American academic, social critic and feminist Camille Paglia is offering her take on feminism on U.S. college campuses today, actress Lena Dunham, as well as Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.
In a YouTube video posted by Spiked last week, Paglia sat for an on camera interview with Spiked assistant editor Ella Whelan at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where Paglia has taught since the 1980s.
“A problem is that young women today, at least in America … a whole generation of young people have been raised in a very protected environment right now. …
“Their education, from my observation, was rather banal, that is they have been taught humanitarian fellow feeling. They’ve been taught how to get along, no bullying. They’ve been taught to be very nice about anyone different, like transgender or people with a disability and so on and so forth.
“But they have very little sense of world history. They have very little sense of world geography. I think it’s a really serious problem in the United States …,” Paglia said. “America is extremely insular, we’re separated by these giant oceans from everything else. …
“The most pernicious aspects of feminism are hatched in the United States because of this insularity and also because of our very strange college system, which has gotten more and more recreational. College has nothing to do with education, okay, it’s sort of this ‘social experience’ that people are sort of packed off to that now costs an absolute fortune and is bankrupting students.
“The idea that there’s any central educational curriculum is long abandoned.”
Paglia argued “post structuralism” and “post modernism” has also undermined “any idea of history as having meaning.”
“If you have had no exposures to the disasters of world history, and these sophisticated civilizations that rose, like Babylon or Rome, and they became very sexually tolerant and then fell until there was nothing left but ruble,” she said. “If you’ve had no exposure to that, then you honestly believe this idea that ‘it’s progress, visible all around us and we’re moving to an ideal state and the ideal culture where it will be transnational, global, and everyone will hold hands and everyone will be accepted for what they are, there will be no more prejudice and the environment will be pure and clean, and so on.’
“People have sort of this magical view of that utopia that is there in the future, and this … progressivist idea that we are marching toward perfection and that the signs of it are the toleration of the educated class for homosexuality or for changing gender or whatever seems to me the opposite,” Paglia continued.
“To me, it’s symptomatic of a civilization just before it falls. Which is that we are very tolerant, and we are not passionate, okay. But there are bands of very passionate vandals and destroyers who are moving around the edges of the civilization and will bring it down. This preoccupation with gender issues, and gender identity and so on, I think it’s extremely limited in the long run. And this hyper self-consciousness about ‘who am I, exactly? Where am I on the gender … spectrum am I located in terms of gender?’ I mean this is a kind of naval gazing, at a time when ISIS is beheading people in the mid-east. It’s a kind of madness, a self-absorption.”
“The biggest problem, as far as I’m concerned, facing feminism is to what degree western feminism can be exported to the world. That is I think the more complex issue facing feminism,” Paglia explained.
“To what extent is western careerist feminism a bad fit with cultures that are driven by more traditional values, family centered, child-centered, religious in orientation? That is the one part that needs working out.”
Paglia also lit into Lena Dunham, actress and director of the HBO series “Girls.”
“Lena Dunham to me is just absolutely the symbol of a certain kind of neuroticism which masquerades as feminism,” she said. “I mean, Lena Dunham has a lot of problems that have to do with body image, that have nothing whatever to do with a wider society, but have to do with a chaos of her own family life and her own family background.
“So her feminism is to me a perfect example of kind of externalization – she’s like looking for social causes for this huge fluidity in her inner life that is due to the way she was raised. … The way she presents herself physically, to me it’s like ‘look I am presenting myself exactly as I am.’”
Paglia also described the self-absorbed star as “a big pile of pudding” and said “she’s just like a classic neurotic of the old style … and not nearly as intelligent as she seems to think she is.”
The controversial 69-year-old intellectual also shared her opinion on Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, and she didn’t hesitate to tell it like it is.
“Hillary has benefitted enormously from being a woman. People don’t lay a glove on her. If she were not a woman, … all of her opponents would have gone after her far more severely for her corruption, her dishonesty, her incompetence,” Paglia said. “The woman has never succeeded in any job, she’s created chaos after chaos, including now all of north Africa spilling its refugees into Europe is due to Hillary taking out (former prime minister of Libya, Muammar) Gaddafi … it’s just absolutely ridiculous.”
When posed with a choice between Hillary Clinton or Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, Paglia choose neither.
“I feel that Hillary Clinton is utterly corrupt,” she said. “I feel her current positions on the campaign trail have just been co-opted from what Bernie Sanders is saying. Her poll testing told her that’s where the party was, so I think she’s absolutely soulless. I think she’s incompetent. …”
“If only she would withdraw for whatever reason, they would put in (Vice President Joe) Biden … and I think Biden could win,” Paglia said. “I think Biden could beat any of the Republican candidates, so I would vote for Biden even though he’s kind of … a dim bulb, shall we say.
“But he’s a decent guy … and people like him. He knows the world and has international connections so I think it would be a seamless transition.”