like Paglia’s approach: you want equality? Here, take it and shut up about “microagressions”, vaguely defined “sexual assault”, and “rape culture”. Grow up, learn to take your punches and don’t be such a hapless ditz. I find myself saying “Yes! Yes!”

But then the problem: women and men are really not the same: each tends to have a different array of strengths and weakness. To throw both into direct competition with each other, to not make spaces where women and men can occasionally be free of each other, seems to set people up for stress and confusion. Couldn’t the reason so many young women are turning to “narcissistic victimology” is because they are a bit beat up and exhausted in a unisex world? And statistically young women are much more successful than their male counterparts, many of whom seem to have given up competing all together.

Somebody (not me, I’m not qualified) should try to come up with a third way feminism: yes to professional and personal opportunities, no to outmoded restrictions, but yes also the flourishing of men and women as men and women.

Here are some older posts on the subject of feminism, one in which I come across as sounding like a bitter old curmudgeon, (and get called out for it) but which I still think has a few good ideas, and another in which I look at the Marxist underpinnings of feminism.



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