For those interested in the career and thought of Camille Paglia, the Claremont Review of Books has graciously lowered the paywall and granted First Things readers free access to senior editor Mark Bauerlein's latest essay, “Force of Nature.” Whet your appetite with the first few paragraphs here, but head over to CRB to keep reading.
When I was finishing graduate school at UCLA in the late 1980s, a British scholar, unquestionably liberal, came to campus to discuss his paper on “Male Feminism.” Modest and earnest, he summarized his paper’s account of how men could participate in feminist critique. The feminist Romantic scholar who responded to his presentation, however, proceeded to explain, impatiently and peremptorily, how this clueless fellow did not know what he was talking about. It wasn’t a refutation; it was a rebuke. I can’t recall what the guest speaker said in his feeble reply, but neither he nor anyone else in the room dared challenge her. The graduate students and untenured professors in attendance took it as a brutal career lesson: never expose yourself to this sort of takedown. In particular, never even hint that there might be some basis in nature for differences between men and women.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that for 30 years women have earned a majority of all doctoral degrees in English and foreign languages. Feminists had good reason to be confident. But here was the opening sentence of Sexual Personae (1990): “In the beginning was nature.” With that heresy, Camille Paglia burst into public life.
Mark Bauerlein is senior editor of First Things.