i’m sure anyone who has studied any feminism has heard of Camille Paglia, feminism’s enfant terrible. I find that in her public speaking she rambles some but at the same time she says things that are revealing but I doubt will be received even by the next generation of feminism. In a way she commented on feminism in a shrewd way but I think missed the real point. I’m quoting here from an article called “Gifts of Speech” and the words are Camille Paglia’s which I am quoting.
And unfortunately what’s happening today, with this kind of very sanctimonious and sermonizing talk about sex that’s coming out of the rape counselors and so on, people do not realize, with all their good intentions, how oppressive this is to sex, what a disaster this is to the mind, what a disaster this is to the spirit, to allow the rape counselors to take over the cultural stage. Now the work that they do is good, and it’s wonderful that they’re there. But we cannot have this scenario being projected of male rapaciousness and brutality and female victimage. We have got to make women realize they are responsible, that sexuality is something that belongs to them. They have an enormous power in their sexuality. It’s up to them to use it correctly and to be wise about where they go and what they do. And I’m accused of being “anti-woman” because of this attitude? Because I’m bringing common sense back to the rape discourse?
What Ms. Paglia is proposing here is common sense, and that’s the very reason why it cannot be accepted by feminists in general. You see, being a victim is like being a character in a horror movie. As we all know, ever since the seventies horror movie characters have had to abandon civilized behavior in order to survive against evil being done to them. So a victim doesn’t need to consider the rights of others–being a victim transforms the victim and anyone who tries to help them into avenging angels.
Now when people say to me, “Oh, you’re always talking about feminists as if they’re monolithic. We’re not monolithic. We’re very pluralistic. We have so many different views.” No, excuse me: the date-rape issue shows that I am correct. Because there is one voice speaking about date rape from coast to coast, one voice, one stupid, shrewish, puritanical, sermonizing, hysterical voice. And where are all these sophisticated feminists supposedly out there? Where are they? Totally impotent, locked in their little burrows wherever they are, whether they’re in the East Village or Harvard. Wherever they are, they’re impotent. There’s not one voice raised to bring some sense into this hysteria. Now, I am an experienced teacher. I sympathize with the problems of freshmen, and so I believe that date-rape awareness is an excellent thing to do when students arrive, not only for the men, to warn the men that breaches of civilized behavior will not be tolerated, but also to warn the women, because unfortunately to me what’s happening is that we have a white middle-class problem. I don’t notice so many Hispanic women and African-American women going around and carrying on like this.
We’ve heard this before of course–the pluralistic argument. It’s a clever dodge because it’s really meant to distract and avoid taking responsibility. Unfortunately Paglia wrote this in 1992 and by now you can see on websites from India, Malaysia and South Africa that feminism has taken root. Of course this is because of feminist ‘consciousness raising’ done deliberately by the UN and by international conferences led by people like Gloria Steinem. However at the time that she was writing this was quite correct.
Now for a series of minor points. The idea that feminism is the first group that ever denounced rape is a gross libel to men. Throughout history, rape has been condemned by honorable men. Honorable men do not murder; honorable men do not steal; honorable men do not rape. It goes all the way back through history. Tarquin’s rape of Lucretia caused the fall of the tyrants and the beginning of the Roman Republic. This idea that somehow suddenly feminism miraculously found out that women were being exploited and raped though history is ridiculous. We have got to remove things like rape from the women’s studies context and pull it back into ethics. It belongs in ethics. We have to ask how should everyone–not just men–how should everyone be trained as a child to behave in society. We must put it in a general philosophical context. This idea of focusing in, suddenly, at the freshman year of college–it’s too late! Guess what–you’re not going to convert anyone with a few films on date-rape education, a few demonstrations, and a few pamphlets being passed out, you’re not going to change anyone’s mind. Look–ethics has always condemned such abuses. You do not have this endless series of atrocities through history. Men have also protected women. Men have given women sustenance. Men have provided for women. Men have died to defend the country for women. We must look back and acknowledge what men have done for women.
I was surprised to see her write the above. Feminists never admit this sort of thing. When you read talk of ‘rape culture’ it’s as though any man who’s not carrying a feminist acceptance card is a rape enabler. She’s absolutely right though, it’s an ethical matter. Unfortunately feminist theorists are not even vaguely interested in ethics. We’ve all had the stupid conversation where you try to explain the analogy of a woman going to a party and getting drunk or high while doing acts of deliberate sexual provocation being as stupid as leaving your car window open in a bad neighborhood you know is a bad neighborhood. We all know that we get the cry of “victim blaming” from this.
So here’s a question: if even among feminists questioning the standing dogma gets you condemned as a reactionary, what chance has anyone else?
When she says what I’m about to quote below you know it fell on deaf ears because you can see the results of it.
Men’s creation of the technological world of today has made me possible. I remember my paternal grandmother on the back porch in Endicott, scrubbing the clothes on a washboard. She had nine children. I remember that. I, her granddaughter, could have the leisure to write this book, thanks to the technological world and modern capitalism, which has such a bad rep. Look around the world, okay, and see what the reality is. Oh, I thank God I was born an American, I thank God. When I got to Europe–I feel the smog of convention hanging everywhere in Europe, even in England, which is a very free-speaking and free-thinking country. In America, woman is at her freest. Never in history have women been freer than they are here. And this idea, this bitching, bitching, kvetching about capitalism and America and men, this whining–it’s infantile, it’s an adolescent condition, it’s bad for women. It’s very, very bad to convince young women that they have been victims and that their heritage is nothing but victimization. This is another perversion.
I was thinking about that article lower down about how men need to man up in order to deal with women, looking at what is above. There is no gratitude. Gratitude is presented as being a dirty word. I’m sure we all remember the debates on CF about how ‘that’s just what he SHOULD be doing!’ Yes, holding a steady job you may not even like, trying to also contribute to housework, raising the kids, taking the kids to school, doing the parent-teacher stuff, trying to be a good dad, trying to be a good lover, trying to learn her communication style…that’s just a GIVEN, gentlemen! Same as creating a civilization, darn it! She DESERVES it! Haven’t we all heard that on Mother’s Day in Church? She DESERVES it.
Well heck, that’s a lot easier on the ears than “women, you are responsible for your own actions”. Let me emphasize again: even those among their own number cannot say this without being reviled. We all saw this with the handful of women who tried to say it on CF. Only the ones who said it meekly, delicately and quietly and then gave lots of empathy nods were given any mercy; those who were bluntly honest were run out of town on a rail, figuratively speaking. This is why in my opinion there’s no point in debating them ever again.
Recently I watched a panel of feminist men on youtube talking about feminism. You’d think that it was still 1946 the way they were talking, as though the average man needed to wash more dishes and appreciate his wife more. We can expect to see more guys being feminist mouthpieces. And we know that it’s impossible to debate them too.