American Shorts

Camille Paglia: Old Lesbian Treasure

November 12, 2009
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I love Camille Paglia. camille_paglia_140x140

Okay, strike that. I Love Camille Paglia.

If she were decades younger and straight, you catch my drift? Nah, I wouldn’t. But still. Her Salon articles continue to amaze me in ways few feminist columnists can. Gail Collins may be the only other. Not Maureen Down, as she is a human molester.

Her feminist-professorism wit has no bounds, and while she only writes one column a month for Salon, she manages to get it all in there, always. Hatred of Hillary Clinton. Denying global warming. Making fun of “her” Democrats. Baselessly believing some radical conspiracy theory she heard on Rush Limbaugh — because she “respects” his opinion. She never has anything nice to say, yet everything she says is nice.


Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi scored a giant gain for feminism last weekend. In shoving her controversy-plagued healthcare reform bill to victory by a paper-thin margin, she conclusively demonstrated that a woman can be just as gritty, ruthless and arm-twisting in pursuing her agenda as anyone in the long line of fabled male speakers before her.

That’s okay. I get it. Pelosi passed that terrible bill, and yeah, she’s a chick. But here’s the kicker:

Whether or not her bill survives in the Senate is immaterial: Pelosi’s hard-won, trench-warfare win sets a new standard for U.S. women politicians and is certainly well beyond anything the posturing but ineffectual Hillary Clinton has ever achieved.

Were we talking about Hillary Clinton? At all? No. We weren’t. Nice jab, though.

Obama sure needed a lift and got it from Pelosi. The administration has seemed to be drifting lately. Obama has dithered for months about a strategy for Afghanistan — another rats’ nest we should pull our troops out of overnight. Then there was the bizarre disproportion in Obama’s flying to Denmark to flog a Chicago Olympics yet not having time to make it to Germany to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall — which suggests a frivolous provincialism as well as ignorance of history among the president’s principal advisors. And Obama’s muted response to last week’s massacre at Fort Hood has exposed ambiguities and uncertainties in the U.S. government and military about how to respond to homegrown militant Islam. The presidency is a heavy burden — a prize that can become a curse.

She leaves the politics at that, and does what she does so well. Talks about NPR and Madonna.

Is it true, according to press rumors, that Madonna is vacationing with her boy toy Jesus Luz in a house in Bahia in the far northeast of Brazil? And that she is contemplating buying a house there? Is she planning to take tutorials from the queen of axe, Salvador da Bahia’s very own superstar, Daniela Mercury? Well, it’s kind of what I had in mind in my epic Salon column last year negatively comparing Madonna to Daniela. As a teacher, I will certainly take credit for this leap forward, if it occurs, in Madonna’s much-delayed self-education.

The beauty of Camille Paglia is that she can hate on everyone and everything in such a polite manner. And be so, “I’m on your side” about it. And at the same time, if I saw her on the street (she apparently lives in the Philly suburbs), I’d run. She’s not someone I would ever want to mess with, and I’ve been yelled at by old lesbians before. It’s not cool.

Short story: I went to see the Queers last summer at a small bar in Philadelphia. I was alone. Sitting at the bar, waiting for the Queers to go on, a corpulent rotting human (big/old) sat two seats away. She had short hair and she wore a Queers T-shirt I believe she actually bought at the show. Where did she change? I thought. What is she even doing here, and who is she with?

So, I move over a seat. Start talking. I think we talked about the Queers new album, maybe the city of Philadelphia as a whole — I’m not really sure. I was a few in, and, yeah. Anyway.

Later on, after the first opening band, the Coyletones (who rocked), I was back at the bar and saw her sitting by herself at a table, so I sat next down. Now she was nervous. Keep in mind I’m 25 at the time. No, I’m 24. She’s got to be at least 60. Probably older. Very likely a grandmother. It was a 21+ show, so I imagined she wasn’t chaperoning her grandkids. What was she doing there? This information I sought. Other things I wanted to know: How did you even hear about the Queers? Where do you live? What sort of lifestyle does a 60+ year-old woman at a Queers show — on a Thursday — live?

She wasn’t really all about giving that information out. I was pretty drunk, too. Not too much charm. Eventually she goes, “You know what, I think that’s a little private. I’m pretty disappointed you would ask me these questions!”

So, I got up.

Later on, she was standing against a brick wall while the band played, and I blocked a couple moshers who almost crashed into her. We made eye contact and she nodded. I did too. It was still awkward.