Camille Paglia: Fighting Old Personal Battles With New Palin SwordAs a writer, it is very easy to be defensive about people's reactions to your work and, even more so, to your thoughts. It probably starts when someone points out that you aren't pretty, which is, of course, followed by the inevitable threats of violence and people calling you stupid. Some days, it begins to feel like when people disagree with you, even for legitimate reasons, that they are all grounded in attacks on your looks, your intellect, your lifestyle choices and any one of a number of things other than that you are wrong. And so, while I appreciated Kathy G's takedown of Camille Paglia's latest loveletter to Palin and laughed aloud at Amanda Marcotte's parody, I have to admit, I have trouble feeling more than just pity for her.Paglia was once upon a time a pre-eminent feminist writer. Whether you agreed or, like me, disagreed with her, she was well-respected and well on her way to being part of the feminist canon, even if as a rape-apologist, Madonna-loving contrarian dissenter. These days, she's calling Hillary a "man-hater," calling Hillary simultaneously not pretty and not manly enough, belittling Hillary's forgiveness of Bill, insulting Madonna's appearance (while, let it be said, I had trouble finding a picture of Camille that isn't at least 10 years old if not 20), nominating Sarah Palin as the biggest new feminist thing and hating on urbanites from the distance of the suburbs for not being patriotic enough. It's kind of a sad, blow-hard-y end to what could have been an interesting career. So, to today's piece! It's that time of the month (for me, anyway) when Camille takes letters from readers. And, oh, what fan-girl and -boy pieces of trite claptrap they are... so much so that you'd think Camille never got a dissenting letter in her inbox. She's loved, you see! Respected by the masses! They don't see her constant "I am one of the masses, not a Ivory Tower intellectual despite being a wealthy, suburban lesbian professor and author" as cliché at all. And they love how she ties everything into her Italian-American roots and the "solid" women of her childhood memory, even as she rages against Hillary's body type and rags on Madonna for no longer being pretty enough. These days, Sarah Palin's more her type, as she marvels at her "digs and slams" against Biden last week and talks about how her love for Palin is something more than simply sexual:
When I watch Sarah Palin, I don't think sex — I think Amazon warrior! I admire her competitive spirit and her exuberant vitality, which borders on the supernormal. The question that keeps popping up for me is whether Palin, who was born in Idaho, could possibly be part Native American (as we know her husband is), which sometimes seems suggested by her strong facial contours. I have felt that same extraordinary energy and hyper-alertness billowing out from other women with Native American ancestry — including two overpowering celebrity icons with whom I have worked.
Someone other than me should probably talk about the way Paglia fetishizes Native American women there, I'm not sure I have the vocabulary other than to say that it made me squirm uncomfortably. That, and that I have the sneaking suspicion she wouldn't say anything nearly as complimentary about Michelle Obama. Oh right, she didn't. But let us not forget Paglia's ode to Governor Palin's language skills and intellect, which left me a bit flummoxed — especially the part where she compared to to poetry and wasn't even talking Dadaist poetry.
On the contrary, I was admiring not only her always shapely and syncopated syllables but the innate structures of her discourse — which did seem to fly by in fragments at times but are plainly ready to be filled with deeper policy knowledge, as she gains it (hopefully over the next eight years of the Obama presidencies).
Camille, I'm just going to put it out there, sometimes even poetry can say something. In fact, that's sort of its purpose. If it's just a bunch of pretty words strung together with no deeper, layered meaning, it's a fucking Hallmark card, not something that belongs in my Norton's Anthology. I could go on — God knows Paglia did — but I don't need to tread in the footsteps of Kathy and Amanda. Paglia has a good 2,000 words of sycophantic questions and breathless answers in which she acknowledges her writing skills and her superiority over the "musty circles" of "media insiders" like "that viper, Katie Couric," who obviously just edited her whole CBS news interview to make Sarah Palin look stupid. Not Camille's fantasy girl, not the woman that proves her right about feminism being for the pretty girls and the sexy girls and the ones who love men and who would never get raped because they're too smart and have sex but the right kind of sex and not too much of it and not in a way that pleases men too much or doesn't please them enough. Between Camille's many, many references to how she's totally going to vote for Obama despite her obvious ladyboner for Sarah Palin — let alone everything else she's ever written and her need to fill her column with praise for her own self — it's really hard not to just sort of feel sorry for her. She spends all her time lashing out at 10- and 20-year-old criticisms, on everything for her long-ago Madonna ladyboner to her "vision" of feminism (which is as schizophrenic as, um, well, a schizophrenic) to her fetishization of various ethinic stereotypes — including her own— and it's just starting to get a little worn around the edges. Using Palin to illustrate why she was always right is just another desperate lunge at those who disagreed with her intellectually, and those who disagreed with her ideas about feminism, femininity and sexuality —without questioning her intellect, her feminism, her femininity or her sexuality. So I understand the defensiveness on some level because I've been there. But I see now why I ought to stop. I don't want to be still talking about whether I look more like Miss Piggy or Ursula in 20 years (personal opinion: Ursula) or whether it's "right" to love Madonna (you will pry The Immaculate Collection from my cold dead hands). So, I'm going to try not to, and maybe if Camille tried to let go of those things herself, she'd find herself with more interesting things to say. Maybe. Nobody's Dummy [Salon] Related: "That Viper, Katie Couric." [The G Spot] A Day In The Life Of The Only Appreciator Of The Masculine Life Force [Pandagon] Poll of the Day: Who Does the New Wonkette Resemble? [BigHeadDC] Poor Little Female Bloggers [WizBang] Obama's Best Veep Choice [Salon] Photo via Ann Althouse