Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Camille Paglia on Feminism

I know you are going to find this hard to believe, but there are real people who believe that anyone who opposes today's feminist ideology is indulging in hate speech.

Thus, they fail to distinguish between offering a dissent and demonizing the opposition.

They want to criminalize differences of opinion, presumably on the ground that opposition to feminism is misogyny.

Yet, feminism contains more than its fair share of misogyny. Very little about second-wave feminism tells girls that it is good to be a woman. Too much of it sees women as victims, victims of sexism, constant abuse, discrimination and prejudice. If that is a woman’s destiny why would anyone relish being a woman.

Being an ideology, second-wave feminism has ignored reality, especially the reality of human biology.

So said Camille Paglia before an audience of students at American University. By systematically denying biology, Paglia explained, second-wave feminism has harmed young women, to say nothing of young men.

Gender-bending is all the rage nowadays and Paglia has concluded that it does not merely deny biology. It is sympatomatic of a broken culture. If people do not feel that they belong to a community, a nation or a family—at times, because these have been denounced as organized criminal conspiracies-- they experiment with different gender roles.

If American society—or is it all human society—is a patriarchal conspiracy to oppress women, no women should feel comfortable being a part of it. Thus, the fallback position, Paglia argues, is to identify primarily by gender and secondarily by membership in an ideologically-driven cult like feminism.

Paglia explained:

Furthermore, gender experimentation, while very intriguing to us today, has usually remained an exceptional practice that was not embraced by the majority in any given society. Finally, a volatility in gender roles is usually symptomatic of tensions and anxieties about larger issues. That is, sexual identity becomes a primary focus only when other forms of identification and affiliation—religious, national, tribal, familial—break down. Furthermore, while androgyny or transgender fluidity is currently regarded as progressive, such phenomena have at times helped trigger a severe counter-reaction that could last for centuries. For example, the permissiveness of imperial Rome, with its empty, ritualistic religion, created an ethical vacuum soon filled by a massive spiritual movement from the eastern Mediterranean— Christianity, which two millennia later remains a powerful global presence. Elite Romans vacationing in Pompeii or Capri undoubtedly felt that their relaxed, hedonistic world would go on forever.

Hedonism, decadence, lotus-eating… a culture that makes the pursuit of pleasure and the indulgence in leisure important values for being is headed for trouble. Whatever our problems we are not going to pleasure ourselves out of them.

In Paglia’s words:

Extravaganzas of gender experimentation sometimes precede cultural collapse, as they certainly did in Weimar Germany. Like late Rome, America too is an empire distracted by games and leisure pursuits. Now as then, there are forces aligning outside the borders, scattered fanatical hordes where the cult of heroic masculinity still has tremendous force. I close with this question: is a nation whose elite education is increasingly predicated on the neutralization of gender prepared to defend itself against that growing challenge?

How does the denial of biology hurt young women? Imagine that biology dictates that it is better for a woman to marry young and to have children young. Feminism has not offered a choice between marrying young and postponing marriage and childbearing. It has stigmatized marrying young, thus depriving women of choice.

Paglia explained:

The overflow of gender theory into real life can conceal developing problems. For example, what are the long-term consequences of the disruption of biologic patterns in our imposing on young women a male-centered career path that occupies women’s optimal years of fertility with a prolonged sequence of undergraduate and postgraduate education? By the time our most accomplished young women are ready to marry, they may be in their 30s, when pregnancy carries more risks and when their male peers suddenly have an abundant marital choice of fresher, more nubile girls in their 20s. The TV series, Sex and the City, which was a huge surprise hit internationally as well, dramatized the quandary of young career women as an unsettling mix of comedy and tragedy.

I consider it completely irresponsible that public schools offer sex education but no systematic guidance to adolescent girls, who should be thinking about how they want to structure their future lives: do they want children, and if so, when that should be scheduled, with the advantages and disadvantages of each option laid out. Because of the stubborn biologic burden of pregnancy and childbirth, these are issues that will always affect women more profoundly than men. Starting a family early has its price for an ambitious young woman, a career hiatus that may be difficult to overcome. On the other hand, the reward of being with one’s children in their formative years, instead of farming out that fleeting and irreplaceable experience to daycare centers or nannies, has an inherent emotional and perhaps spiritual value that has been lamentably ignored by second-wave feminism.

Right now in the U.S., young mothers are automatically regarded as déclassé; they are pitied for “wasting” their talents. This animus, shot through with social snobbery, must end. Colleges and universities that claim to support women’s rights must adapt to a more humane recognition of biologic needs and patterns.

Note well: Paglia is saying that sex education is oriented toward achieving pleasure, not toward offering women information that will help them to make basic life decisions.

