Camille Paglia is pissing me off again; the universe has righted itself at last
About a week before the horrible events that took place at Virginia Tech, I took a late-evening stroll to the gym. I planned on watching the Daily Show (we haven’t had a TV since the winter) while I sweated.
The gym at my apartment complex is a small space with a glass wall that reflects all corners of the room. When I got to the door and punched the code in, I noticed that the lights were off. I flipped on the lights, only to see a young man’s reflection in the mirror. He was standing in the corner of the room, head bowed. He was in his exercise clothes, so I didn’t worry too much at first – I’ve seen people meditate before their work-outs before. He looked like a typical Dukie – clean-shaven, with nice trainers and shaggy hair.
However, when I got on the treadmill, I noticed that he was staring at me. Staring at me, not in a curious or even flirtatious way, but staring blankly and forebodingly. Not a single muscle in his face moved. He didn’t care that I noticed him doing it. He just stared.
A quick glance around the room told be that if I ran out for the exit, he could cut me off in no time. So I stared back, and, after the charade had gone on long enough, asked him in a loud voice, “Am I bothering you?” He mumbled “no,” and went outside, only to stand at the glass door and continue leering. I didn’t even pretend to ignore him. I stared right back. He finally shuffled off, but I had the feeling he was watching me from the parking lot. When I emerged some time later, I saw him walking briskly ahead of me.
Camille Paglia thinks that if he had pulled a gun from the pockets of those baggy pants of his and shot me in the head, it would have probably been my fault, and the fault of hussies like me.
It makes perfect sense: here is a lonely weirdo who slinks around in the dark. Everyone around him is probably getting laid (never mind that promiscuity among college students and beyond has not been proven to be a major epidemic – that’s OK, who cares about verifying data? It’s a glamorous subject for pontificators on masculinity and Eros and the like). He tries to harass a girl (who looks like she’s probably getting laid – after all, she wore shorts to the gym), only to find himself rebuked. Time to splatter her all over that squeaky treadmill!
The sheer amount of people hitching their wagons to this particular disaster is nauseating enough, without someone like Paglia issuing pseudo-academic tripe on the subject. At least Tom Wolfe was entertaining when he set about dehumanizing undergraduates.
Paglia talks about women being shameless hussies, then turns around and essentially says that if only they had put out to Cho – 33 people wouldn’t be dead now. Paglia’s real problem is the notion of choice – “masculinity” (or, rather, Paglia’s version of masculinity) should not be constrained by women closing and opening their legs when and where they want to. Considering Paglia’s views, I’m almost surprised she hasn’t expressed some form of mild admiration for Cho; doesn’t he combine Apollonian coldness and efficiency with Dionysian fervour, or something?
A commenter on Feministe summed it up best:
Women are too slutty and men resent them for being whores.
Women aren’t slutty enough and men resent them for not being whores.
Women think they’re equal to men and men resent them.
Women are succeeding in college and men resent them.
Women are succeeding in the military and men resent them.
Women exist and men resent them.
I like to think of myself as someone who does not believe the tired mantra of “women are passive victims with no responsibilities.” But to try to make Cho’s case an example of some sort of larger issue of modern masculinity warped by sexually active women is just cheap.
The world is cruel to people with psychological problems – but most of them do not turn into mass killers. Call me a pessimist, but I think that trying to find a panacea for all this would only lead to another disaster.