The Feminist Iconoclast

Though Camille Paglia is an unwavering Nietzschean, every person even marginally libertarian or conservative should appreciate the personality of this bizarre iconoclast.

Source: The Mencken of Feminism | The American Conservative

I find myself disagreeing with Paglia more often that not, but I love having my beliefs challenged by someone who appears to be intellectually honest and arrayed so stubbornly against the conformism that pervades the American political scene.


5 thoughts on “The Feminist Iconoclast

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  1. Interesting. I don’t find Paglia intellectually honest at all. Specifically, her climate denial (her position can be summarized as “but but but volcanoes!”) is shocking in its ignorance of basic science (i.e. we’ve looked, and we know it isn’t volcanoes).

    Her reverence for right-wing talk radio. Her girl-crush on Sarah Palin (actual quote: “There is a powerful clarity of consciousness in her eyes…”). Her disdain for anything but the most traditional of gender roles (odd for a feminist, wouldn’t you say?). Her apologies for rape and sexual abuse.

    I think she passed her sell-by date long ago, and now simply shocks for the sake of shocking: famous for being famous.

  2. Fair points, Shannon. I tend to ignore positions on scientific matters taken by non-scientists, so I missed her climate ramblings, and I no more resent her media choices than I resent those taken by Al Franken or Charles Krauthammer.

    That said, while she is an atheist and I’m not, I find her variety of non-belief to be more intellectually honest than that held by Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, or the late Christopher Hitchens. Unlike the Three Horsemen, she is not blind to some of the positive influences that religion has had, and insists that we take the good with the bad rather than one or the other.

    As to her “disdain for anything but the most traditional of gender roles,” even if you believe that Paglia is the only woman on the planet who holds these views, they are if nothing else a counterweight to those feminists who hold nothing but disdain for women who choose traditional gender roles. Feminism is far more of a heterodoxy than either Rush Limbaugh or Elle Green would be comfortable admitting, and I applaud Paglia for making the point that a woman can be both a homemaker and a feminist. I know it is possible because I was raised by one and I married another.

    That said, she looses me when her arguments descend into ad hominem venom aimed against people like Gloria Steinem and Andrea Dworkin. The more extreme stances taken by both radicals are easily argued: Steinem’s lifestyle choices and Dworkin’s mental health are irrelevant.

    As I understand it – and mind you, I’ve only read the interview in Spiked – her point on rape is not about apologizing for the rapist or the abuser, but to undermine the concept of “rape culture” that seeks to classify women as powerless in a sexual context, and to make women conscious of their own power and agency in a sexual situation. But I won’t defend her on those grounds because I am insufficiently versed in her arguments to make a call either way.

  3. BTW, best quote from the Spiked article:

    “The corporate business model invented in northern Europe after the Industrial Revolution is hyper-efficient but also vampiric. Too many people, both men and women, have foolishly conflated their personal identities with their jobs. It’s a bourgeois trap and a distortion of the ultimate meaning of life.”

    I’m watching Dr. Patrick Allit’s lecture series on “The Conservative Tradition,” and it is intriguing to see when – and how – the advocacy for large corporations began leaking into the conservative mantra. That approach certainly did not sit well with Teddy Roosevelt, Ike, Earl Warren, or any mainstream conservative before Nixon, I am heartened to find growing the ranks of conservatives who (rightfully) recognize large commercial entities as an independent source of political power arrayed against the common good, and Paglia’s point deserves inclusion in that doctrine.

  4. People can choose whatever gender roles that suit them. It’s the “disdain” for the choices of others that’s the problem, and I don’t accept it from anyone. Further, I repudiate the idea that because one side calls names, that it’s OK for the other side to respond by calling names.

