Camille Paglia: Provocations

“I loved the idea of the armed woman,” Paglia said of Diana the Huntress, whose image entranced her as a child. Caption from the linked article

Camille Paglia, a book, what’s not to like. I like many of you, often disagree with her, from her lifestyle to her writings, but I also admire her immoderately. There aren’t many people about who think and write more clearly and honestly. From Emily Esfahani Smith writing in City Journal.

The word “person” captures a concept so fundamental to Westerners that it can be jarring to discover that it once had a different meaning. Etymologically, “person”comes from the Latin word persona, which means “mask.” To be a person is to wear a mask, act out a role—what people today might call being fake.

But to Camille Paglia, the dissident social critic, a mask does not conceal a person’s true nature; it helps reveal it. This is why Halloween was her favorite holiday as a child. It was “a fantastic opportunity,” she told an interviewer recently, “to enact one’s repressed and forbidden self—which in my case was male.” When she was five, she dressed up as Robin Hood; at seven, she was a Roman soldier; at eight, Napoleon; at nine, Hamlet. “These masks,” Paglia told me in Philadelphia recently, “are parts of myself.”

There’s a lot of truth in that, isn’t there? Halloween is the one time of the year when we can identify with our fantasies publically if we dare.

[…] Her project in Provocations, and in much of her later work, is not to provoke simply for the sake of it, in the manner of, say, Milo Yiannopoulos. Her project is cultural populism. “I feel I should use my name recognition for service, for art,” she told the blog Bookslut in 2015. “I’m just a teacher in the classroom from beginning to end,” she added. Paglia sees culture, from the stories of the Bible to the paintings of Picasso to the ballads of Joni Mitchell, as a vast patchwork of meaning that inspires awe and delivers wisdom. She wants to bring the riches of art, literature, and religion to everyday people. […]

Endicott was in many ways like a rural Italian village—which meant that Paglia saw how gender dynamics worked in the premodern world. Her grandmothers were matriarchal, goddess-like figures, who ruled home and hearth. They dictated the affairs of Paglia’s daily life. “Eat!” they’d command her in Italian. “Sleep!” Even more severe were the petite elderly Italian ladies who would visit their homes. “You had to watch out for them,” she said, “because when they kissed you, they’d bite your earlobe.” When Paglia and her parents moved from Endicott to the top floor of a dairy farm in Oxford, New York, where her father taught high school Spanish and her mother worked as a teller at the local bank, she encountered more tough women—farmers working the animals and land. Paglia dedicated Sexual Personae to her grandmothers and a paternal aunt.

Looking back, Paglia saw that her grandmothers had their own sphere of power at home, separate from the male sphere—where older women ruled. “Young women were nothing” in that world, Paglia said. Today, it’s the opposite: women try to gain power in the male sphere of work and lose status culturally as they age. “You’re unhappy,” Paglia said of today’s professional women, “because you’re spending all day long in this mechanical professional world. But we willingly put up with that because we want the financial autonomy and freedom.”

Her childhood also instilled in her an appreciation of men, especially working-class men—the plumbers, factory workers, and policemen who keep the world going. Paglia’s paternal grandfather was a barber, and her maternal grandfather operated a leather-stretching device at the Endicott-Johnson shoe factory. Four of her uncles served in the military during World War II, and her father was an army paratrooper. “One of the reasons I’m not anti-male,” Paglia told me, “is because I saw the sacrifices made by my father’s generation in those men.”

We forget at our peril just how tough our forebearers had it, especially our foremothers, and how powerful they were in our lives. I often think of my grandmothers, one with her husband dead with 7 kids still at home, and my other one blind from glaucoma for the last 20 years of her life. I never knew them, but from what my families said, they ran a tight ship.

At 14, after seeing an item about Amelia Earhart in the newspaper, she began obsessively researching the feminist aviator, with the goal of writing a book about her. Earhart became a symbol to Paglia of “female freedom, thought, and movement.” As she researched Earhart, she also encountered figures such as politician Clare Boothe Luce, journalist Dorothy Thompson, and aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh. “These women of the twenties and thirties were amazing pioneers without all this male bashing that goes on now,” Paglia said.

Amelia, especially, fascinated me, as a kid, and yes, even now. An excellent role model for any of us.