It has been well-documented that boys and young men are also being victimized by the feminist ideology that is afoot in the school system. I have often pointed it out on this blog, and I am hardly alone in having said so.

Paglia’s take:

Similarly, our present system of primary and secondary education should be stringently reviewed for its confinement of boys to a prison-like setting that curtails their energy and requires ideological renunciation of male traits. By the time young middle class men emerge from college these days, they have been smoothed and ground down to obedient clones. The elite universities have become police states where an army of deans, sub-deans and faculty committees monitor and sanction male undergraduate speech and behavior if it violates the establishment feminist code. The now routine surveillance of students’ dating lives on American campuses would be unthinkable in Europe. Campus gender theorists can merrily wave their anti- male flag, when every man within ten miles has fled underground.

Paglia accepts that gender roles can be malleable and are often shaped by the culture. Yet, in the war between ideology and reality, reality tends to win out. Gender roles are somewhat flexible but they do have a base in biology. As she puts it, they nearly always return to the norm:

In conclusion, I do believe that gender roles are malleable and dynamically shaped by culture. However, the frequency with which gender roles return to a polarized norm, as well as the startling similarity of gender roles in societies separated by vast distances of time and space, does suggest that there is something fundamentally constant in gender that is based in concrete facts.


Suncraig said...

That must have been a bitter pill for them to swallow.

Dennis said...

The pendulum never stays in one place. The wider it swings to the Left the wider it will swing to the Right. The job of a classical liberal and a classical conservative is to try to keep it from swinging too much in either direction. This is where people like Camile Paglia Dr. Helen Smith, and a large number of women on the Right have their importance. Historically that is where some women on the Left enjoyed the same distinction.
I do not believe it is anywhere as bad some people believe it has become. I think that belief comes from "blue areas" which are not representative of the vast majority of people outside those areas. In fact I would posit that the reason one sees feminists taking some of the actions they are is because a significant number of young women are finding out that all those degrees are not paying the dividend they once thought. Also there is a natural connection between men and women that will always find its central place in life. I am more sanguine than some others.

Anonymous said...

I've always liked Paglia. Her eloquent brave scholarly celebrations of WCiv have undoubtedly blighted her own career. Her contempt for Feminist Icons like Steinham too.

I've noticed a v interesting phenomenon on visits to Naughty websites. Astounding increase in pix of young men Sissies, Ladyboys, TS/TGs, etc. Their sexual interests are diverse.

They're not like the the ones of yesteryear, who looked like jaded freaks. Many are virtually indistinguishable from attractive young ladies.

I was friends with a retired Marine Sgt Major (he died last year) who became a pornographer in the 70s. V v successful worldwide.

He was as astonished as me. And he was a Pro in the business!

I wonder how significant it is. -- Rich Lara

Leo G said...

Homerun Stuart!

Dennis said...


I have to agree with you about Camile Paglia. She stands her ground based on eloquent well reasoned argumentation which is neither pedantic nor dogmatic.
Always enjoy women who possess the intellectual capacity and capability to recognize the deeper ramifications involved in most of the issues that affect people. There seem to be so few of them.
There is education then there is real wisdom and one has to understand the difference. There is nothing more dangerous to people than a person who does not recognize the limit of one's education, which they mistakenly take as superiority, and where one lacks the skills required to effectively take action. Education is just one more tool in one's "toolbox."

sestamibi said...


Yes, it is true that the pendulum swings, but it sometimes takes fifty years or more to do so. How many lives are ruined over such a period?

Dennis said...


I suspect that the amount of time it takes depends on how far it swings to either side. An opposite and equal reaction. Unfortunately there is always a number of lives that get ruined no matter which way it swings. Time probably dictates the number.

n.n said...

The terms and circumstances of reality are or should be well understood. It's possible to tolerate minor deviations; but for objective reasons (e.g. evolutionary fitness), they cannot be normalized.

As Paglia noted, the chaotic behavior of reality is normally bounded. Unless there is a concerted natural or artificial effort, humanity will only ever suffer a local dysfunctional convergence (e.g. corruption, conflict, collapse).

n.n said...

Paglia sounds eminently reasonable. If she represents first-wave feminism, then the feminist movement, as the civil rights movement, has been corrupted. It is generational, incorporated, and unprincipled. This is an object lesson in the corruption suffered by for-profit enterprise in unproductive or counterproductive ventures.

n.n said...

The natural order of the universe is entropic. It is only by the threat of physical force, or submission to moral directives, that we are able to preserve a stable state suitable for individual and collective human development.

The fanatical elements which cause a divergence are both intra and trans-generational. However, consider that while some or many men and women may be degenerate or even psychotic, others may simply be ambitious, and are realizing a fundamental imperative: survival of the fittest. There is no evidence that particular principle of an evolutionary process pertains to a species as a whole.