Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Paglia's Feminist Foolishness

In looking over the WSJ's "weekend interview" with Camille Paglia, it's hard to decide who is more foolish, Paglia or her interviewer Bari Weiss.

It almost makes you despair that we will ever come out of the utter folly of feminism and the women's movement, which both so totally misunderstand woman and womanhood.

The crowning folly is the notion that the highest calling for woman is a career in the workplace.  Here is Paglia's muddled thinking muddied by the pen of her muddled interviewer.  On the subject of sex education Paglia wants to get away from mechanical stuff and concentrate on life choices.
"I want every 14-year-old girl . . . to be told: You better start thinking what do you want in life. If you just want a career and no children you don't have much to worry about. If, however, you are thinking you'd like to have children some day you should start thinking about when do you want to have them. Early or late? To have them early means you are going to make a career sacrifice, but you're going to have more energy and less risks. Both the pros and the cons should be presented."
 What do you mean "career sacrifice," Camille?  Are you suggesting that career is naturally or appropriately the center of a woman's life, or ought to be, or that a woman should think carefully before she steps away from a career?  What makes you think that "career" is so gosh-darned important anyway?

Let us illuminate this folly with a discussion of chimpanzees.  Remember!  The scientists tell us that our DNA is only one or two percent different than our great ape cousins.  So the behavior of our cousins should tell us a lot about ourselves.

Chimpanzees, according to Nicholas Wade in "Before the Dawn," operate a society in which the females devote their lives to food gathering and caring for the young and males defend the borders of the troop's territory.  Both "gendered" roles are essential because more territory equals more food equals raising more young chimps to adulthood.

In our modern notions, we would say that the men were involved in constant border wars and the women lived in a community of women that cared for the troop and its children.

But when the hunter-gatherer age gave way to the agricultural age only a minority of men were needed for border wars.  The rest were needed for the heavy work of plowing (because women get miscarriages from heavy work).  You can still see this gendered role playing out in the paddies of South India, as the men drive the oxen and the women plant the rice plants in the mud.

With the industrial age the need for border warriors is even lower than in the agricultural age, so the question arose: what to do with the men?  The brilliant answer was "careers," from the French "carrière" or racetrack.

Instead of warriors, competing to be the top-dog in the caste of war fighters, men would now compete in the world of bourgeois business.  They would battle for market share, for promotion in government and corporate bureaucracies, for the glory of being the next Steve Jobs, the man that made Apple into a global cultural phenomenon.

Even so, of course, a majority of men would never enter the career stakes.  Lacking the competitive drive to dominate, they would be happy to acquire a skill, get a job, and live a life as husband, father, and provider.

At some point some bright spark decided that men were hoarding all the career goodies for themselves: women should get a share.  Women should get an advanced education, should enter the lists of career advancement, should break the glass ceilings that prevented women from exercising power and influence.

Except that while a majority of men are not particularly interested in a career of power, an overwhelming majority of women are uninterested in a career of power.

Yet here we have a culture and a ruling class that thinks it is doing a good thing by brainwashing every young man into believing that he should go to college and devote his life to a career, whether in business, government, or education.  And we have Camille Paglia dutifully repeating the same meme for 14-year-old girls, to think seriously about whether they should compromise career with children.

Let us get real here.  The most important thing that 90 percent of men and 90 percent of women will do is get married, make a family, raise their children and then get those children off the nest.  Work, career, fame, fortune, they are all very well, but they mean nothing if they do not serve that central purpose of life.

The stunning achievement of the modern age is to have figured out how to sublimate the aggressive instincts of men from war to the fake war of economic competition.  It has taken dominating aggressive males and bent them to the yoke of the market and the organization and made them into gentle husbands and fathers.  Otherwise the surplus population of warriors would just be causing trouble.

Do you not see that this domestication of males is an incandescent achievement that makes the invention of fire a mere footnote?

On this view why should anyone think that the means of domesticating men into the "career" would have any relevance for women, who are already domesticated and need no prompting to get with the program?

In the corporate world they encourage the corporate climbers to extend their "circle of influence."  It makes sense, for the male career is a career of domination, of corporate or market conquest.

But a woman's life is rarely a career of domination.  The women that I know, brainwashed to a fare-thee-well by the cult of career, eventually find themselves reverting to type.  They find that they are less interested in conquering the world and shattering the glass ceiling than in building a "career of care."  They want their loved ones safe and their minds forever return to the care of their loved ones.  Everything they think and do relates to the care and safety of their "circle of care."

And what about Camille Paglia, the feminist firebrand?  She's been a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia since the 1980s.  Hey, Camille, what happened to breaking the glass ceiling and becoming a dean or a president?  Golly, here's a terrifying thought.  Perhaps Paglia just wants to teach and to write.  That means that she never wanted the great arc of a career, only a chance to write iconoclastic books like "Sexual Personae" and teach other people to become artists.

Eventually, lesbian Paglia and her partner decided that they wanted a child, and now 66-year-old Paglia has an 11-year-old son.  Only Paglia and partner are now separated.

I wonder what the 11-year-old son with think about all this in 20 years.

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