Category Archives: Politically correct

femimist professor under fire

WSJ  8/31/2019   THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW with Camille Paglia

When Camille Paglia was an “obnoxious adolescent” of 15, she had what she describes as “this huge fight with a nun” in upstate New York. Ms. Paglia, 72, remembers the incident with a clarity that suggests a lifetime of unresolved umbrage.

“We were released from school for religious instruction on Thursday afternoons,” and teen Camille posed a question: “If God is infinitely forgiving, I asked the nun, is it possible that at some point in the future he’ll forgive Satan?” The nun—a doctrinaire Irish Catholic without any of the “pagan residue” of Ms. Paglia’s Italian culture—“ turned beet red. She was so enraged that she condemned me in front of everybody for even asking that question.”

That was the day Ms. Paglia left the Catholic Church. It was not the last time she asked an awkward, even incendiary, question. Such provocations are the stock-in-trade of this most free-spirited of America’s public intellectuals. Ms. Paglia is a professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she has been a tenured— and occasionally embattled— faculty member since 1984. This April, mutinous students demanded her firing over public comments she’d made that were not wholly sympathetic to the #MeToo movement, as well as for an interview with the Weekly Standard that they called “transphobic.” That denunciation, with its indignant dogmatism, is particularly slapstick, since Ms. Paglia describes herself as “transgender.”

The protests were unsuccessful, largely thanks to a robust defense of Ms. Paglia by the university’s president, David Yager. “Artists over the centuries,” he wrote in an open letter to students, “have suffered censorship, and even persecution, for the expression of their beliefs through their work. My answer is simple: Not now, not at UArts.”

Over lunch at a Greek restaurant, Ms. Paglia tells me she belongs to the “pro-sex, free-speech wing of feminism,” which she says had its heyday in the 1990s. That was the decade in which she herself emerged from academic obscurity. In 1990 she published her first book, “Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson,” an erudite yet pugnacious account of the competing roles of male and female in Western civilization. It was rejected— she never tires of saying— by seven publishers and five agents before Yale University Press picked it up.

The book vaulted Ms. Paglia into the American imagination as a bluestocking gone deliciously rogue. The same year, she published an op-ed article lauding the pop singer Madonna as “the true feminist,” who “exposes the puritanism and suffocating ideology of American feminism, which is stuck in an adolescent whining mode.” The op-ed incensed the “prudish” feminist establishment. Ms. Paglia has since soured on Madonna, who she says was “once refreshingly sane in her teasing affection for men” but has now undergone a “collapse into rote male-bashing.”

Ms. Paglia laments that the “antisex and repressively doctrinaire side of feminism is back again— big!” She calls it “victim feminism” and complains that “everything we’d won in the 1990s has been totally swept away. Now we have this endless privileging of victimhood, with a pathological vulnerability seen as the default human mode.” Everyone is made to cater to it—“in the workplace, in universities, in the demand for safe spaces.”

As a teacher of undergraduates, Ms. Paglia despairs at how “bad it is for young people, filled with fears, to be raised in this kind of a climate where personal responsibility isn’t spoken of.” Since her own youth, she says, college students have devolved from rebels into skittish supplicants, petitioning people in authority to protect them from real life. Young adults are encouraged to look for “substitute parent figures on campus, which is what my generation rebelled against in college. We threw that whole ‘in loco parentis’ thing out.”

There’s an undeniable irony in hearing a septuagenarian, from a generation that was famously preoccupied with youth, deplore the state of today’s young people. “Our parents were the World War II generation,” Ms. Paglia says, “so they had a sense of reality about life.” Children now “are raised in a far more affluent period. Even people without much money have cellphones, televisions, access to cars. They’re raised in an air-conditioned environment. I can still remember when there was no air-conditioning.” She shudders as she sips her cold beer, adding that she suffered horribly in the heat.

“Everything is so easy now,” Ms. Paglia continues. “The stores are so plentifully supplied. You just go in and buy fruits and vegetables from all over the world.” Undergrads, who’ve studied neither economics nor history, “have a sense that this is the way life has always been. Because they’ve never been exposed to history, they have no idea that these are recent attainments that come from a very specific economic system.”

