Impress Me

Consider the lack of insight that would permit Camille Paglia, a controversial but outspoken feminist, to muse on camera about how she, a lesbian, uses the male gaze. She is an academic lecturer on gender and she is genuinely confused by this apparent contradiction. In the clip, she doesn’t address the possibility that “male” here is shorthand for “agent and beneficiary of mechanisms to wield power.” Paglia is a white, well connected, well educated person, and she looks upon other women with the presumed authority to value them; more to the point, the object of her attention might reasonably seek her approval because of all that. Here is the real currency in both feminism and the patriarchy– power. Paglia has power in that she can objectify another person without needing to navigate the demands of those who would do the same to her. The defining characteristic of the male gaze is the ability to influence the behavior or estimation of its subject, not the gender of either party.

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