Saturday, December 03, 2005

camille, please. go take a long walk off of a short pier.

pulling up salon during my lunch hour yesterday, i was greeted with a headlining article by none other than that eternal scourge upon feminism, camille paglia.

i cannot stand camille paglia. there are hardly words to express the rage that she inspires within me. she is hands down one of the most pretentious, strident, egomaniacal writers in existence. perhaps what i find most maddening about her is that while 95% of the time i disagree with her theories and conclusions anyway, her rampant egotism is so odious that even the 5% of the time when i might possibly agree with something that she says, i refuse to do so on principle alone.

but of course, i read her articles anyway.

this one, Dancing as Fast as She Can, was about madonna's new album: why camille doesn't like it, why camille is always right about such things, and why camille knows better than madonna what madonna should be doing. i'm not even going to bother picking apart the whole article - that would be a heartbreaking waste of 12-14 hours of my life. there is one thing that i'd like to point out, though.

camille's big schtick is being a "sex-positive" feminist and gleefully poking holes in any feminist theory with which she disagrees. her book, "sexual personae," was big in the early 90s, and she built a career on being contrarian and "edgy." camille is very proud of herself about this, as she feels like history has vindicated her proclamations about sex-positive feminism being the truth and the way. in this salon article, she crows:

When I wrote in my polemical 1990 New York Times op-ed that "Madonna is the future of feminism," there were squawks of disbelief on all sides -- but that is exactly what came to pass over the next decade.

hmmmm. ok. though i think this thesis is ripe for shredding on a number of different levels, let's be charitable and say that it actually is true - madonna portended a revolution in feminist thinking that allowed for visible and viable female sexuality. if that is so, well then camille, we have a big problem, because that vibrant, risque sexuality for which you worshipped madonna long ago seems to have suddenly become less appealing to you with the passage of fifteen years, a husband, and two children:

Even allowing for the fact that she must strenuously maintain her hipness for a busy husband 10 years her junior, Madonna is starting to morph into the mature Joan Crawford of "Torch Song," still ferociously dancing but with her fascist willpower signaled by brute, staring eyes and fixed jawline. In cannibalizing her disco diva days, Madonna runs the risk of turning into a pasty powdered crumpet like the aging Bette Davis in "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?"

seems to me like camille didn't think her little theory through. if you want to celebrate madonna's feminism as the future - all spectacle and no substance, and founded on the ability of the attractive female form to generate interest and attention - well, this is the end result. because guess what? madonna wasn't going to stay 24 (or even 34) forever. and how was she going to continue to play that sexual power game when she reached an age at which society no longer considered her "sexual"? madonna made a career out of putting herself on display, and hiding her business acumen in order to further her image in the way that would make her more money. seem circular? it was. and madonna is reaching a point where that modus operandi is no longer workable.

camille doesn't seem to recognize the irony of her recent complaints against madonna. there seems to be a bit of cognitive dissonance here, which is a shame- with camille being the most brilliant feminist mind to ever put pen to paper in the 20th century and all, you think she'd be able to see a theoretical loophole a mile away. but since she doesn't, i'm happy to hang her with it.


Toast said...

I could never stand this bombastic asshole. Of course, we can take some small comfort from the fact that her fifteen minutes passed pretty quickly. She is soooo Not Relevant Anymore. Salon's just giving her the equivalent of a mercy fuck.

karen gsteiger said...

Well, that's much more well-thought-out than my take on her article. Mostly I was just amused by her overintellectualizing disco.

Jason said...

i cannot believe that paglia is a tenured professor at a university. what particularly scares is that she garners speaking engagements and press through marketing her incoherent and inconsistent ramblings as "controversial." theoretical arguments that don't make logical sense aren't controversial, they're just dumb.