I’d heard of Camille Paglia over the years, here and there. I knew she was a longtime prominent feminist. I knew she was an iconic firebrand. But I wasn’t closely familiar with her work.
Now I see that’s my loss.
Paglia recently defended Duck Dynasty television reality star Phil Robertson’s right to express his religious beliefs, calling a decision to suspend him for comments against homosexuality, as well as the cacophony of outrage over Robertson’s opinions, “punitive PC, utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist.”
But what she said following that popular soundbite is what really caught my eye, especially as someone who constantly sounds the alarm over the way in which scholars at universities across this nation turn bright young students into robotic leftist drones.
Paglia, a professor, called out her peers – bigtime:
“I think that this intolerance by gay activists toward the full spectrum of human beliefs is a sign of immaturity, juvenility. This is not the mark of a true intellectual life. This is why there is no cultural life now in the U.S. Why nothing is of interest coming from the major media in terms of cultural criticism.”
“Why the graduates of the Ivy League with their A, A, A+ grades are complete cultural illiterates, etc., is because they are not being educated in any way to give respect to opposing viewpoints. There is a dialogue going on human civilization, for heaven sakes. It’s not just this monologue coming from fanatics who have displaced the religious beliefs of their parents into a political movement. And that is what happened to feminism, and that is what happened to gay activism, a fanaticism.”
I started to realize I really like this lady, and then I stumbled across a Dec. 28 Wall Street Journal article on Paglia, and I fell harder.
‘What you’re seeing is how a civilization commits suicide,” says Camille Paglia. This self-described “notorious Amazon feminist” isn’t telling anyone to Lean In or asking Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. No, her indictment may be as surprising as it is wide-ranging: The military is out of fashion, Americans undervalue manual labor, schools neuter male students, opinion makers deny the biological differences between men and women, and sexiness is dead. And that’s just 20 minutes of our three-hour conversation.
It only got better. Here’s a few more highlights:
Ms. Paglia relishes her outsider persona, having previously described herself as an egomaniac and “abrasive, strident and obnoxious.” Talking to her is like a mental CrossFit workout. One moment she’s praising pop star Rihanna (“a true artist”), then blasting ObamaCare (“a monstrosity,” though she voted for the president), global warming (“a religious dogma”), and the idea that all gay people are born gay (“the biggest canard,” yet she herself is a lesbian). …
By her lights, things only get worse in higher education. “This PC gender politics thing—the way gender is being taught in the universities—in a very anti-male way, it’s all about neutralization of maleness.” The result: Upper-middle-class men who are “intimidated” and “can’t say anything. . . . They understand the agenda.” In other words: They avoid goring certain sacred cows by “never telling the truth to women” about sex, and by keeping “raunchy” thoughts and sexual fantasies to themselves and their laptops. …
“Michelle Obama’s going on: ‘Everybody must have college.’ Why? Why? What is the reason why everyone has to go to college? Especially when college is so utterly meaningless right now, it has no core curriculum” and “people end up saddled with huge debts,” says Ms. Paglia. What’s driving the push toward universal college is “social snobbery on the part of a lot of upper-middle-class families who want the sticker in the window.”
Ms. Paglia, who has been a professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia since 1984, sees her own students as examples. “I have woodworking students who, even while they’re in class, are already earning money making furniture and so on,” she says. “My career has been in art schools cause I don’t get along with normal academics.” …
More important, Ms. Paglia says, if the women’s movement wants to be taken seriously again, it should tackle serious matters, like rape in India and honor killings in the Muslim world, that are “more of an outrage than some woman going on a date on the Brown University campus.”
That last line was my favorite.
I read up on some of her other recent interviews, including one from Salon.com in August during which she said “it remains baffling how anyone would think that Hillary Clinton is our party’s best chance” at the Oval Office.
Much like the Salon.com author points out: “I didn’t always agree with Paglia, but I enjoyed her as a challenging provocateur.” I am eager to learn what she has to say next.
Jennifer Kabbany is associate editor of The College Fix.