Sterling Library was a gothic temple to scholarship—and Paglia worked with the reverence of a medieval monk. “To be a scholar,” Paglia has written, “is the greatest of vocations: to compose a devout commentary, a talmud, on the created world.” Her mother, she likes to point out, was born near the sixth-century monastery where Thomas Aquinas was educated. Her two mentors, Milton Kessler and Harold Bloom, were “visionary rabbis.” “Universities descend from medieval institutions,” she told me, “that were [intended] to train clergy, and there’s always been a model of withdrawal from the world and contemplation and honor and ethics in the academic tradition.”

Her devotion to this noble vision explains why Paglia was appalled by what happened next in academia. In the early 1970s, as she was finishing her doctoral course work, a new school of literary studies gained its first U.S. foothold at Yale and would eventually overthrow New Criticism as the main way academics would interpret texts in English departments across the country. It was known by many names: post-structuralism, continental theory, and deconstruction. Its leaders were the French theorists Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault.

Paglia was repelled by the pretensions of these French thinkers. Though she had her problems with the “old-guard professors at the Yale Graduate School,” she recognized them as “genuine scholars, passionately devoted to study and learning. They believed they had a moral obligation to seek the truth and to express it as accurately as they could,” she writes in Provocations. But the French theorists and their converts in American universities were “like high priests murmuring to each other.” Rather than revealing and clarifying the meaning of literature, they obscured it.

Wish I could have said that even a third as well. This is getting too long so we’ll leave it with: read the linked article, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be ordering Paglia’s new book, Provocations (the link goes to Amazon, but that is up to you, as well.

Monday Videos, Freemen Rising

A plaintively true video, for so many of us.

Ain’t that the truth, but here’s the kicker. I don’t do a lot of country music, never have, this one was suggested to me by an English friend, who loves it, another one commented that it took her breath away. Don’t ever think we aren’t the city on the hill, the example to the world, in everything thing we do.

But so are the British themselves, the original freemen, who won’t give up their country. This is now the number one selling single on Amazon. co. uk. I doubt Bezos is thrilled, but I am. It’s still got a lot of F-bombs though, 17.5 million to be exact. And a bit of Nigel in Brussels at the end.

This may be the funniest song since Short People, and it accurately reflects how my friends feel about it.

This is quite good, and to the point.

This is a couple of weeks old, but Isabel Oakeshott and WTO Brexit cheered on the BBC. What’s not to like?

Jordan Peterson and Camille Paglia, put your thinking caps on. It’s very good, though.

Yay! It’s Monday, again. 🙂

The Angry Mob: Video Saturday

Well, this is increasingly what we see.


Then there’s Kanye at the White House.

I can’t say I agree with everything he says, but he makes more sense than most of the Democrats.

Meanwhile the mob roars on, whatever they say.

Now open, in a theater somewhat near you, See it.

And some Paglia on how feminism is gonna kill us.

Well, that’s enough to keep us busy for now, I guess

Moving On

Well, I think it is time to look around. For me, and for millions around the world, the Kavanaugh confirmation has become a legend, an existential battle against the darkness. But he was ceremonially sworn into office by the President last night. So, while we took casualties, foremost the nominee and his family, we won.

In other things, Trump had a winning week as well. The economy still roars, with unemployment lower than it has been since before we walked on the moon, as it is for all those categories you hear about. There is a new version of the pretty bad NAFTA treaty We produce more energy than any country in the world. North Korean (and mostly Iranian) missiles aren’t flying about.

So, let’s look at something else. Camille Paglia wrote a column for The Hollywood Reporter last week. She makes some good points. And you should read it all.

For the past century, women in the Western world have liberated themselves by shedding more and more clothing, from beaches and ballrooms to today’s boldly bare-all Instagrams.

The pro-sex wing of feminism to which I belong celebrates this historical trend, which has been accelerated by Hollywood and the fashion industry as an expression of female power and autonomy. But is there a downside? With unapologetic exhibitionism now commonplace for both workplace wear and online dating, are confused messages complicating sexual relations and deepening the divide between men and women? […]

As a veteran defender of pornography and staunch admirer of strip clubs, I have to say that an overwhelming number of today’s female-authored Instagrams seem stilted, forced and strangely unsexy. Visual illiteracy is spreading: It is sadly obvious that few young people have seen classic romantic films or studied the spectacular corpus of Hollywood publicity stills, with their gorgeous sensual allure.