Capitalism, she continues, has “produced this cornucopia around us. But the young seem to believe in having the government run everything, and that the private companies that are doing things for profit around them, and supplying them with goods, will somehow exist forever.”

Ms. Paglia asks me to note that it was “because of capitalism” that her forebears “escaped the crushing poverty of rural Italy,” emigrating to Endicott, N.Y., to “work in the Endicott-Johnson shoe factories, whose vast buildings, tanning pools and smokestacks dominated my childhood.”

The students who demand her firing, she argues, take prosperity for granted, are socially undeveloped, and know little about Western history. Who’s Moses?

Although she doesn’t use the phrase herself, you can call Ms. Paglia a feminist capitalist. “While I believe that boom-and-bust capitalism is inherently Darwinian and requires moderate regulation for the long-term greater good,” she says, “I insist that capitalism has produced the glorious emancipation of women.” They can now “support themselves and live on their own, and no longer must humiliatingly depend on father or husband.”

So why do young women feel victimized? Ms. Paglia cites the near-extinction of “body language” among the young and its impact on sexual relations on campus. The “loss of body language” starts in middle and high school, “where there’s total absorption in social media and projected images on Instagram, and so on. So they don’t know how to read each other, physically.” When they get to college, this social deficiency is exacerbated by the effects of “that stupid law, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, that was passed in 1984.” It effected a nationwide ban on alcohol sales to adults under 21.

“When I got to college,” Ms. Paglia says, “you could go out for a beer, you could talk with a drink in a public place, in an adult environment.” That’s how 18-year-olds away from home for the first time learned the “art of conversation, of looking at each other, reading facial expressions and body language.” After the ban on drinking, “instead of a nice group of people conversing and flirting, you got the keg parties at fraternities on campus, this horrible environment where women milled about with men in this huge amount of noise, with people chugging beers down.”

Ms. Paglia is distinctly animated now and—body language!— claps her hands for emphasis. “So almost immediately, by the late 1980s, you get this date-rape extravaganza, and the hysteria, and the victimage.” Ms. Paglia has urged a repeal of the drinking-age law but “cannot get any traction on this. No one will listen to me.”

By contrast to her flaming public persona, Ms. Paglia is positively conventional in the classroom. “As I constantly stress,” she says, “my base identity is as a hard-working, no-nonsense schoolmarm—like the teaching nuns of global Roman Catholicism.” Despite her avowed atheism, she confesses to keeping a Mass card of St. Teresa of Ávila in her den at home.

This fall semester, she will teach two classes, “Art of Song Lyric” and “Style as Art.” She asks me to “stress that I do not teach ‘my’ ideas in the classroom.” Instead, she teaches “broad-ranging” courses and considers herself responsible for her students’ “general education—in which there are huge and lamentable gaps, thanks to the tragic decline of public education in this country.” She recalls a “horrifying” example from her classroom a few years ago. She was teaching “Go Down, Moses,” the famous Negro spiritual. “The whole thing is about antiquity,” she says, “but obviously it has contemporary political references.” She passed out the lyrics and played the music, “and it suddenly hit me with horror— none of them recognized the name ‘Moses.’ And I thought: Oh my God, when Moses is erased from the West, what is left of Western civilization?”

Judging by last semester’s protests against Ms. Paglia, today’s college students seem better versed in the polemics of gender identity than in Judeo-Christian history. This prompts me to ask Ms. Paglia, perhaps intrusively, why she regards herself as transgender. “There’s no doubt whatever,” she responds, “that I have had a radical gender dysphoria since earliest childhood. Never once in my life have I felt female.” Nor did she feel male, “except when wearing my fabulous Halloween costumes as a Roman soldier, toreador or Napoleon.”

“This strange alienation from standard human life certainly helped sharpen my powers of social observation,” she says, “and eventually made me a writer.” Her many years of researching and writing “Sexual Personae,” she adds, “exorcised a lot of my accumulated hostility forward the gender system.”

These days, she says, “there is only one occasion when my old turbulence returns— when shopping for clothing.” When she was in college, styles were “gender-bending,” and she wore “Tom Jones shirts, flared pinstriped trousers, Navy pea coats and Beatles boots with Cuban heels.” No more. Now she makes an annual “pilgrimage” to the sprawling King of Prussia shopping mall outside Philadelphia.

