Ever since I read Camille Paglia’s “Break Blow Burn” in which she comments on 43 famous poems, I’ve admired her writing. Her commentary is completely transparent; nothing about her or her personal life and sexual preferences gets between the reader and the poem. She almost doesn’t exist. It reminds of me an article I once read on meat and vegetable eating by Margaret Visser in which you absolutely couldn’t tell whether she was vegetarian or not. (Margaret Visser also wrote a book called ‘Much Depends on Dinner’ about food which is surprisingly interesting.)
In more political pieces Paglia’s written, her personality comes through fiercely, and why not. In commenting on a poem you don’t want to overshadow the poet. In commenting on politics, it’s fair game.
Anyhow, here’s the conclusion of a recent talk that she gave on feminism at some Harvard conference:
“My final recommendation for reform is a massive rollback of the paternalistic system of grievance committees and other meddlesome bureaucratic contrivances which have turned American college campuses into womblike customer-service resorts. The feminists of my baby-boom generation fought to tear down the intrusive in loco parentis rules that insultingly confined women in their dormitories at night. College administrators and academic committees have no competence whatever to investigate crimes, including sexual assault. If an offense has been committed, it should be reported to the police, so that the civil liberties of both the accuser and the accused can be protected. This is not to absolve young men from their duty to behave honorably. Hooliganism cannot be tolerated. But we must stop seeing everything in life through the narrow lens of gender. If women expect equal treatment in society, they must stop asking for infantilizing special protections. With freedom comes personal responsibility.”