Camille Paglia Critical Thinkings Examples
Camille Paglia labels herself a “feminist” but her brand of feminism is not in alignment with the current flavor of the movement. A tone of hatred against men and patriarchy has become prevalent among many of today’s feminist voices, there is a growing sense of disdain for anything that can be associated with masculinity. The result of this transition can even be seen in today’s version of leadership which places an emphasis on feminine traits such as sensitivity, compassion and collaboration while demonizing masculine traits such as egoism, aggression and independence. Paglia believes nature created women to be superior to men in the area of creating life, in a recent piece in Time Magazine she states: “It is women’s superior biological status as magical life-creator that is profaned and annihilated by the barbarism of sex crime.” (Paglia, 2014) That being said, she believes modern civilization is a creation of men. In short, Paglia sees men and women as very different and equally important stemming from the biological core of human nature – a notion that is opposition to the refrain that gender is a social construct. In an essay from her book Sexual Personae Paglia makes several points about the nature of humanity to support her stance.
Paglia challenges the modern day feminist belief that patriarchy was intentionally established by men as a form of oppression against women. She does not agree that men created a system specifically to repress women, she believes that humans are inherently reliant on structures in which all but the strong are subservient to that which is more powerful. Paglia supports her stance with this evidence: “When men are free, they seek new ways to enslave themselves, through drugs or depression.” The main point of Paglia’s stance is that, contrary to popular belief, patriarchy is a system which results in a society where men protect women and the sexual liberation that current feminists are pushing for will actually harm women more than help: “My theory is that whenever sexual freedom is sought or achieved, sadomasochism will not be far behind.” Paglia’s argument is strong in that it does stand to reason that women are physically less powerful than men and destroying the social construct in which men honor and protect women could likely result in a world that is much less safe for women. However, she does not take into account theories that oppose her idea that society is the only thing that keeps human behavior – particularly male behavior – in check. Her theory is based on the notion that man is inherently wild and tamed by society whereas there is the possibility that man is inherently good and the oppression of society brings out a rage that results in violence. Paglia’s argument would be stronger if she provided thoughts that supported her beliefs regardless of whether or not man is inherently violent or good. Another point she makes is her reasoning as to why men are driven to be more active than women.
Paglia believes that men must work harder to understand their place in the world whereas women can just be, this is evident even in sexual intercourse. “The basic mechanics of conception require action in the male but nothing more than passive receptivity in the female.” Her stance is that this need to act results in a state of constant anxiety for men and a need to relieve that anxiety which leads to violence against women. In other words, the male biological makeup results in a savagery inherent to men that women do not share. Paglia’s reasoning is sound in the area of sexual intercourse. It is true that for procreation to take place a woman can act in a completely passive manner while a man must exert himself. While that descriptor is accurate for sexual intercourse, the premise that women are inherently more at peace with their place in the world is not well supported. Paglia states: “Women tend to be more realistic and less obsessional because of the tolerance of ambiguity, which they learn from their inability to learn about their own bodies.” This assertion is not backed up with statistics which makes it a weak argument. Paglia may believe that women tend to be more realistic and less obsessional but evidence may beg to differ. Her argument would be much stronger if she backed up her opinion with fact rather than relying only on her interpretation of how women tend to be. She also makes interesting claims about nature’s response to sexual liberation.
Paglia insists “The search for freedom through sex is doomed to fail”. One of the examples she gives to support her belief is “Nature wins again by making disease the price of promiscuous sex.” She also claims there is a deep calling for monogamy within women: “Even in liberated women there is some biological restraint whispering: keep the birth canal clean.” In essence, this portion of her argument is reliant on a belief in a natural order which demands people maintain sexual intimacy with one partner alone. Her evidence is stronger for this argument, the fact of sexually transmitted diseases curbing a desire for promiscuity is sound. It also stands to reason that women are deeply conflicted about their sexuality when they share themselves with more than one partner. Again, the argument is lacking because it relies on her opinion alone. Paglia’s position would be stronger if she supported her premise with fact. She moves on from her assertion that sexual liberation is a mistake and takes on another topic that is highly controversial.
In a claim that would surely raise the ire of many of today’s feminists, Paglia asserts that women should cover their bodies to protect themselves from males. She believes that men are constantly on the hunt for a female conquest and therefore: “Islam is wise to drape women in black, for the eye is the avenue for eros.” In other words, women should be aware that wearing clothing that shows off their bodies is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. If a woman wants to keep herself safe, she should go out of her way to not tempt men’s sexual desires. Paglia does not take into account the possibility that men are capable of controlling their desires regardless of what women wear. She makes a mistake by looking at men through a narrow lens and not considering the ability to exert self-control. That being said, her theory is a good basis for women who are interested in empowering themselves and not willing to be reliant on a man’s ability to keep himself in check. An empowered women would be prepared for the possibility that some men cannot control their impulses, particularly if their faculties are weakened by drugs or alcohol, and would act accordingly. If Paglia had framed her argument as a concept for women to consider when interacting with men her stance would have been stronger. Paglia’s final assertion in this portion of the essay may be the most controversial of all.
Paglia believes that men are not only responsible for modern day quality of life, she believes that today’s quality of life would not exist if women had been in charge of creating civilization: “If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts.” This assertion is what the entire essay has been building toward. Paglia believes that men are more driven than women because of their inferiority in biology in terms of creation of life and that is why they have had to prove themselves by creating society. Since women are more at peace with themselves, more assured of their role within human nature, they would never have had the motivation to build the world as it is today. This is perhaps her strongest argument as history plainly shows that almost all great creations have been completed by men. Some feminists may argue that this historical fact is due to gender roles constructed by a patriarchal system that restrained women, and Paglia could have strengthened her argument by including that possibility and explaining why it isn’t the case. However, in contemporary society women are not as restrained and men are still behind most of the recent major advances – the creations from Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft were all driven by men. Paglia’s argument that men are responsible for modern comforts is s fair one.
Paglia makes a number of assertions about human nature and the differences between genders in Sexual Personae. Her claims are intriguing and worthy of consideration but her presentation is not strong. She bases most of her beliefs on her opinion and does not support her claims with evidence. She also focuses solely on her own view and does not take into account opposing arguments so those she is trying to persuade are not provided with a well-rounded analysis. Paglia could strengthen her arguments considerably if she provided more evidence and discussed alternate possibilities and why those possibilities are not correct.
Paglia, Camille. “The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil”. Time Magazine Online. September 29, 2014. Retrieved from: http://time.com/3444749/camille-paglia-the-modern-campus-cannot-comprehend-evil/
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