“I cannot express too strongly my overwhelming sense of existential alienation and horror when confronted with those lavishly stocked stores,” she says. There is nothing she can identify with in the women’s department, or the men’s. “It is completely inconsequential that I have attained a certain status as professor and author of eight books. At King of Prussia, my identity is completely wiped out—erased!”

Mr. Varadarajan is executive editor at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

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Wahooing Betsy Ross – WSJ

Mr Henninger has it right: “…corporation headquarters are not profiles in courage…” WSJ 7/10/2019

The remarkable thing about Colin Kaepernick ’s banning of Nike ’s Betsy Ross flag sneaker to commemorate the Fourth of July isn’t that it happened, but how easily it happened. Nike’s management simply folded over “concerns that it could unintentionally offend.”

Translating this waffly phrase into odds, I’d put “concerns that it could” at about a million to one. But because the thought found its way into Mr. Kaepernick’s head that the shoe was about slavery, Nike’s senior decision-makers nodded without dissent: We’ve gotta pull it.

No one has ever thought to go looking inside corporate headquarters for profiles in courage, but the lurch toward timidity in our time by individuals at the top of America’s private and public institutions is something to behold. Pusillanimity has become a plague.

The ownership of the Cleveland Indians engaged in several years of passive resistance before finally caving in this season to pressure from New-York-based Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred to ban the team’s mascot and logo, the joyfully smiling Chief Wahoo. The Indians’ cap now bear a nondescript C, which hereafter should stand for “craven” instead of Cleveland.

Banning Chief Wahoo—a constant presence in the city’s life since the 1950s—meant baseball’s factotums could get through Tuesday night’s All-Star game in Cleveland without the possibility that the logo might be seen on an Indian player’s uniform, forcing baseball’s leadership to endure apparently unbearable Twitter torture.

In April, the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Flyers caved in to pressure to stop playing a recording of Kate Smith singing “God Bless America” because it emerged that Smith recorded a song called “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” in 1931, when she was 24. The Flyers even removed a statue of Smith, erected in 1987, from outside their arena. If the Flyers players crumbled as quickly as their management, they’d be laughed out of hockey.

 

In a saner world, the Yankees and Flyers might have worked out a modus vivendi. Yes, it’s worth knowing now that racist songs were recorded in the U.S. in the 1930s. And it is good and useful if major institutions such as the Yankees and Flyers condemn them.

But it is also a fact that listening to Smith’s rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” has been an experience of pure patriotic exhilaration for millions of people, most of whom by now have never heard of Kate Smith, whose life and career were stellar in every respect beyond two songs. Criticize the condescending songs she recorded in the 1930s—and move on.

One feels almost ridiculous getting pulled into arguments about things like baseball mascots or Kate Smith. But the Betsy Ross flag incident suggests something’s happening that is not ridiculous. It is insidious. It is insidious because with prominent American leadership falling over like empty plastic bottles, the bannings are coming too quickly and too easily. They’re starting to look like a slippery slope to institutionalized suppression.

Political disagreement is supposed to be about argument. But the proponents of these claims don’t bother to make an argument anymore. Instead, they posit assertions, such as that Kate Smith had to be held “accountable,” or mascots such as Chief Wahoo are “hurtful.” The Betsy Ross flag has to disappear because slavery existed in 1777 and, as bad, some white nationalists on the far fringe recently waved it in public somewhere.

Since about 1970, when the cultural divide in America was still just a fissure, an enduring reality of our politics has been the phenomenon of a Silent Majority, which never quite goes away. It mostly pops up in presidential elections to the always wide-eyed surprise of the East Coast media, which then sends out teams to rediscover why these people are upset.

The rest of the time when a Chief Wahoo or Kate Smith happens, most people find space inside themselves to absorb it. But for the increasingly Mao-like American left, even this choked-down acceptance of their political assaults isn’t enough. They no longer seem content with winning. The left today has a compulsion to force obedience again and again. Thus, You didn’t like Wahoo and Kate Smith? Try this: We’re getting rid of your racist Betsy Ross flag, and you’ll shut your face and take it.

What they want from their opposition isn’t agreement with their ideas but submission—a kind of political lobotomization. And disturbingly, a lot of contemporary leaders—at Nike, the Yankees, the Flyers, almost any university—are volunteering to assist in the procedure.

