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In Defense of Manly Virtue: Camille Paglia vs. Walter Ong and David Bakan

By       Message Thomas Farrell       (Page 1 of 9 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) December 30, 2013: Camille Paglia recently published a polemic in Time Magazine titled "It's a Man's World, and It Always Will Be" (dated December 16, 2013).


But that title is not exactly the rallying cry of contemporary feminists like young Hanna Rosin, author of the feminist book The End of Men (2012). So will other young feminists respond to Rosin's rallying cry: "The End of Men"? I hope not. So I was happy to see Time publish Paglia's spirited rejoinder to Rosin's rallying cry.


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Even more recently, the Wall Street Journal published a thoughtful interview of Paglia titled "Camille Paglia: A Feminist Defense of Masculine Virtues" (dated December 28, 2013). Bari Weiss interviewed Paglia and wrote the lengthy piece.


But feminists are not exactly famous for offering a defense of masculine virtues. Yes, Paglia does consider herself to be a feminist, even though she criticizes the views of other feminists in the women's movement.

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I should mention that Paglia has also published op-ed commentaries about politics, but her liberal political views are not mentioned in the lengthy WSJ piece. For this reason, some liberals might see her spirited critiques of feminism in the WSJ piece as contributing to the Republicans' war on women.


Now, both Camille Paglia (born 1947) and Walter J. Ong, S.J. (1912-2003), are multi-directional cultural critics. Each takes the long view of culture, going back to ancient times. Each has also defended certain kinds of male behavior. In this respect, each has countered the anti-male criticisms of certain brash feminists.


But their respective ways of countering certain anti-male criticisms of brash feminists have been strikingly different. Paglia has engaged in polemics with the brash feminists. By contrast, Ong has been irenic and contemplative in his works about male agonistic tendencies. In light of his commitment to being irenic and contemplative, he did not publish op-ed commentaries about his political views, as Paglia has.

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As a spirited cultural critic, Paglia has undoubtedly had a bigger impact on the American reading public than Ong had -- perhaps because she writes about subject matter that seems closer to the immediate experience of the American reading public than Ong does. But Ong liked to say that we need both closeness (proximity) and distance to understand something. If this is true, as I think it is, then Ong's cultural critiques might supply the American reading public with the distance they need to get their cultural bearings about the kinds of cultural changes we in Western culture are undergoing today.


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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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