What does Camille Paglia have to say?
Among Americans intellectuals Camille Paglia stands out for her fearless honesty and integrity. Not one to run with the crowd Paglia possesses a refreshing level of integrity. You may agree or disagree with her analysis and her opinions, but she acquired them with her own work. Rarely if ever will you hear her trumpeting anyone’s party line. This has placed her on the outside. She has never taught at an elite academic institution. It has not been easy, but it has helped her to be sui generis, unique, original, one of a kind.
Now, to promote her new collection of essays, Free Women,Free Men: Sex, Gender, and Feminism, Paglia sat down for an interview with a website called Vice. It must have felt like a home away from home.
The free-ranging interview touched on numerous topics. Without any further ado, I present a few.
Take this paean to men’s work, to the work that men do because women do not want to do it or are not capable of doing it. Paglia is especially torqued at feminists who disrespect men, especially men who do physical labor. She does not say so in this article, but many of these men and the women who love them voted for Trump in the last election:
It is an absolute outrage how so many pampered, affluent, upper-middle-class professional women chronically spout snide anti-male feminist rhetoric, while they remain completely blind to the constant labor and sacrifices going on all around them as working-class men create and maintain the fabulous infrastructure that makes modern life possible in the Western world. Only a tiny number of women want to enter the trades where most of the nitty-gritty physical work is actually going on—plumbing, electricity, construction. Women have played virtually no role in the erection of those magnificent towers in every major city in the world. It's men who operate the cranes or set the foundations or wash windows on the 85th floor. It's men who troop out at 2:00 AM during an ice storm to restore power to neighborhoods where falling trees have brought down live wires. It's men who mix the stinking, toxic cauldrons to spread steaming hot tar on city roofs. Last year in a nearby town, I drove by a huge, chaotic scene where emergency workers in hazmat suits were struggling with a giant pipe break, as raw sewage was pouring into the street. Of course all those workers up to their knees in a torrent of thick brown water were men! I've seen figures indicating that 92 per cent of people killed on the job are men—and it's precisely because men are heroically doing most of the dangerous jobs in modern society. The bourgeois blindness of feminist leaders to low-status working-class labor by men is morally corrupt!
Point well taken. Feminists want to see more women in the board room. Why, Paglia suggests, don’t they march to have more women operating cranes, paving the streets or fixing a broken water main? Apparently, these jobs are not suitable for a proper lady. This may well be the case—you will not get an argument from me-- but does it not give the lie to the feminist theories about gender as a social construct?
Apparently, today’s women are not quite as strong as yesterday’s. So says Paglia:
I argue that country women of the agrarian era were physically and mentally stronger than today's high-profile, feminism-spouting women careerists, doing their Pilates and spinning routines at the pricey gym.
Paglia calls out Sheryl Sandberg, the queen of leaning in, for creating a deceptively dishoneset public persona:
I find Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg insufferably smug and entitled. I thought her bestselling book, Lean In, was utterly dishonest in failing to acknowledge how the affluent lifestyle of women executives like herself requires a rotating squad of servants and nannies, whom she has carefully kept invisible.
Yes, indeed, she is saying. A woman can have it all, can be the corporate executive and run a home and bring up her children… if she has an army of servants and nannies. Obviously, very, very few women can do this.
When asked about efforts on college campuses to shut down speech and to proselytize the gospel of multicultural diversity, Paglia lays the blame on the administrative state. No, not the federal bureaucracy but on the multitude of overpaid administrators who have taken power on college campuses and who are doing everything in their power to make it appear that they are needed.
The rapid, uncontrolled spread of overpaid administrators on college campuses over the past 30 years has marginalized the faculty, downgraded education, and converted students into marketing tools. Administrators are locked in a mercenary commercial relationship with tuition-paying parents and in a coercive symbiosis with intrusive regulators of the federal government. Young people have been far too passive about the degree to which their lives are being controlled by commissars of social engineering who pay lip service to liberalism but who are at root Stalinist autocrats who despise and suppress individualism. There is no excuse whatever for the grotesque rise in tuition costs, which has bankrupted families and imposed crippling debt on students trying to start their lives. When will young people wake up to the connection between rampant student debt and the administrator-sanctioned suppression of free speech on campus? Follow the money—the yellow brick road leads to the new administrator master class.
“Stalinist autocrats”… where have we heard that before?
Paglia does not let postmodern academics off the hook. She calls them “ignorant fakes.” Who knew? She adds:
Post-structuralists are ignorant fakes. They know so little about high-level intellectual history that they truly think that Foucault invented the major ideas they hail him for. He was a thief who concealed his real sources (such as Emile Durkheim and Erving Goffman). Foucault was a cynical game-player who knew literally nothing about any period or discipline before the French Revolution. The army of humanities professors who fell hard for Foucault are pitifully naïve. I don't give a damn about them—but they should be punished with derision and loss of reputation for their amoral destruction of the next generation of scholars.
For my part I think that Foucault was better than she thinks he was. And yet, what his work has become in the hands of today’s American academics, people who owe their jobs to their ability to adhere to the right ideology, is a disgrace. Of course, Foucault, wherever he is today, is probably cheering them on.