Camille Paglia - Sex, Art and American Culture

Topics: Rape, Camille Paglia, Feminism Pages: 5 (2116 words) Published: October 27, 2010
basesurge's Full Review: Camille Paglia - Sex, Art, and American Culture: E...| The best one-liner description of Camille Paglia I've heard is "contrarian feminist". That's really inadequate, "contratian" tends to imply someone who takes a contrary view for the shear delight of being contrary. Well, it'll have to do for now. Let's talk about feminism for a second. Most people these days don't consider the term "feminist" to be a cuss word. Feminism has become synonymous with "fairness". But there are really two kinds of feminism. The first kind everybody knows about. It's the kind of feminism that proposes that women should be permitted to own property, be free from beatings and sexual assault by their husbands. It maintains that Jane the Bank Teller and Jim the Bank Teller, given equal experience and performance should receive the same pay scale. Everybody this side of Fallujah can get behind this sort of feminism. Call it "Equity Feminism." Now the other sort, it's been called "Gender Feminism." Gender Feminism is a different bird altogether. Where the equity sort of feminism is often concerned with gritty realities of life, pay, safety, money, etc., it's academic sister interests itself in more rarefied issues. Practitioners of this sort of feminism tend to be members of academia or the news and commentary media. These people are generally well-educated, over-educated truth be told, and are wallow in the politics and philosophy of the academic Left. They're frequently female and often lesbian. They're wordy followers of Marx and the Three Stooges of French Post-Modernist "thought": Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. Their idea of art is Andres Serrano's "Pi@@ Christ" and Chris Ofili's elephant dung/Virgin Mary masterwork. They talk about sex incessantly but understand it not, they try to lasso it with a rope fashioned out of gassy political rhetoric. (To anybody who thinks that "sex is a political act", I refer you to the Mary Matalin/James Carville marriage.) They think Melissa Etheridge, has talent. These are the people Camille Paglia sets herself against. Paglia is an "out" lesbian from way back. A grad of Harpur College and Yale grad school, which she admits she "barely survived." She teaches Humanities and Media Studies at the University of the Arts in sunny Philadelphia. Unlike her wordy, gaseous colleagues, Paglia celebrates the Western Tradition and Popular Culture and exalts Nature. Not the cuddly mu-mu clad Gaea of modern Pagan-ettes but the real old-school Nature "red in tooth and claw." She's also very interested in sex (keep your smart-mouth comments to yourself...) I guess the best way to describe her academic goal would to be to achieve a renewed understanding of art and beauty by understanding the sexual sub-texts in the great works of the Western Tradition. This is explained, at some length, in her magnum manifesto "Sexual Personae". (As a quick note: though Paglia's views are often highly traditional, she shouldn't be pigeonholed into some kind of "Neo-Con" slot, she's pro-abortion, pro-dug legalization and pro-prostitution.) Got that? "Sex, Art and American Culture" is a collection of essays, book reviews, interviews, etc. with La Paglia. The book starts off with some short magazine pieces focusing on Pop Culture. Two things on Madonna whom Paglia adored at the time the book was published (1992). (She's cooled on her of late, coming around to my way of thinking.) Next she examines Elizabeth Taylor, contrasting her dark smoldering sensuality with the bright, perky, blondie girlishness she so abominated in her youth during the 50s (think Debbie Reynolds or Doris Day...). Next a discursion on "Homosexuality at the Fin de Siecle" and, honest to God, "The Joy of Presbyterian Sex" (Seems the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) delivered itself of a document some years ago entitled: "Keeping Body and Soul Together" which was devoted to setting out the church's views on sex, etc. (Camille read it...
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