Tuesday, June 09, 2009

My Favorite Atheist Lesbian Feminist...

... is definitely Dr. Camille Paglia, professor, art historian, and lit-critic of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She also writes columns for Salon - many of which pop up on the Drudge Report.

Paglia is not your run-of-the-mill feminist. Although she is a Democrat with a libertarian streak, she has been a frequent guest on the Rush Limbaugh program (and considers Limbaugh to be a good friend). She is also a fierce critic of the trendy Big University type of hysterical male-bashing "gender feminism." She's not afraid to mix it up with anyone. Even though she is a lesbian, she is critical of the homosexual agenda's attempt to redefine marriage. And even though she is an atheist, she has a lot of admiration for the Church and for Christianity.

She respects everyone and no-one, if that makes any sense at all.

Paglia is uncritically beholden to no particular -ism, and her position on just about anything can (and sometimes is) just about anything. But above all, she is a scholar and thinker of remarkable depth and erudition. Even where you disagree, you have to admire her intellect - not to mention her espresso-fueled machine gun delivery. She couldn't use a teleprompter if she wanted to. It was quite an experience to see her speak at Haverford back in the nineties at a lecture that started at 7:00 pm and was still going strong for Q & A at 2:00 am when then-Bryn Mawr student Mrs. Hollywood and I left (after asking the surprisingly diminutive professor to sign our books). Her whole presentation was off the cuff.

She had managed to offend just about everyone in the largely-female and overwhelmingly leftist audience - especially the English prof from Bryn Mawr who had done just what Paglia was railing against - turning a class on English composition into a feminist indoctrination camp.

Dr. Paglia's columns in Salon are as frenetic, eclectic, and unpredictable as she is in person - hitting all the hot-button topics like politics, religion, and rock music with no regard for structure. Her remarks about Judge Sotomayor and feminism in general in this Salon column linked to Drudge really struck my funnybone:
But Sotomayor's vainglorious lecture bromide about herself as 'a wise Latina' trumping white men is a vulgar embarrassment -- a vestige of the bad old days of male-bashing feminism when even the doughty Ann Richards was saying to the 1988 Democratic National Convention: 'After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.' What flatulent canards mainstream feminism used to traffic in! Astaire, idolized even by Mikhail Baryshnikov, was one of the most brilliant and peerless dancers and choreographers of the 20th century. The agile but limited Ginger Rogers, a spunky, smart-mouthed comedian, is only a footnote. Get real, girls! This is the kind of mushy balderdash I doggedly had to plow through for five years in trying to find a good feminist poem for my collection, 'Break, Blow, Burn.' I never found one. Rule of art: Cant kills creativity!

OK, on to pop! It's been two decades since I bought my last U2 album. The peripatetic Bono's messianic do-gooder complex plumb wore me out...
Whew! I'm exhausted after just reading a paragraph.


William Weedon said...

I LOVE her stuff! She, rather like our gracious God, is totally unboxinable and full of surprises.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear William:

I can see the Christian News headline now:

"LCMS Hyper-Euro Pastor Compares Atheist Lesbian Feminist to God."


Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

I also love that adjective, unboxinable.

solarblogger said...

Paglia had a great piece titled "The Joys of Presbyterian Sex" that should be read by anyone in a church considering liberalizing their views of marriage to accomodate homosexuals. (It can be found in her book Sex, Art, and American Culture.) The gist of it is that marriage as a cultural institution is too confining for most. This hit her when a male friend told her what his own lifestyle and those of his friends really involved.

Reading Paglia is a reminder of just how removed from reality most modern church pronouncements are. They can sound like they're dealing with a broader world than past pronouncements until someone reminds you of the lurid details of the subject in question.

Perhaps there are good answers to issues she brings up. But I wouldn't trust any solutions that didn't take her warnings into consideration.

Daniel said...

May I respectively offer an alternative approach to this topic. This woman who has "exchanged her natural affections for unnatural ones" has you in the palm of her hands. When such a person is able to gain such affection and admiration as to be compared to God, the Blessed Virgin must be weeping. Would Saint Polycarp engage in such a positive exchange concerning one who is in need of healing, not praise?

Fr Daniel Hackney

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Daniel:

I'm sorry I didn't make this more clear: in no way to I approve of Dr. Paglia's "lifestyle," religion, or (for the most part) her politics. By the same token, I have nothing but praise for her intellect, energy, and honesty.

I suppose a comparison could be made concerning the intellectual prowess of Gerhard Kittel, the editor of the 10 volume Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. It is a magnum opus, an extraordinary resource for biblical study, and the work of a gifted Biblical and Greek scholar. The fact that he was a Nazi doesn't make me happy in the least. But I will give credit where credit is due. I'm not going to toss the books into the garbage (as some have actually suggested!), nor am I going to try to guilt anyone into gainsaying the academic work of Dr. Kittel by appeals to the BVM or St. Polycarp.

I think we can, and must, as Christians offer both rebuke of sin, and at the same time, affection for the person created in God's image - as well as giving thanks for the gifts they bear as God's creatures - gifts which can be used for the sake of the Kingdom in spite of the sin of the bearer of those gifts.

We should also pray earnestly for their repentance and conversion - motivated by love for them, and by obedience to our Lord's mandate and submission to His will.

Pax, and thanks for writing!

Daniel said...


Thank you for the tone of your response. It was truly pastoral, laced with humility and honesty. Before I respond back, I would like to commend you for this fine blog. It contains thoughtful and useful content that edifies us all.

By way of clarification, I knew that you (and Pastor Weedon) were not accepting of Ms. Paglia's lifestyle. Your desire to affirm others in the areas in which they reflect our Creator's goodness is salutary in and of itself. However, my original question dealt with the possibility that such praise may lead to a softening toward such things as the perversion homosexuality on the part of some of your readers/parishioners.

For example, would we want to carry this approach to the next level of publicly praising pedophiles as being "like our gracious God.."? My question is an honest one. I am not trying to Pharisaically trip you up; neither am I trying to "guilt" you with appeals to the Theotokos or the Saints. Rather I am hearkening to the Paradosis. Are such statements in the Catholic Tradition as a norm?

WM Cwirla said...

"Cant kills creativity." That's a Paglia-keeper.

My personal favorite Paglia quote (posted over my workbench in my shop):

"Construction is a sublime male poetry."