What a funny, lively, and scholarly talk Camille Paglia gave at Harvard Thursday night! She was the keynote speaker at the Legacy and Future of Feminism, and she was a hoot! If you ever get a chance to see her live, you've gotta go! It was a wide-ranging talk about the history of feminism, the shortcomings of the Second Wave feminists and the "omissions of the standard narrative of the feminist movement", and Paglia's proposals for reform. I'll try to get the audio up ASAP. Some excerpts:
"Feminism is always linked to democracy. It is no coincidence that feminism was born in America and became the early model for British feminism."
"In general, feminist theory has failed to acknowledge how much it owes to Western tradition and civil liberties grounded in Ancient Greece. Second, feminist theory has failed to acknowledge how much the emergence of modern feminism owes to capitalism and the industrial revolution, which transformed the economy, expanded the professions and gave women - for the first time in history - the opportunity to earn their own living and to escape dependency on father or husband. Third, feminist has insufficiently acknowledged the degree to which the founders of the Suffrage movement were formed and influenced by religion. It is no coincidence that many early American feminists were Quakers."
Yeah, all that stuff is usually left out of the "standard feminist narrative," which generally so often criticizes Western culture, the capitalist system and religion.
The predominance of male-bashing among feminists:
"Too many Second Wave feminists extrapolated their discontent to condemn all men everywhere and throughout history."
Snap shot of Gloria Steinem (very funny, listen to the whole thing):
"She was a tireless, peripatetic activist, but virtually from the start, she played the role of strict guardian of a victim-centered ideology that did not permit alternative viewpoints."
Paglia fits an awful lot into one sentence.
Paglia even gives kudos to the abstinence movement and to Wendy Shalit, author of Return to Modesty:
"As a veteran of pro-sex feminism, who still endorses pornography and prostitution, I say more power to all those chaste young women who are defending their individuality and defying group-think and social convention. That is true feminism!"
Paglia had three proposals for reform of the feminist movement:
- Science! Science must be made a fundamental component of women's or gender studies. Right now, it is verboten in feminist circles to suggest that there are real biological differences between the sexes (as ridiculous as that seems).
- There must be real ideological diversity at colleges, there needs to be conservatives and dissidents teaching at colleges. Otherwise, students are getting indoctrination, not education.
- Massive rollback of the paternalistic system of "grievance committees" at college campuses. Paglia says these grievance committees have "turned American campuses into womb-like customer service resorts."
Paglia says that women of her generation fought against intrusive "in loco parentis" rules at their colleges. She notes that college administrators "have no competence whatever to investigate crimes, including sexual assualt." If an offense has been committed, it should be reported to the police, to guarantee the civil liberties of the accuser and the accused can be protected.
Her concluding remark:
"We must stop seeing everything in life through the narrow lens of gender. If women expect equal treatment in society, they must stop asking for infantilizing special protections. With freedom, comes individual responsibility."
Lots of clapping, laughter and support from the crowd.