Anytime thought suppression goes too far, people look for ways to resist. One thinks of the determined objectors in Ray Bradbury ’s now barely fictional novel, “Fahrenheit 451,” evading the firemen who exterminate the possessions of people who read books. Today, the firemen are burning any symbol of American life they say has become unacceptable—to them.

 

Outside a baseball game this season at the Cleveland Indians stadium there was a guy with a sign: “Make Chief Wahoo Great Again.” Who could possibly be surprised, or pretend to be offended?

via Wahooing Betsy Ross – WSJ.

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Girl Power!

Where are the women?????????

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Are athletes who are born male but identify as female cheating girls? Tennis legend Martina Navratilova says they are. “To put the argument at its most basic,” she wrote this weekend in an op-ed for the Sunday Times of London, “a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organisation is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires.”

Her conclusion is blunt: “It’s insane and it’s cheating. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair.”

This isn’t the first time Ms. Navratilova has sounded off on the issue. “You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women,” she tweeted in December. “There must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard.” After intense blowback, Ms. Navratilova said she would have nothing more to say until she’d studied the issue more closely.

“Well, I’ve now done that and, if anything, my views have strengthened,” she wrote in the Sunday Times.

Ms. Navratilova’s argument comes at a moment when institutions from high schools to state legislatures are wrestling with the real-world implications of equal access for transgender people. When the issue first arose, the most heated arguments were over single-sex locker rooms, rest rooms and college dorms. But the front lines have now shifted to sports—and girls’ sports in particular.

This is no coincidence. As Abigail Shrier notes in City Journal, “few biological boys are likely to lose top spots in sports competition or the college scholarships that follow because of transgender boys who outperform them.” But in girls’ sports, American moms and dads are increasingly watching their daughters in high school and college competing against biological boys.

In June, two transgender high-schoolers in Connecticut made national headlines when they dominated the girls’ state track competition for the second year in a row. Such victories underscore Ms. Navratilova’s argument that if biological men are allowed to compete in women’s sports, girls will not be the winners.

This in turn has led to a curious development: Some of the most pointed criticism of allowing transgender women to compete in women’s sports isn’t coming from the culture warriors on the right, much as they might be in sympathy. A good part is coming from those like Ms. Navratilova, a longtime champion of gay rights who came out in 1981 and whose Twitter feed is filled with leftist sentiment on everything from Donald Trump and climate change to guns.

Andrew Sullivan noted this surreal alliance in a recent essay for New York magazine headlined “The Nature of Sex.” Mr. Sullivan’s particular focus was the proposed Equality Act—which would add “gender identity” to the classes protected by the 1964 Civil Rights Act—but his main point about the implications of ignoring biological reality dovetails with Ms. Navratilova’s argument about sports.

Once biological reality is pushed aside, Mr. Sullivan writes, it becomes hard to define exactly what a woman really is. “The core of the traditional gay claim,” he writes, “is that there is indeed a very big difference between male and female, that the difference matters, and without it, homosexuality would make no sense at all.” Not only that, if male and female are simply social constructs, the definitions that then prevail “must rely on stereotypical ideas of what gender expression means,” such as wearing dresses or nail polish. So he salutes the courage of gay women such as Ms. Navratilova who are attacked for speaking up.

Today women’s powerlifting has become transgender sports activists’ leading villain. In January, USA Powerlifting announced a prohibition on transgender women, on the sensible ground that theirs is a strength sport and allowing biological males to compete wouldn’t be fair.

But common sense is no match for an ideology on the march. No sooner had USA Powerlifting announced its policy than it received a letter from Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar saying that the sport was violating the Minnesota Human Rights Act. She said she was asking the state’s attorney general to investigate.

Meanwhile, Ms. Navratilova’s op-ed is already generating headlines, mostly of the “Martina Navratilova criticized for comments” variety. Of course, she anticipated the furor and name-calling, writing of the “tyranny” of transgender activists who rather than engage in argument simply denounce as “transphobes” anyone who dares disagree. Though she promises it won’t deter her, she worries that “others may be cowed into silence or submission.”

In the end, if the sports world can’t distinguish between girls and boys, the whole reason for women’s sports disappears. Bully for Ms. Navratilova for her willingness to insist on the distinction.

