To the Conservatives That Suddenly Love Camille Paglia
Lol. You just got punk’d.
The Weekly Standard, a conservative news magazine, interviewed Camille Paglia last week, and this was the headline: “Camille Paglia: On Trump, Democrats, Transgenderism, and Islamist Terror — In a wide-ranging interview Paglia talks about Donald Trump’s successes, how Chuck Schumer emboldened the ‘resistance,’ why the left can’t condemn Islamist terrorism, and ‘the cold biological truth that sex changes are impossible.’”
“Transgenderism”? “Islamist”? Well, you know conservatives were all over that.
So what’s the problem?
Well, Camille Paglia, with her personal brand of antifeminist feminism (quick Wikipedia briefer linked lol), has been actively hostile toward the feminist movement since the ’70s all while claiming to be a feminist herself.
Oh, wait. That sounds familiar.
But she’s not a Republican by any stretch of the imagination. On the surface, she might even sound like a liberal feminist (i.e., what you think of when you think of feminism); however, she is, to be decorous, marching to a completely different beat.
She was basically the prototype libertarian bro.
There’s no shortage of reasons why I can’t imagine that conservatives would laud her like they’re doing now (I will get to that). Let’s take just a few (as well as why they’re antifeminist, if they are).
She opposed prostitution laws: This is good in theory, but it completely takes the coercive nature of the sex-work industry out of the equation. Some people are forced into prostitution because of financial circumstances, sex-trafficking, and homelessness (especially young girls without guardians). Sex work, by all means, should be decriminalized so women are not punished. It should be legal to choose to do sex work, but to completely oppose regulation is to perpetuate the more sinister aspects of the industry.
Similarly, she opposes pornography laws: Essentially, the criticism is the same as above, but to a lesser extent. The porn industry is sexist and coercive, but women should never be criticized for working in it.
She opposes drug laws: This is in-line with feminism, but conservatives would not appreciate this. Peep what Jeff Sessions said about Mary Jane: “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” (I guess that means I need new friends)
She supported John Kerry, Bernie Sanders, and Jill Stein: Ugh. Jill Stein. (She later has the audacity to call liberals “anti-science,” while voting for a woman who panders to the anti-vaxxers. Sensical.) Anyway, that isn’t really about feminism, but it definitely is something that would turn conservatives away from her.
She opposed abortion laws: This one checks out in terms of feminism, but considering abortion is the #1 issue for conservatives, I’m shocked they can overlook this one even in the face of their mutual views.
She wrote the gem, “Why I Adore the Penis, As a Radical Lesbian Feminist”: There are so many things wrong with this on so many levels, which I will get to, but barring those, she describes our favorite appendage in graphic detail. I can’t imagine conservatives are too into that kind of thing.
Actually I know they aren’t because I tried to post the link to that interview in the comments section of a conservative article that was praising her (you know, to inform), and I got blocked. Snowflake needs a safe space, I guess.
Why do conservatives love her all of a sudden?
Besides their desire to co-opt feminism for themselves, let’s just take a look at a few beliefs she expressed in the interview and over the span of her life.
She opposes affirmative actions laws
She believes rape is sexually motivated, but I’m not convinced conservatives believe this necessarily; however, among religious fundamentalists, there is a Phyllis Schlafly-like belief that marriage = a woman’s non-retractable, unconditional consent.
She says climate change is “a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence,” in the interview. This is where she accuses liberals of being anti-science, which is a good segue way into another contention.
She does not believe in distinguishing between sex and gender, much less anything Judith Butler proposes in her philosophical works on biological -sex-as-construct.
In “Why I Adore the Penis, As a Radical Lesbian Feminist” she basically glorifies male dominance through her praise of the good ol’ phallus. (Even though it’s graphic, I think it’s a sentiment with which many men who want to legislate women’s uteruses, people’s gender, and marriage implicitly agree, but maybe that’s presumptuous. Oops. My bad.) She also furthers stereotypes of lesbians as “banal” and gay men as having “such a sense of sexuality.” Ugh.
On the Daily Wire, another conservative news source, an article entitled, “Feminist Camille Paglia On Transgenderism: ‘The Cold Biological Truth Is That Sex Changes Are Impossible'” appeared shortly after the Weekly Standard interview.
This is the type of “gotcha” shit I hate. “HA! We found a woman who calls herself a feminist but also opposes half of the tenets of liberal feminism AND berates feminist leaders in the process. Feminism really is flawed!”
“Ha! Ben Carson is black, so conservative politics must not perpetuate systemic racism.”
“Ha! We have a homosexual man who doesn’t believe gay marriage should be legal, so we aren’t homophobic.”
It’s just like their praise of the somehow-still-employed Bill Maher every time he lets his Islamophobic flag fly.
There will always be someone who backs up views that actively harm people who belong to that person’s demographic. It doesn’t suddenly invalidate entire movements that aim to undo systems of oppression.
I’m not saying there’s no way to agree with someone on some things and not on others, but the tone of these conservative defenses of Paglia don’t attempt to find common ground. They’re basically hollow attempts to “disprove” feminism by spotlighting a so-called feminist with whom they would usually vehemently disagree. But I guess the enemy of my enemy really is my friend.
“Why do you read conservative news”?
Preempting that bit of criticism, I don’t know. It’s on my Facebook feed a lot. I understand the whole “if you don’t like it, don’t read it,” and I agree. BUT I read it, and I just want to refute a gross lack of understanding of who Paglia is and how she actually positions herself within the feminist movement.
Also, I’m always trying to understand why conservatives are so obsessed with feminists. Make your own movement! Call it “equalism” or whatever the hell you want. Don’t try to co-opt feminism based on one outsider’s fast-and-loose takes on feminism. It’s disingenuous, and the writers of these news outlets know that.
But I guess it did get me to click.