While I actually defend neither, I can admit that they likely serve some purpose. Nor do I do Instagram, but I don’t have to, enough floats around in general society to say that she is, without doubt, correct. One of the things that made Hollywood’s ‘golden age’ golden was the unbelievable sensuous appeal of those female stars. What we currently get, even from Hollywood, is third or fourth rate, at best, in comparison. Mostly it is simply gross dreck or dross that reinforces my desire to have nothing whatsoever to do with the film world, even its films.

Meanwhile, a movie ostensibly about sex, like the first installment of Fifty Shades of Grey (2015), was a lifeless and clinically antiseptic bore.

No American movie in decades has approached the blazing sizzle, conveyed simply by eye contact, of the first encounter of Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) and Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) on the grand staircase of Gone With the Wind (1939). Electrifying onscreen energy was once generated by stark sexual polarization — old-fashioned gender differences, rooted in biology. Campus gender theory, with its universal androgyny and rigid social constructionism, is box office poison.

Here’s a short list of incandescent star couplings whose heat is now rarely duplicated by Hollywood, even in its monotonous remakes: Anthony Quinn and Rita Hayworth in Blood and Sand (1941); Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not(1944); John Garfield and Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946); Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal in The Fountainhead (1949); Laurence Harvey and Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8 (1960); Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968); Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were (1973); and Michael Douglas and Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction (1987).

It’s telling that most of these heady erotic effects were produced onscreen with virtually no nudity, which was strictly curtailed by the studio production code from the early 1930s to the late 1960s. The sexual candor of small-budget European art films inspired American moviemakers to break free of industry censorship. The next big step in liberalizing body display was the exercise boom of the 1980s, which was kicked off by Jane Fonda’s best-selling workout book and video and made skimpy, formfitting leotards an everyday fashion statement.

I could quibble a bit with her list, a couple of my favorites aren’t on it. 🙂 But no matter she is correct.

And you know that is telling. I’m no prude, I like looking at a gorgeous young woman in a bikini (or a not so young one, for that matter) just s much as the next guy, and have no particular desire to put women in T-shirts and boxers for underwear either.

The key thing is in the proper place, you know, a bikini on the beach or at the pool, the lingerie at home, neither belongs on the street. And inappropriate isn’t sexy.

The current surplus of exposed flesh in the public realm has led to a devaluation of women and, paradoxically, to sexual ennui. A sense of appropriateness and social context has been lost, as with Ariana Grande wearing a sleeveless minidress with bared thighs to perform from the pulpit at Aretha Franklin’s funeral. That there is growing discontent with overexposure in Western women’s dress is suggested by the elegant flowing drapery of Muslim-influenced designs by Dolce & Gabbana and Oscar de la Renta, among others, in recent years. An exhibition, Contemporary Muslim Fashions, opened Sept. 22 at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

One of the greatest photographs ever taken of a Hollywood star was Edward Steichen’s 1924 close-up of Gloria Swanson through a lavishly embroidered black veil. It conveys tremendous power, dignity and enigmatic reserve. If women want respect in society, they must do their part to raise their own value. Stop throwing it away on empty display.

Indeed it has. Many things were jarring at Aretha Franklin’s funeral, but Ariana Grande’s dress was certainly one of them. It would have been fine at a party for young adults, or quite a few other places, at a funeral it was jarringly out of place and made her appear one or more of; stupid, disrespectful, or badly advised.

Ah well, Ecclesiastes does tell us (and so do the Byrds).

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

We’d do well to keep it in mind.

And you know, my vote for the sexiest woman in America in 2018 would go to Melania Trump. Lovely, dignified, and always appropriate.

Tuesday Videos

How about some videos today, some important, some mostly fun?

hard not to really enjoy JRM

I never get this flight attendant.


And a couple of long ones





“Endless, Bitter Rancor Lies Ahead”

If you were to search this site for Camille Paglia, you would find eleven articles, most of them about something she has written. It is surprising how often I find myself agreeing with her, given how different in so many ways we are. Perhaps it has to do with that we actually think, and not just feel.

In any case, here is another article where I agree with much if not all. Via Joshuapundit at WatcherofWeasels.

It’s open sex war — a grisly death match that neither men nor women will win.

