Dear Camille Paglia,

I daresay I fought valiantly against it, but my will has wained, and I indeed am falling in love with you! It has been a torrid romance, to be sure. I heard so much about you from the beige-hued feminists who I pretended to like and agree with– they would say “she’s evil”, “she’s an idiot”, “she’s a narcissist” “can you believe she calls herself feminist?” etc. And I would nod, all the while secretly thinking, “An evil, idiot, narcissistic feminist? That sounds like me!”

Now don’t be annoyed that I went along with them for so long. The anti-Paglian catch-phrases such as (I paraphrase), “If women ruled the world, we’d all still be living in grass huts”, “Date-rape doesn’t exist”, “I’m pro-kiddie porn” and on, are off putting to say the least, but they have such a wonderful posture. Dammit Paglia, you wily bitch, you’ve got conviction, and aren’t afraid to play the court fool, the despised provocateur, or the cheap slut in your gaudy quest to save feminism from itself.

Your collection of essays “Sex, Art, and American Culture” might also have been well entitled “Love Letters to Rachel: Paglia’s Extravagant Appeal”, for you finally won me over! I pause here to recall some especially touching passages, though I must admit, you had had me at “I view disco, at its serious best, as a dark, grand Dionysian music with roots in African earth-cult”.

“To have anonymous sex in a dark alleyway is to pay homage to the dream of male freedom.”

“Twentieth-century history, with its nightmare-cycle of war poverty, and organized sadism, shocked the liberal sensibility into self-reflective postures of chic despair. In America, Rousseauism has turned Freud’s conflict-based psychoanalysis into weepy hand-holding. Contemporary liberalism is untruthful about cosmic realities.”

“I was disturbed by [feminists’] tunnel vision, their lack of hard political knowledge, their indifference to aesthetics, and the shrill reductiveness of their discourse.”

“…the new overpoliticized feminism…rolls over art like a Soviet tank.”

” I am a sensationalist, in all meanings of the word: I make my sensations into ideas, and reduce my ideas to sensations, so that thought and feeling are simultaneous.”

“My Baroque extravagance goes against the modern type of ‘the thinker’. Susan Sontag, for example, a generation older, is tall, thin, and cerebral in European terms a northerner as I am a southerner. Her gravity and austerity belong to the era of Sartrean nausea, of metaphysical dyspepsia, of “no” rather than “yes.” I, on the other hand, with my Mediterranean mesomorphic bullishness and frenetic Joan Rivers comedy routines, am an overeater an overstater, a gourmandizer of the grand manner.”

“Of the scholar I say: the aesthete, the rabbi, the monk, but never the bourgeois.”

But what really sold me, was your M.I.T. lecture. So audacious, so ridiculous, blunderingly self-aggrandizing and brilliant, brilliant, brilliant at once (now that I think of it, these terms seldom come unattached).

Excerpts:

“Thank your, Professor Manning, for that most gracious introduction. And may I say what a pleasure it is to be here, a mere stone’s throw from Harvard.”

“My mission is to be absolutely as painful as possible in every situation.”

“We of the Sixties had wonderful ideals, but then we were very arrogant, and God knows–if you think I’m arrogant now– ha! I’m a shadow of my former self!”

“People like, um, Stanley Fish– whom I call “a totalitarian Tinkerbell”–that’s what I call him. Uh-huh. Okay? How dare he? What a hypocrite!”

“I’m probably the only major voice right now in academe who’s actually taught factory workers. As opposed to these people who are the Marxists [makes prancing, dancing, hair preening gestures], oh yes, these Marxists, like Terry Eagleton at Oxford.”

“I mean, before feminism was, Paglia was!”

You were! You were! And now, you reach out to me personally and explain exactly what I’ve been going through all fucking year in my Feminist Art Criticism, Feminist Film Criticism classes:

“Now, normally if you’re in a boring lecture, you can, like, tune out. You know, you can plan your meals, do your laundry in your head, and things like that, okay? In this case, it was torture to me, because she was showing these gorgeous pictures up on the screen, beautiful pictures that were stimulating the mind, stimulating the imagination, you understand? And at the same time she was trashing these pictures with this horrible Lacan, labryinthine thing. So I was just out of my–I was out of control. People turned around and said “Shhh!”to me. I was writhing in my seat [imitates electrocution-like spasms]. It was awful. Let me give you an example. There was a Revlon ad of a women in a blue pool of water, and she was beautifully made up, and there was obviously a reflector being used to shine the sunlight especially intensely on her face. This was a beautiful ad. And Diana Fuss was going, “Decapitation–mutilation.”

Then there was this beautiful picture from Harper’s Bazaar, I thing, of a black woman wearing a crimson turtleneck. But instead of the collar turned Over, you know, it was up like this, around the chin. It was very beautiful. It was like a flower. And she was wearing aviator glasses that I recognized, from the 1930s! Now Diana Fuss said, “She’s blinded.” I would have said” She has mystic vision.” Anyway, with the turtleneck what do you think? “Strangulation, bondage!” It went on like this, picture, after picture after picture. I thought, “This is psychotic.” Such radical misinterpretation of reality is psychotic. But it’s a whole system. Psychosis is a system. People within that system feel it’s very rational…This is perverted. It really is perverted. When you destroy young people’s ability to take pleasure in beauty, you are a pervert!”

“It is so provincial, feminism’s problem with beauty. We have got to get over this. Obviously, any addiction–like if you’re addicted to plastic surgery– that’s a problem. Of course it’s a problem. Addiction to anything is a problem. But this blaming anorexia on the media–this is Naomi Wolf’s thing– oh please! Anorexia is coming out of these white families, these pushy, perfectionist white families, who all end up with their daughters at Yale. Naomi arrives in England and “Gee, all the women Rhodes scholars have eating disorders. Gee, it must be…the media!” Maybe it’s that you are a parent-pleasing, teacher-pleasing little kiss-ass! Maybe you’re a yuppie!”

I have to testify, that I met and interviewed Naomi Wolf myself and thought the same thing! I was a shaved-headed coward/lazy feminist then, but even in that regrettable state, I saw through her bullshit. It was women like her who actually managed to convince me to undermine my glamor and beauty. To think!

Oh confound it, I have to stop myself, otherwise I’ll go on transcribing like this forever. Paglia, you are like the TGI Friday’s of feminism– unafraid of everything garish, you celebrate the “highs” (communal feasts) and the “lows” (chili fries) of culture, and gorge on huge portions like a mad drunken corporate-type during happy-hour. I’m that too, and boring, mainstream feminism’s vain attempts to beat it out of me, only strengthens my resolve to keep reveling in–if not (all) your theories– your bravery.

XO,
Rachel

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