Ironic indeed that in 1990's woman who hailed Madonna as “the future of feminism”, in her essays argue that for women to be free, men must be free too. The woman is none other than Camille Paglia whose essays are published in a new book, Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, and Feminism, collecting her greatest hits about gender, sex, and feminism from 1990 to 2016.
The book highlights the strength of southern women in the country, an ode to the Real Housewives, and multiple essays about diminishing free speech on college campuses. Paglia stresses how the mainstream feminist movement has revolved around educated white women and forgotten working class women-and men, like the sanitation workers whom she believes do not receive enough credit for their dangerous work.
Strange as it may be, Camille Paglia understood the country long before Donald Trump. Ms. Paglia was discussing topics that elected Donald Trump at the helm- liberals forgetting white working class Americans in the Midwest and South, the failures of contemporary feminism, and free speech on college campus.
Earlier women were determined to show that they could achieve at the same level as men. The bold new women of that period did not insult or denigrate men. They admired what men had done and simply demanded the opportunity to show that women could match or surpass it. Whereas today's feminism has made male-bashing became its default mode from the start. Today's women movement attracts fanatics or borderline personalities- mostly they are damaged women with bitter gripes against men.
In her book, Free Women, Free Men, Paglia is emphasizing that women can never be truly free until they let men too be free-which means that men have every right to determine their own identities, interests, and passions without intrusive surveillance and censorship by women with their own political agenda.
Paglia points out that construction workers and other working class men's work have gone unnoticed. She is outraged to see how so many pampered, affluent, upper-middle-class professional women bash men with snide anti-male feminist rhetoric, while they remain completely ignoring the constant labor and sacrifices going on all around them as working-class men create and maintain the fabulous infrastructure that makes modern life possible in the Western world. Why is that only a tiny number of women want to enter the trades where most of the nitty-gritty physical work is actually going on-plumbing, electricity, construction. Women have played virtually no role in the erection of those magnificent towers in every major city in the world.
Her admiration for country women is evident in her book. She states that country women of the agrarian era were physically and mentally stronger than today's high-profile, feminism-spouting women careerists, doing their Pilates and spinning routines at the pricey gym. Country women had big voices and big attitudes.
She claims that today's feminism is not women's movement but “it's neurosis and hysteria”. According to Paglia, the great irony is that too many of today's privileged white middle-class girls at elite schools can't seem to express themselves forcefully enough even to manage their own dating lives. They have to run to parental proxies on campus grievance committees to intervene for them.
Interestingly, she may have given a clue to handle current misdirected feminism, “I have learned an enormous amount from watching football since childhood and have usefully applied those lessons in my war against the feminist and academic establishment. I block and tackle with pleasure and love in particular to run ‘misdirection' plays on feminist leaders.”
Though she expresses contempt for what she sees as feminism's negative rhetoric regarding motherhood and homemaking but then calls procreation “nature's fascist scheme” against women. Her critics say that her book is indicative of being an aged rebel, as she believes that conservatism is the new counter-culture, and that rebelling now means standing up for the landlord, the corporate bureaucrat, and the established artistic canon.
Free Women, Free Men is a strange succession of essays about gender, sex, and politics that reveals an individual who is rebellious and yet conservative enough to understand freedom is good only if we are free- men and women. Her book is a reflection that freedom is the ultimate value.
As The World Turns