Ever since The New York Times opened the floodgates last October with its report about producer Harvey Weinstein’s atrocious history of sexual harassment, there has been a torrent of accusations, ranging from the trivial to the criminal, against powerful men in all walks of life.

But no profession has been more shockingly exposed and damaged than the entertainment industry, which has posed for so long as a bastion of enlightened liberalism. Despite years of pious lip service to feminism at award shows, the fabled “casting couch” of studio-era Hollywood clearly remains stubbornly in place.

The big question is whether the present wave of revelations, often consisting of unsubstantiated allegations from decades ago, will aid women’s ambitions in the long run or whether it is already creating further problems by reviving ancient stereotypes of women as hysterical, volatile and vindictive.

Complaints to the Human Resources department after the fact are no substitute for women themselves drawing the line against offensive behavior — on the spot and in the moment. Working-class women are often so dependent on their jobs that they cannot fight back, but there is no excuse for well-educated, middle-class women to elevate career advantage or fear of social embarrassment over their own dignity and self-respect as human beings. Speak up now, or shut up later! Modern democracy is predicated on principles of due process and the presumption of innocence. […]

It was overwhelmingly men who created the machines and ultra-efficient systems of the industrial revolution, which in turn emancipated women. For the first time in history, women have gained economic independence and no longer must depend on fathers or husbands for survival. But many women seem surprised and unnerved by the competitive, pitiless forces that drive the modern professions, which were shaped by entrepreneurial male bonding. It remains to be seen whether those deep patterns of mutually bruising male teamwork, which may date from the Stone Age, can be altered to accommodate female sensitivities without reducing productivity and progress.

Women’s discontent and confusion are being worsened by the postmodernist rhetoric of academe, which asserts that gender is a social construct and that biological sex differences don’t exist or don’t matter. Speaking from my lifelong transgender perspective, I find such claims absurd. That most men and women on the planet experience and process sexuality differently, in both mind and body, is blatantly obvious to any sensible person.

The modern sexual revolution began in the Jazz Age of the 1920s, when African-American dance liberated the body and when scandalous Hollywood movies glorified illicit romance. For all its idealistic good intentions, today’s #MeToo movement, with its indiscriminate catalog of victims, is taking us back to the Victorian archetypes of early silent film, where mustache-twirling villains tied damsels in distress to railroad tracks.

A Catholic backlash to Norma Shearer’s free love frolics and Mae West’s wicked double entendres finally forced strict compliance with the infamous studio production code in 1934. But ironically, those censorious rules launched Hollywood’s supreme era, when sex had to be conveyed by suggestion and innuendo, swept by thrilling surges of romantic music.

The witty, stylish, emancipated women of 1930s and ’40s movies liked and admired men and did not denigrate them. Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy, Lena Horne, Rosalind Russell and Ingrid Bergman had it all together onscreen in ways that make today’s sermonizing women stars seem taut and strident. In the 1950s and ’60s, austere European art films attained a stunning sexual sophistication via magnetic stars like Jeanne Moreau, Delphine Seyrig and Catherine Deneuve.

The movies have always shown how elemental passions boil beneath the thin veneer of civilization. By their power of intimate close-up, movies reveal the subtleties of facial expression and the ambiguities of mood and motivation that inform the alluring rituals of sexual attraction.

Read the rest here, do it now, I’ll wait for you.

There’s not a lot to add, she is simply correct, I think, and not just in the entertainment industry. The #MeToo hysteria has gone far enough that it will hurt women’s careers for years. Why exactly, would anybody with an ounce of sanity, hire somebody that experience indicates will involve your company (and likely you) in lawsuits and blatant blackmail. Just no sense in it.

The other thing she is right about is that movies, back in the day of the obscenity code, were a lot sexier, because it was something beyond lust, and if we are honest, nobody looks as good in reality as they do in our fantasies. So they broke the taboos, they made it realistic (this all goes for violence too, by the way) and they made it uninteresting, even boring. Because what we went to the movies for was a story. What we got was soft (mostly) porn.

Just the other night, I thought it might be fun to watch a movie, and I have thousands available, just as we all do online these days. I dug around here and there for about an hour and said the heck with it. The only ones that looked interesting, I’d seen many times, because they said something to me. Be nice if they’d make movies with a story again. Yes, Dunkirk was pretty good, as was Darkest Hour, but two movies out of the US/UK movie industries in a year, or is it a decade, what a waste.


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