You Made Crazy Grandma Cry: Camille Paglia vs. Feminism, Again

Say, have you heard of Camille Paglia? If not, good news: it turns out that you are not old. You’ve also, apparently, managed to avoid the massive headaches that she’s been inflicting on thinking people for the better part of the last two decades. Now, for the bad news: she’s back, and she’s aiming to annoy the world once more.
Here’s the deal: Camille Paglia was the Ann Coulter of the ‘90s. She wrote a book, Sexual Personae, which dealt “shockingly” with issues of sex and gender, in that it basically re-iterated the talking points of idiot wife-beaters across the nation. (Here’s a sample quote: “If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts.”) This book turned her into a popular media personality, and spawned countless essays and TV appearances; she was the go-to girl when conservatives needed to call upon some random crazy to bash women.
The peak of her career, of course, came when she took it upon herself to defend rapists, by saying that women who got drunk or wore skimpy clothes in the presence of men deserved to be sexually assaulted, because men simply could not be expected to contain their awesome sexual power. In her words, “woman’s flirtatious arts of self-concealment mean man’s approach must take the form of rape.”
However, I also enjoyed it when she claimed that women should be beaten for getting uppity (“much violence against women originates in emotional territory that they already command… women are in total, despotic control of their marriages”), and that feminism turned dudes gay (“middle-class men, neutered by office life and daunted by feminist rhetoric, are shrinking… male homosexuality is increasing, because masculinity is in crisis”). It is true, however, that nothing beats the opening chapters of Sexual Personae, in which she claims that only men are capable of creating civilization and technology, because… wait for it… they stand up to pee, and their urine streams help them transcend nature.
Yes, she actually says this.
No, I am not kidding.
Yes, it’s in the chapter where she says that women’s periods make them incapable of rational thought. Check it out.
Now, this is the thing, boys and girls: you cannot make a permanent career out of shocking people. Before long, you run out of obnoxious things to say (“only a dude could have created this Diet Coke, because it is so sparkling and transcendent – like male urine!”) or else people get tired of you. People got very tired of Paglia. The last time I saw her, she was on a Star Wars documentary special, claiming that “there is nothing sexier than Darth Vader.” This triggered, in any rational viewer, two responses: a) yes, there are lots of things sexier than Darth Vader, and b) why is that crazy old lady on my TV?
For that matter, why is she presenting lectures on feminism? It’s true: as reported by the infelicitously named journal Arion (say it aloud a few times), Paglia recently delivered a lecture on just such a topic. Her main thesis: that the feminist movement excludes dissenting points of view. Her main supporting point: no-one will accept her, Camille Paglia, as a feminist. Here’s a sample of her epic whine:

“When my first book, Sexual Personae, was published by Yale University Press in 1990, that 700-page tome on art and culture was compared by Gloria Steinem, who clearly had not bothered to read it, to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. When an op-ed I wrote on date-rape for New York Newsday in January 1991 was reprinted via syndication across the US, there was a huge reaction, including what was clearly an organized campaign of vilification: the president of my university in Philadelphia was besieged with calls from around the country calling for me to be fired from my teaching job.”

Yes, it’s true, Camille: when you say that women are incapable of creating culture, and stand up in support of rapists and wife-beaters, people might not think that you are a feminist! They also might not want you teaching their children, given the whole “rape is hot – GO DO SOME RAPING, KIDS” issue. (“You have to accept the fact that part of the sizzle of sex comes from the danger of sex. You can be overpowered.”) It’s not that we’re fascists; it’s simply that we tend to believe paid teaching professionals should not endorse crime, or, for that matter, blatant stupidity.
The fact is that feminism has one basic premise, which is that women deserve full equality and full human rights. If you agree with that, you are a feminist, and there is plenty of room within the movement for debate on how to achieve those goals. Paglia clearly doesn’t agree with it, and she never has – so her choice to carp about being “rejected” or “excluded” from the movement that she routinely attacks is just more baseless attention-mongering from a woman who’s built her career on empty ploys for notoriety (well, that and an apparently staggering love for men’s pee-streams).
I must say, though, that her lecture did impart one very astonishing fact: somehow, despite all reason, Camille Paglia still has a job.

CC Staff Rant: Fireworks and Feeling Guilty
CC Staff Rant: Fireworks and Feeling Guilty
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