Camille Paglia is doing a long, three-part interview with Salon to celebrate the triumphantly annoying return of the ‘90s in the form of Bill Cosby, Bush vs. Clinton, political correctness, and, of course, Camille Paglia. The first part of that interview is up now, and wonderful, because no one can nail the wrong-to-right whiplash like this lady right here.
For example, on Monica Lewinsky (and Bill Clinton as a “serial abuser of working-class women,” comparable if not identical to Bill Cosby):
I mean, the failure on the part of Gloria Steinem and company to protect her was an absolute disgrace in feminist history! What bigger power differential could there be than between the president of the United States and this poor innocent girl? Not only an intern but clearly a girl who had a kind of pleading, open look to her–somebody who was looking for a father figure.
It was different, said Paglia, than the “sophisticated affairs” of European politicians.
It was frat house stuff! And Monica got nothing out of it. [...] She never got the perks of being a mistress; she was there solely to service him. And her life was completely destroyed by the publicity that followed. The Clinton’s are responsible for the destruction of Monica Lewinsky! They probably hoped that she would just go on and have a job, get married, have children, and disappear, but instead she’s like this walking ghoul.
This protectionist diminishment of Lewinsky’s easily inferred (or vicariously felt, am I right ladies) desire to blow Bill Clinton in the Oval Office is interesting in light of Paglia’s militant “take-responsibility-for-your-choices” stance when it comes to female sexual activity. Later in the interview, she talks about former Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz as such:
I call it “mattress feminism.” Perpetually lugging around your bad memories–never evolving or moving on! It’s like a parody of the worst aspects of that kind of grievance-oriented feminism. I called my feminism “Amazon feminism” or “street-smart feminism,” where you remain vigilant, learn how to defend yourself, and take responsibility for the choices you make. If something bad happens, you learn from it. You become stronger and move on.
Of course, Paglia—who says she’d have given Sulkowicz’s art project a D—doesn’t get anywhere near the complicated intersection of injury and power that’s working itself out (imperfectly and occasionally quite annoyingly) in today’s identity politics. In my eyes she’s perfectly right that one gender should not be defined by structural vulnerability—but who’s doing the defining, the rape victims or the people that rape them? She’s got an insistently masculine view of power, neglecting to understand that Sulkowicz, who she calls a “victim forever,” actually did gain a whole fucking lot of power—if an ugly, very “female” kind of power—through her project.
“Current feminism simply doesn’t perceive the power of women vis-a-vis men,” she says elsewhere in the interview:
This is why women are having so much trouble dealing with men in the feminist era. They don’t understand men, and they demonize men. They accord to men far more power than men actually have in sex. Women control the sexual world in ways that most feminists simply don’t understand.
Hmm. Well, in a way, sure, Paglia, I feel you—in general, I think women could stand to recognize and perhaps care solely about whatever power is available to them—and so, for that matter, does Earl Sweatshirt:
But I wonder what all those women who no one believed about Bill Cosby would have to say about this vast untapped reserve of sexual control we’ve been sitting on in the service of identity politics. Oh, and speaking of Cosby:
He required the women to be inert. He needed them to be dead! Cosby is actually a necrophiliac–a style that was popular in the late Victorian period in the nineteenth-century.
It’s hard to believe now, but you had men digging up corpses from graveyards, stealing the bodies, hiding them under their beds, and then having sex with them. So that’s exactly what’s happening here: to give a woman a drug, to make her inert, to make her dead is the man saying that I need her to be dead for me to function. She’s too powerful for me as a living woman. And this is what is also going on in those barbaric fraternity orgies, where women are sexually assaulted while lying unconscious. And women don’t understand this! They have no idea why any men would find it arousing to have sex with a young woman who’s passed out at a fraternity house. But it’s necrophilia–this fear and envy of a woman’s power.
By power, she means the ability of us “magical life-creators” to force tiny men out (and also in—high-five) of our vaginas. She does not mean the power to wear short skirts and whatever other things our unholy Spice Girl-boosted self-esteem tells us to put on each morning. That power comes with great responsibilities—namely, as Paglia detailed last year, to take more personal responsibility and also learn self-defense.
Anyway, welcome to Olive Garden, read the rest of the interview right here.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image via AP