    Not sure where you’re going with the atheism comment (presumably you meant “Sam Harris” when you wrote “Stephen Hawking”) since none of the names you mention are “blind” to the “good” religion has achieved. In fact they each go to quite some length to discuss the “good” religion has achieved, but balance that with pointed discussion of the evil perpetrated (and still being perpetrated) by religion. In many places in the world, atheism carries a death penalty. Until that is not the case, it is, IMO, extremely rich for the religious to claim “persecution” by atheists pointing out the self-evident nonsense in their respective canons.

    The worst thing an atheist has ever said to a believer is “I think you’re wrong”. Or perhaps “when you deny the divinity of *everyone else’s* gods, what you then claim for yours seems slightly ridiculous”.

    Would that that were the worst thing believers routinely say to atheists! There’s simply no moral equivalence whatsoever. Them that claim the eternal truth take upon themselves the eternal burden of proving their claims. Jefferson’s Wall is only ever attacked from one side…

    And, fair play, Paglia makes a good point there on job vs. life. But it’s a point that’s been made often: both made better and made by better…

    The concepts behind the phrase “rape culture” don’t seek to “classify women as powerless” in any sense of the word “power”. That might be the straw man that Paglia attacks, but it’s a straw man nonetheless. I’m not going to defend the idea (its advocates can speak for themselves) besides offering this analogy: within my lifetime, drink driving has gone from being a punchline (Jober as a Sudge, Occifer!) to being utterly and completely socially unacceptable in most places. So it would be a neat and accurate shorthand to speak of a time where “drink driving culture” was prevalent, and now it’s not. This analogy says *nothing whatsoever* about the “agency” or “power” of those doing the drink driving, or the innocent lives lost due to drink driving. It’s simply shorthand.

  5. Brilliant reply. I apologize for taking so long to respond: I had the family at Disneyland.

    I can see we’ve taken off into a veritable compass-rose of directions. If you don’t mind, I’ll address some quick ones, here, and leave the rest to be answered in long-form as Responsa posts either here or on my religion blog, Hebrew Hutong.

    1. Our views may differ, but I don’t think that either Paglia or the far left feminists she opposes are engaged in name calling, at least vis-a-vise their views on proper gender roles. I see value in the arguments on both sides when both sides are represented. Are they loud, shrill, and sometimes go to far? No doubt. They continue a tradition that harkens back at least to Patrick Henry, the debates over the Constitution, and a dozen other critical debates in US history.

    2. Actually, I meant Stephen Hawking. He makes no bones about his desire to use string theory to disprove the existence of G-d, and his most recent writings demonstrate that philosophy – a desire to kill G-d – rather than science occupy his mind most. If you haven’t yet, read Christopher Norris’ critique of Hawking’s recent “The Grand Design.”

    3. I have no truck with Sam Harris. I think he’s brilliant and a worthy, honest foil to people of faith. He and Peter Singer are the best thinkers in the atheist/secularist camp. Currently reading Singer’s Practical Ethics, and Harris’ The Moral Landscape is next.

    4. If you don’t mind, I’ll deal with Hawkins, Hitchens, and Hawking – and their positions on religion – separately in upcoming posts in Hebrew Hutong. Too much to cover here.

    5. Likewise, the issue of persecution I’ll deal with later. My response demands too much exposition for a comment.

    6. On the corporation-as-eater-of-life argument, I’ll agree it is not a fresh refrain. What is new is the tiny cadre on the right who are making it to mainstream (read: “not Tea Party”) conservatives, people like Paglia and Rod Dreher (“Crunchy Cons.”) I appreciate that because I see them as advancing, from the right, the case that the joint-stock corporation as we know it has morphed into a political and social malignancy that must be either be altered, caged, or exterminated.

    7. I won’t further critique the concept “rape culture” for the same reason you will not defend it. I will say this: what troubles me about your analogy is that Mothers Against Drunk Driving sought to end drunk driving by effectively criminalizing it. But rape is already a crime and is prosecuted in every jurisdiction in America with vigor and to great effect. What are the proponents of “rape culture” trying to change, how will they do it, and will it create fewer victims of injustice, or more?

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