It appears that the manliness question in America makes for strange bedfellows.
In this past weekend’s WSJ, outspoken feminist academic Camille Paglia appears to be channeling her inner Stephen Mansfield, arguing that in effect there is a war against boys, while defending the manly virtue that she believes is sorely lacking in modern-day Western society, to its own detriment.
On the institution of academia, in which Paglia “sees the tacit elevation of “female values”—such as sensitivity, socialization and cooperation—as the main aim of teachers,” the professor quips:
“Primary-school education is a crock, basically. It’s oppressive to anyone with physical energy, especially guys,” she says, pointing to the most obvious example: the way many schools have cut recess. “They’re making a toxic environment for boys. Primary education does everything in its power to turn boys into neuters.”
And according to Professor Paglia it gets no better at the college level: “This PC gender politics thing—the way gender is being taught in the universities—in a very anti-male way, it’s all about neutralization of maleness,” leaving adult males who are “intimidated” and unable to tell “the truth to women” due to the stigma around challenging feminist sacred cows.
The antidote to this increasingly infantilized and emasculated society in Paglia’s view is “revalorization,” or as interviewer Bari Weiss paraphrases it, recognition and celebration of “traditional male trades—the ones that allow women’s studies professors to drive to work (roads), take the elevator to their office (construction), read in the library (electricity), and go to gender-neutral restrooms (plumbing).”
As some such as conservative intellectual and President Reagan’s most-quoted living author George Gilder have argued (as in his “Sexual Suicide“) since the 1970s, Paglia believes that radicalization of the feminist movement has proven destructive for society — that her former allies,
“bear much of the blame for the current cultural decline. She calls out activists like Gloria Steinem, Naomi Wolf and Susan Faludi for pushing a version of feminism that says gender is nothing more than a social construct, and groups like the National Organization for Women for making abortion the singular women’s issue.
By denying the role of nature in women’s lives, she argues, leading feminists created a “denatured, antiseptic” movement that “protected their bourgeois lifestyle” and falsely promised that women could “have it all.” And by impugning women who chose to forgo careers to stay at home with children, feminists turned off many who might have happily joined their ranks.
But Ms. Paglia’s criticism shouldn’t be mistaken for nostalgia for the socially prescribed roles for men and women before the 1960s. Quite the contrary. “I personally have disobeyed every single item of the gender code,” says Ms. Paglia. But men, and especially women, need to be honest about the role biology plays and clear-eyed about the choices they are making.”