Thursday, October 9, 2008

What passes for introspection among feminists

There's something almost adorable about how insular liberal academics are. Here's a woman, Jane Marcellus, who is a professor at a third or fourth-tier directional Tennessee school, has the look of someone who utterly depends on being perceived as intelligent for any semblance of self-esteem and is so enmeshed in a masturbatory ideological struggle that even when she displays a modicum of independent thought she lacks the security to couch it in anything other than the snark of conformity.

There have been all manner of loony pronouncements from feminist academics with regard to Palin, but I find those who posture as though breaking the chains of groupthink to often be more revealing. From her commentary:

I know the V.P. debate is an old story already, given the billions more in bad financial and economic news we've had since then, topped off by a new face-off between the two ticket-toppers, Barack Obama and John McCain Tuesday night.

But I keep thinking about the Palin-Biden face-off. I watched it at a hotel bar in Seattle, where I was attending an academic conference. Some of us slipped up to the top floor where we could see Sarah Palin and Joe Biden on a big screen over good ales and margaritas.

Certainly, we felt guilty about it; we were missing a major speaker and a fundraising auction to help students. But who could resist? After all, if it was anything like the Charles Gibson and Katie Couric interviews, it promised to be funnier than a Tina Fey skit.

So yes, here is a journalism professor, a feminist no less, who apparently wasn't perceptive enough to be offended by the double-standard by which Joe Biden's career of rambling idiocy is judged in the media. Who apparently lacked the intellectual honesty to be appalled by the way Palin's Charlie Gibson interview was conducted and edited. Imagine the burden of shaping young journalists falling to someone utterly oblivious to the fact that Gibson deliberately distorted a quote of hers while addressing a church and when she called him on it he maintained that those were her exact words. Imagine not being appalled at the pomposity of his question regarding the "Bush Doctrine" (which the fever swamps of the left had so much fun with) when foreign policy experts don't even agree on what it is. And imagine being a journalism professor who finds the reaction of her and her peers so emotionally satisfying that reading the full transcript of the interview to ascertain just what a hatchet job it was had no chance of being baked into the DNA of her perception. That's hardly intellectual rigor.

Of course, we told ourselves we watched because the election is important, but get real: We watched because we wanted her to fail. We wanted to watch her fail. What better place than the Roman Colosseum of modern times--a bar with a good TV?

I admit it. I wanted her to fail.

I am a feminist researcher. I write about historical stereotypes of women in the workplace, am not usually afraid to speak up about what I think and I still have my handwritten notes from the first women's studies course I ever took, circa 1978.

Still, I wanted this woman, Sarah Palin, to fail.

... So it's pretty natural that we would be angry that Hillary was superseded on the national stage by an unknown self-proclaimed "hockey mom" who opposed abortion rights and wore her hair in a 1950s poof. ...

You simply have to love this. Hillary Clinton, while an obviously bright woman, rode her more charismatic and politically savvy husband's coattails to power. She has grown on me, but how about a little dose of truth? She benefited from pity. Yet feminists like Marcellus, no doubt, went to great pains to throw every feminist principle under the bus in rationalizing Bill Clinton's conduct. Lest anyone has forgotten he was ensnared in a web of laws on workplace harassment (and evidence gathering) which these people themselves brought to fruition. And while being unembarrassed about how Hillary launched her political career is to be expected, also down the memory hole is how her handlers hid her from the press in her first campaign while she worked on learning about a state she had never lived in as well as on properly presenting herself. And this when faced with what was hardly a hostile media like that which awaited Palin.

With regard to her characterization of Palin, one of course has to wonder if this is some kind of mea culpa about how stupid this perception was among her kind. That's not entirely clear. I certainly travel in hipper, more sophisticated circles here in NYC than Marcellus does in Tennessee or elsewhere and can assure her that she displays a remarkable lack of self-awareness in mocking Palin's physical appearance in light of her own. And an almost comical lack of perception in using the abortion issue as a cudgel. Palin has her own personal beliefs but only a reflexive lefty could fail, upon close inspection, to discern the libertarian streak in Palin's philosophical outlook.

