Said Camillle Paglia, in a conversation with Tyler Cowen, who'd asked here "For America, what should an ideal of masculinity look like now?"
COWEN: We have a big culture. Not everyone goes to university, thank goodness. You can go to a NASCAR race and a few of the people there have not been to the Ivy Leagues.Here's the precise clip (from the middle of an hour-and-a-half conversation):
PAGLIA: Working class culture retains an idea of the masculine. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. But, with that, comes static. So you have to have strong women in order to deal with masculine men. That is why masculinity is constantly being eroded, diminished, and dissolved on university campuses because it allows women to be weak. If you have weak men, then you can have weak women. That’s what we have. Our university system, anything that is remotely masculine is identified as toxic, as intrinsic to rape culture. A utopian future is imagined where there are no men. We’re all genderless mannequins. The movie The Time Machine is like one. We’re moving toward that, the Eloi. That’s how I see the upper middle class graduates of the Ivy League. They’re the Eloi. They’re completely bland. They have no ideas. They all get along very well with each other because they’re nothing. They’re eating their fruits which are given to them by the Morlocks, or the industrial class. That’s how I see the future — unfortunately. I began my career talking about androgyny and talking about the imaginative complexity of androgyny and how the artist and the shaman and the prophet have this androgynous component. But today’s androgyny, it’s just boring....
I encountered the conversation because a few days ago, a commenter, Kit Carson pointed it it out because of something she said something about travel that seemed, to him, "althouse-like": "I’m like Huysmans’s aesthete, des Esseintes. I am not a great fan of traveling. I just feel like it’s become too onerous. No, I’m a mind traveler."
Here's the Huysmans text — "Against the Grain" — in full. Relevant excerpt:
The pleasure of travel, which only exists as a matter of fact in retrospect and seldom in the present, at the instant when it is being experienced, he could fully relish at his ease, without the necessity of fatigue or confusion, here in this cabin....Kit Carson may have thought Paglia sounded like me, but Paglia proclaimed that she was like Des Esseintes. Reading the text, I wonder if Paglia really intended to seem to be finding nature dull and boring and best replaced by artifice and imagination. Paglia tends to recommend that brainy folk get out of their cloisters and into the real world, and I don't think she looks down her nose at "the vulgar realities of things."
Movement, after all, seemed futile to him. He felt that imagination could easily be substituted for the vulgar realities of things.... One could revel... in long explorations while near one's own fireside, stimulating the restive or sluggish mind, if need be, by reading some suggestive narrative of travel in distant lands.....
The secret lies in knowing how to proceed, how to concentrate deeply enough to produce the hallucination and succeed in substituting the dream reality for the reality itself.
Artifice, besides, seemed to Des Esseintes the final distinctive mark of man's genius. Nature had had her day, as he put it. By the disgusting sameness of her landscapes and skies, she had once for all wearied the considerate patience of æsthetes. Really, what dullness! the dullness of the specialist confined to his narrow work. What manners! the manners of the tradesman offering one particular ware to the exclusion of all others. What a monotonous storehouse of fields and trees! What a banal agency of mountains and seas!
In fact, the part of the conversation that interested me most, about the draining of masculinity from the loftier realms of American culture, bemoans the lack of experience living in the world, living — as she put it — in the body. That's why she talked about the Eloi. Here's the scene with the fruit-eating:
"I'm going back to my own time. I won't even bother to tell of the useless struggle, the hopeless future. But at least I can die among men!"
What Paglia said that interested me most was that "masculinity is constantly being eroded, diminished, and dissolved on university campuses because it allows women to be weak." That's a variation on something I've been thinking lately. In my way of looking at it, "allows" is the wrong word. I think we need to consider whether masculinity is constantly being eroded because it serves the purpose of making women weak.