Good ol’ Camille Paglia! That fearless contrarian, ready to make fellow liberals quake in their Birkenstocks at a moment’s notice!
Well, maybe. I’ve yet to meet a single liberal who consistently takes Paglia seriously, but, you know, just because we’ve never seen the Loch Ness Monster doesn’t mean it’s not out there.
Paglia trumpets her approval of any politician or entertainer who makes her hot, then attempts to pass off her crushes as profound commentary on the state of contemporary society. I have no problem with pointing out that a particular public figure is sexxxay – I do it all the time – but Paglia’s worship of Palin’s persona wavers between the ridiculous and the downright creepy.
It’s a shtick that ensures people will pay attention to Paglia, but it also makes Paglia the equivalent of the guy who hangs out in public places and keeps trying new tactics to recruit you into his cult. You pay attention to him, because you’re forced to. Also, he is fascinating in that bizarre, “is he going to bite a chicken’s head off next?” kind of way.
I was sure that Paglia was going to go wild for Sarah Palin’s cheekbones, but figured it would be interesting to see how much panting she could squeeze into a monthly column, hence subjecting myself to lines like: “…Palin has made the biggest step forward in reshaping the persona of female authority since Madonna danced her dominatrix way through the shattered puritan barricades of the feminist establishment.”
I did wonder: does Paglia still write these columns, or do they get a bot to do it? Take Madonna, add a flavour of the month, add the word “fierce” and its synonyms, drop in a mention of “the puritan feminists” or some variation on thereof, toss in the obligatory reference to Hillary Clinton as Satan, another reference to “masculinity” and “MY BOOK! READ MY BOOK!” and stir for half an hour. Voila. Pre-cooked Paglia.
Oh, but I am being unfair. For her last two columns, Paglia has been hammering away at a new attempt at controversy: the idea that abortion is *dum dum dum* murder! Castrated liberal intellectuals beware! Camille Paglia has delivered the earth-shattering suggestion that… fundamentalists have been yammering on about for some time now.
And therein lies the real reason why Paglia has not joined the Republicans: 90% of the things she says are old when coming from them. The only reason why they sound even remotely interesting coming from her is because she presents herself as a Democrat. Peel that away, and you have a whole lot of theatrics and not much else.
As a woman of child-bearing age, I have pondered the question of abortion, and whether or not it’s murder. Yet even while forcing myself to go through the motions for the sake of understanding what the people who stand outside abortion clinics are screaming about, I never got that impression, not even on an instinctual level. When I looked at my body, I pictured a tree that can sprout a bud. A bud that can turn into an acorn. I saw abortion as nipping the bud, nipping something that was still part of me and who I am, not someone else hanging out in my body.
I think that pregnancy is really beautiful. Even the gory details of it all appeal to me, because they underscore the courage required for the task.
But the beauty of pregnancy is predicated on a decision. Take that away and you’re left with a violation – just like it is when you take away a decision from sex.
Of course, Paglia couldn’t give two shits about rape victims either, so it all fits. She has consistently put blame on date-rape victims, and her latest defense of this stance comes in a form of narcissistic hand-wringing that wouldn’t be out of place at a pulpit: “I began raising the alarm about [the consequences of the sexual revolution] in my controversial writings about date rape in the early 1990s… Whether we like it or not, nature has ordained that the female reproductive system, which shelters every fetus, is far more complex and fragile than male sexuality.”
That’s interesting, because I don’t think most feminists doubt, even for a moment, the idea of women’s fragility. Where we differ from Paglia is her quaint little notion that women must shoulder the BLAME and the RESPONSIBILITY whenever it is that a man takes advantage of said fragility. Much like Kyle Payne, Paglia believes that refraining from assaulting a woman is a herculean task for a man; even worse than Kyle Payne, Paglia believes that a man who fails this arduous and noble quest can simply blame his “confused masculinity” and, better yet, a woman.
I’ve had much furious disagreement with Amanda Marcotte’s words over the years (Duke Lacrosse being the perfect, and salient, example), but I have to say she just about nailed it when she mocked Camille Paglia as “the only appreciator of the masculine life force” and said this in regards to Paglia’s crush on Palin:
I think that Paglia probably likes Palin not despite of Palin’s hostility to rape victims and unwillingness to put law enforcement on the job of fighting rape, but because of it. I dare someone to write her and bring it up, and see what she says.
I had, and continue to have, my own problems with the various branches of the feminist movement. I still try not to treat said movement as a monolith. There are lots of feminists out there, some of them religious, some radical, and if anyone ought to admit that feminism needs to have a “bigger tent,” it’s Paglia herself. At the very least, stop insisting that we’re all puritans or that we all unqestioningly follow every decree issued by Gloria Steinem.
The interesting thing about Paglia’s views on Palin’s looks in particular is that Paglia has no problem with women being feminine… until those women do or say something to piss Paglia off. A few years ago, she tore into Naomi Wolf for “putting her boobs in men’s faces” or something like that, in response to Wolf retroactively accusing Harold Bloom of inappropriate conduct. Paglia had every right to defend Bloom, if only because he is an old friend and mentor and I don’t doubt she knows him well enough to offer a solid opinion on the subject, but her tactics were veeery interesting.
In Paglia’s world, you MUST be feminine to matter, but your femininity can, and should, be used as a weapon against you at any opportunity. You can’t win. How refreshingly progressive, eh? Not to mention that pretty much every single pro-rape man uses this tactic to shame and humiliate women.
In light of all this, there is definitely something to Paglia’s ambivalence toward rape and assault and her mythologizing of Sarah Palin. For all of Paglia’s insistence that she admires “tough” women, she ultimately admires women who know their place, especially in relation to Paglia herself. That much has been obvious from her writing over the years.
And could it be that Palin really is an avenging conservative angel sent down to put all of us dessicated feminists in our places? Whenever I consider the fact that Palin has yet to do a proper press conference and wield unscripted questions from reporters, I laugh at the suggestion.
In the immortal words of DMX – “You? You ain’t strong enough.”