I’ve probably mentioned before, but Camille Paglia is one of my favorite contemporary thinkers, and she always has insightful (and sometimes provocative) things to say.
The full interview is here at America Magazine, but I wanted to share a few highlights:
In your view, what’s wrong with American feminism today, and what can it do to improve?
After the great victory won by my insurgent, pro-sex, pro-fashion wing of feminism in the 1990s, American and British feminism has amazingly collapsed backward again into whining, narcissistic victimology. As in the hoary old days of Gloria Steinem and her Stalinist cohorts, we are endlessly subjected to the hackneyed scenario of history as a toxic wasteland of vicious male oppression and gruesome female suffering. College campuses are hysterically portrayed as rape extravaganzas where women are helpless fluffs with no control over their own choices and behavior. I am an equal opportunity feminist: that is, I call for the removal of all barriers to women’s advance in the professional and political realms. However, I oppose special protections for women, which I reject as demeaning and infantilizing. My principal demand (as I have been repeating for nearly 25 years) is for colleges to confine themselves to education and to cease their tyrannical surveillance of students’ social lives. If a real crime is committed, it must be reported to the police. College officials and committees have neither the expertise nor the legal right to be conducting investigations into he said/she said campus dating fiascos. Too many of today’s young feminists seem to want hovering, paternalistic authority figures to protect and soothe them, an attitude I regard as servile, reactionary and glaringly bourgeois. The world can never be made totally safe for anyone, male or female: there will always be sociopaths and psychotics impervious to social controls. I call my system “street-smart feminism”: there is no substitute for wary vigilance and personal responsibility.
So much of modern 3rd wave feminism that I’ve seen relies on a paradigm in which all women are constantly victims. The moment that women seize their agency and shake off their victimhood, they’re mercilessly attacked by marxist-feminist ideologues because without women being perpetual victims, the whole thing come crashing down.
Briefly put, what is post-structuralism and what is your opinion of it?
Post-structuralism is a system of literary and social analysis that flared up and vanished in France in the 1960s but that became anachronistically entrenched in British and American academe from the 1970s on. Based on the outmoded linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and promoted by the idolized Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault, it absurdly asserts that we experience or process reality only through language and that, because language is inherently unstable, nothing can be known. By undermining meaning, history and personal will, post-structuralism has done incalculable damage to education and contemporary thought. It is a laborious, circuitously self-referential gimmick that always ends up with the same monotonous result. I spent six months writing a long attack on academic post-structuralism for the classics journal Arion in 1991, “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf” (reprinted in my first essay collection, Sex, Art, and American Culture). Post-structuralism has destroyed two generations of graduate students, who were forced to mouth its ugly jargon and empty platitudes for their foolish faculty elders. And the end result is that humanities departments everywhere, having abandoned their proper mission of defending and celebrating art, have become humiliatingly marginalized in both reputation and impact.
Post-structuralism is fun, but it’s certainly not a productive means to gain an understanding of a work. By analyzing things through the lenses of various prejudices, one ultimately reveals more about the lenses than the subject that it analyzes.
One of the biggest ironies is that it was explained to me by a professor that Lacan can’t really be understood in English since so much of his ideology, conveyed through puns and metaphors, don’t really translate well and don’t come through outside of the original French. So I guess nothing really can be known (at least about post-structuralism).
Anyway, the whole interview is a really great read and you should check it out.