Those churlish, whining feminist have done it again. The Feminist Majority Foundation, in naming its first Feminists of the Year Awards, ignored Madonna, an action that Camille Paglia would say was totally in character.
Ms. Paglia, author of "Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson," has declared Madonna to be the only true, real feminist today, adding that her "enormous impact on young women around the world" makes her the "future of feminism." But she wouldn't expect other feminists to recognize this.
In an opinion piece published in the New York Times on Friday, Ms. Paglia celebrates Madonna's sexuality and interprets the video star's ventures into sadomasochism as an affirmation of "the beauty of masculinity, in all its rough vigor and sweaty athletic perfection."
Madonna is in "control" in her video fantasy -- "But I chained myself! I'm in charge" -- the performer said. Any feminist who questions this, Ms. Paglia declares, is "stuck in an adolescent whining mode."
To suggest that Madonna's new video for "Justify My Love" bear a warning label, "I am a professional, don't try this at home," would put you in Ms. Paglia's category of those who never graduated from the Girl Scouts and who are trapped in the simplistic psychology that is illustrated by "the new cliche of the date-rape furor: 'No' always means 'no.' " No, she reminds us, is just part of the "dangerous, alluring courtship ritual of sex and seduction."
Madonna, Ms. Paglia assures us, "has taught young women to be fully female and sexual while still exercising total control over their lives."
Camille Paglia's philosophy is widely accepted in this country, especially among the judiciary, who are fond of pointing out that all those fully feminine and sexual creatures who got themselves raped really were in control and, by their very femininity and sexuality, asked for it.
In Ms. Paglia's and Madonna's world of art, masculinity's "rough vigor and sweaty athletic perfection" is associated with sexuality. In the real world, male aggression may be less inspired by sex than by a pathological hatred of women. Life does not always imitate art. In a society in love with violence and only mildly interested in sexuality, it is often impossible for women to be in control.
Ms. Paglia says Madonna "shows girls how to be attractive, sensual, energetic, ambitious, aggressive and funny -- all at the same time." Life is just a bowl of three-minute videos.
If we are to remain true to our ideals, Madonna's art must not be suppressed. Her license to project any kind of sexuality she chooses and to enjoy the profits of that (by all accounts she is about to be named businesswoman of the decade) must never be revoked. Given that, is it necessary to characterize those feminists who pick up the pieces of shattered lives in battered women's shelters and rape crisis centers, as puritanical and suffocating if they fail to share Ms. Paglia's enthusiasm for "the ambiguity, contradiction, conflict, ambivalence" of sexism and sexuality?
Ms. Paglia would disdain the Feminist Majority Foundation's award-winners.
Derrick Bell, for instance, the Harvard Law School professor who refused to continue teaching until the school hired a woman of color as a law professor, might be one of those "nerdy bookworm husbands" who are feminists' "ideal model of human manhood."
Nora Dunn, the comedian who refused to appear on "Saturday Night Live" with Andrew Dice Clay, almost certainly is among the "hangdog dowdies and parochial prudes."
The Brown University students who protested violence against women on campus, apparently are feminists of the future who have not gotten Madonna's message. They are so "anti-male," they wrote the names of male attackers on the bathroom walls.
Lisa Olson could tell you a lot about masculine "sweaty athletic perfection" from firsthand exposure. Apparently, the experience is less artistic in a locker room.
Among the whiners are Carole Simpson, the ABC News anchor and correspondent, who spoke out for better opportunities for women and minorities in the media; Dr. Jean Jew, a University of Iowa Medical School professor who took the medical school to court for ignoring repeated sexual and racial harassment; the Saudi Arabian women who drove their cars in violation of the law; and Gloria Molina, a Los Angeles councilwoman who led a fight to get more women appointed to city offices.
It's not clear if Traci Bauer, the Southwest Missouri State University student newspaper editor who sued the school for the right to publish campus crime statistics, is a whiner or if she is just among those who "fear and despise the masculine." Geneva Overholser, Des Moines Register editor, and Nancy Ziegenmeyer, a rape survivor, who collaborated on what is becoming a benchmark in newspaper coverage of rape, are vulnerable to a number of Ms. Paglia's charges.
Robin Morgan, new editor of Ms.; Ann Richards, newly elected Texas governor; and Mary Robinson, the new feminist president of Ireland, of all places, may be tougher to pigeonhole. But you can be sure, if they are feminists, they are up to no good.