the dangers of anti-feminist intellectualism

Posted: August 18, 2007 in All and Sundry, feminisms, Random Observations, Rants

i’ve said this before and i will say this again, pardon all you camille paglia fans out there (this is not meant to demean her intellectual holiness, iconoclast as she is), that camille paglia’s work on feminism can sometimes be “dangerous” especially if read by undergraduate students and those who still don’t have any clear understanding of the different trajectories of feminism(s). especially that of third-world feminism that clearly attempts to address the specific realities of women in these parts of the world that are totally different from paglia’s sanitary comfort zone of a high-chair intellectualism.

my sentiments are clear. while paglia sitting in her high-chair tries writes against the establishment (that of glorai steinem), in the process getting support from the likes of harold bloom, women in other parts of the world have died of rape, incest, of slave-labor, of fistula, among other harrowing experiences that render them “victims”–a word paglia totally writes against since she believes that feminism has banked on “victimage.”

my irritation stemmed from so many things. and one of that is when i read one of my students’ paper on kermia polotan’s the virgin and sounds of sunday that cited paglia’s statements from her book vamps and tramps. the student reads miss mijares as “cockteaser” citing paglia’s statement as support:

“A major failing of most feminist ideology is its dumb, ungenerous stereotyping of men as tyrants and abusers, …men are tormented by women’s flirtatiousness and hemming and hawing, their manipulations and changeableness, their humiliating rejections. Cock teasing is a universal reality. [It is part of women’s merciless testing and cold-eyed comparison shopping for potential mates. Men will do anything to win the favor of women. Women literally size up men- “What can you show me?”- in bed and out. If middle class feminists think they conduct their love lives perfectly rationally, without any instinctual influences from biology, they are imbeciles.] (Vamps & Tramps, p. 35)

the student clearly took paglia’s statement out of context. she deleted the last part of the statement and ended on the sentence: “cockteasing is a universal reality.” for all of paglia’s criticisms towards judith butler’s lack understanding of science, she herself falls prey in generalizing “cockteasing” as a behavior that is universal. she herself has in fact fallen prey to the obvious easy route of totalizing and homogenizing women’s experiences.

but that is not my point here. judging from the way the student cited paglia is an example of lack of scholarship, and critical judgment, a mistake often committed even by most educated people i know who usually have little understanding of what feminism is all about.

simple example is that when a student answers, “feminism fights for equality between men and women” a teacher would regard that answer as wrong. feminism is not like that. it is… it is… and it ends there. most of the time, it ends with “but feminists want to be better than men.”

in my opinion, the student’s answer above, simple at is, is correct. one of the basic causes that the first wave feminists fought for was equality. equality in the sense of equal opportunities afforded to both men and women. today, feminism has grown into feminisms with various arguments that don’t necessarily agree with each other but are basically based on the basic tenets of equality, with dismantling patriarchy thrown in the bag.

but i digress. what i realized after reading my student’s paper that cited paglia is that professor carol sobritchea, my teacher in feminist theories, was right. the internet, no matter how symbolical it is of free speech and equal access to information, is also a site for individuals who seek to destroy feminism by giving out incorrect information about it. judging feminists as man-haters or feminazis. and i’m not talking about paglia here. god knows what would happen to me if i accuse her of that. i’m talking about people who use her works to justify their disdain against feminism, against the gay rights movement, against political correctness without further educating themselves.

now, my work is not yet over. it has in fact become very difficult. (sigh)

  1. Scanlon says:

    Actually, I felt from the very beginning that Camille Paglia was an utter fool, who is acting more out of a sort of personal resentment at various things, than any real arguement, but that she is actually a misogynist. How a lesbian became such a misogynist is a strange story, but her theories are largely a sort of dressed up pseudo-intellectualism.

    For one thing her books are filled with various false assumptions, questionable inferences, and a list of things that are demonstrably untrue. The list of all the above, is so long that I feel like a cat in a fish store “Where do I begin?”

    A basic sampler:

    1) “Lorena Bobbit was the beginning of a trend.” Uh. No.

    2) “Women are more Chthonic than men.” Matter of opinon.

    3) “Language is not something women are geared towards.” Right and some sexists would say the opposite.

    4) “Women are shaped by their inability to urinate standing” Heh, heh, heh. The things you don’t know about Camille for all your claimed sophistication.

    5) “Men find sex with women a humiliation.” Okkkaaaay.

    6) “Homosexuality has nothing to do with genetics.” Ummhuh. And you claims feminists ignore the sciences.

    7) “Roman women were tougher than modern career women.” Do you know any?

    8) “S&M is the result of sexual freedom.” OK. How do you know it’s not just that sexual freedom makes people more open about it?

    The list goes on and on.

  2. Ted Burrett says:

    My fellow on Orkut shared this link and I’m not dissapointed that I came to your blog.

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