... What's wrong with this picture? Is no one concerned with how easily we replaced the story about the powerful, brilliant woman with the safer, more familiar one about the ditzy airhead, and more important, how that happened?

Within days of Hillary's speech we had a woman on a major presidential ticket whose family life we could compare to Brittany Spears'. And we did. (You heard, right, that the baby may be her daughter's?) It's a paradox that John McCain would bring the American people this scenario, given that earlier in the summer he compared Barack Obama to Paris Hilton.

What has happened here?

I don't claim to have it figured out. I don't entirely blame "the media," because as cultural studies theorists tell us, media and culture are as interconnected as beehive 'dos and hairspray. ...

And here we have more contrived pseudo-intellectual social commentary. As I recall the Clinton family was replete with Jerry Springer Show imagery. From the spectacle of Bill Clinton playing vagina hockey with a cigar and a fat, homely 21-year-old intern, to his substance-abusing redneck brother being camped in the White House trying to sell pardons to Hillary's rise in benefiting from the madness which surrounded her, and which she enabled. With all the smears Palin was subjected to you'd think a journalism professor would note that while the mainstream media aided and abetted all manner of anonymous ugly rumors and distortions, the circus that was the Clinton era actually featured a rape charge and assorted affairs and harassment charges where the accusers at least had the courage to show their faces in public. Then again, like understanding how we arrived at our current financial crisis, that would require something on the part of Marcellus's kind which I keep hearing that Sarah Palin grossly lacks. As Barack Obama himself might put it Um, uh, um, uh,um, uh, ah, um intellectual curiosity.

Read Marcellus's full article here.

That I'm gutting a writer and thinker so inconsequential that she likely Googles herself and will find this may be harsh. But her very ordinariness - in being typical of breed - is what I found so amusing in her pained effort to overcome her ideological prism and engage in rationality. The contrast with Camille Paglia's efforts at doing likewise in a recent Salon column made it all the more stark. Paglia writes:

The mountain of rubbish poured out about Palin over the past month would rival Everest. What a disgrace for our jabbering army of liberal journalists and commentators, too many of whom behaved like snippy jackasses. The bourgeois conventionalism and rank snobbery of these alleged humanitarians stank up the place. As for Palin’s brutally edited interviews with Charlie Gibson and that viper, Katie Couric, don’t we all know that the best bits ended up on the cutting-room floor? Something has gone seriously wrong with Democratic ideology, which seems to have become a candied set of holier-than-thou bromides attached like tutti-frutti to a quivering green Jell-O mold of adolescent sentimentality.

And where is all that lurid sexual fantasy coming from? When I watch Sarah Palin, I don’t think sex — I think Amazon warrior! I admire her competitive spirit and her exuberant vitality, which borders on the supernormal. The question that keeps popping up for me is whether Palin, who was born in Idaho, could possibly be part Native American (as we know her husband is), which sometimes seems suggested by her strong facial contours. I have felt that same extraordinary energy and hyper-alertness billowing out from other women with Native American ancestry — including two overpowering celebrity icons with whom I have worked.

One of the most idiotic allegations batting around out there among urban media insiders is that Palin is “dumb.” Are they kidding? What level of stupidity is now par for the course in those musty circles? (The value of Ivy League degrees, like sub-prime mortgages, has certainly been plummeting. As a Yale Ph.D., I have a perfect right to my scorn.) People who can’t see how smart Palin is are trapped in their own narrow parochialism — the tedious, hackneyed forms of their upper-middle-class syntax and vocabulary.

See the full Camille Paglia article here.

Sure, Paglia is the enfant terrible of feminism. She is a contrarian by nature. But still she has a quality of mind which is not held hostage to the value system which makes an effort at similar generosity on the part of Marcellus so rife with chattering class buffoonery. Paglia must have had a happy childhood. Or perhaps it is her understanding that feminist thought is cartoonishly rigid and anchored by the big lie that they hold the moral high ground on abortion. That's something most normal well-adjusted people know to be an absurdity, even if, like myself, they are pro-choice.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Site Meter