Write to mcgurn@wsj.com.

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By William McGurn

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Democrats Disgrace the Senate

It is almost impossible for me to fathom how the Democratic Party condones what is happening.
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WSJ 9/27/2018 By Karl Rove

Thursday will be an immensely consequential day for America. As of this writing, Christine Blasey Ford is scheduled to appear in the morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee, followed by Judge Brett Kavanaugh. They both deserve to be heard, but the hearing could devolve into a circus.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein could have avoided this chaos if she’d acted properly in July after receiving Ms. Ford’s letter alleging Mr. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party of teenagers in the early 1980s. Mrs. Feinstein could have promptly delivered the letter to the FBI so agents could interview Ms. Ford, Judge Kavanaugh and the people she claims were present. Their responses would have been included in the judge’s confidential background check.

The Judiciary Committee could then have privately considered all the facts—including that Ms. Ford can’t remember when or where the alleged assault took place, and that the three people Ms. Ford claims attended the party all deny any recollection of it. Ms. Ford would have kept her anonymity and Judge Kavanaugh his reputation.

But Mrs. Feinstein—who finds herself in a difficult reelection campaign—placed venomous partisanship above fair play and professionalism. She has brought dishonor to her decades in the Senate.

Now comes an accusation in the New Yorker that Mr. Kavanaugh exposed himself to Deborah Ramirez at a Yale drinking session, and another, even more salacious allegation from “resistance” celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti. The New York Times earlier took a pass on Ms. Ramirez’s story after interviewing “several dozen people” without finding any who could corroborate it. They also discovered she recently told classmates she wasn’t certain Mr. Kavanaugh was the one who exposed himself, asking them to confirm it. (According to the New Yorker story, Ms. Ramirez “was at first hesitant to speak publicly, partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking.” She “felt confident” of her story only “after six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney.”) Judge Kavanaugh had already undergone two extensive FBI background checks, one when he joined the White House staff and another when nominated to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. None of these allegations were raised either time.

Senate Democrats seem to be competing to debase themselves most. Shouting at Chairman Chuck Grassley, Sen. Kamala Harris looked like she’s already campaigning for president. Sen. Cory Booker (D., Thrace) repeatedly and defiantly boasted that he’d make public confidential documents— whose release the committee had already authorized. Sen. Dick Durbin vacuously praised lawbreakers disrupting the hearing as the “noise of democracy.”

When running for the Senate in 2010, Richard Blumenthal falsely told constituents he had served in Vietnam. He now claims Judge Kavanaugh lacks credibility and so has “a responsibility to come forward with evidence” rebutting Ms. Ford—that is, responsibility to prove a negative.

But when it comes to recklessness it’s hard to outdo Sen. Mazie Hirono, who told male colleagues and the men of America to “shut up” and “do the right thing for a change,” which is to believe Ms. Ford regardless of facts. Like the Queen of Hearts, she believes “Sentence first—verdict afterwards.” When asked about Judge Kavanaugh’s denials, Ms. Hirono suggested he’s not entitled to the presumption of innocence because of his conservative judicial philosophy. She then signed a fundraising appeal for MoveOn.org to help make Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination “an electoral issue . . . to make sure this costs Republicans extra seats.”

Senate Judiciary Democrats have endorsed as acceptable (1) disruptive tactics unworthy of even a Third World country, (2) the presumption of guilt instead of innocence, and (3) determining a man guilty by accusation alone, even if the weight of evidence points the other way, so long as it suits their ideological agenda. Republicans should refuse to bow to such methods. They should also decline to resort to them when the tables are turned.

Both parties will suffer politically if they lose. The Republican base will be furious at its leadership if Judge Kavanaugh is defeated or his nomination withdrawn. The Democratic base will be demoralized if he is confirmed— although it will also use his presence on the Supreme Court to gin up turnout among liberal women and attack the GOP.

I know Brett Kavanaugh, who is a former White House colleague. In hard times for our nation after 9/11, I came to deeply admire Brett’s character, intellect and integrity. His reputation was spotless until Democrats began acting like a mob. Judge Kavanaugh deserves better than this sordid process. More importantly, the country does.

Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is the author of “The Triumph of William McKinley” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

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