Proust, Paglia and Exit Wounds

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This video has been doing the rounds over the last few days.  It is difficult to tell if it is ironic or not; though 'American Christian feminists' makes me think the (male) Catholic priests who during my youth flooded into Cheltenham each year  for Gold Cup Week would have considered placing a trifecta on it being the negative.

While the video is hilarious, it also precipitated an odd moment for me, an episode of the madeleine.  The sight of short skirted schoolgirls cavorting took my mind back to some seedy rock video I happened to see in 1980, consisting of, you guessed it, short skirted schoolgirls cavorting.  What interested me about the memory was not its seedy content but that it existed at all.  Ask me what happened in 1980 and my answer will cover the important bases: first, Hagler (we are not worthy!) took the title from Minter by TKO; and, second,rock music would never be the same again as the world lost Bon Scott and John Bonham.  Everything else, I have to say, is really rather vague.  Yet here was an image burned on my mind from all those years ago which I did not know even still existed.

Feminists in 1980 would have regarded that video as misogynistic and degrading.  That was, after all, the point the rock musicians were trying to make.  That was what being a rock musician was all about.  Now, thirty or so years later, the same aesthetic is being used by feminists to make the opposite point.  Ironic.  Or maybe just sad.

What should one make of this?  At some moment in the past, feminists decided that objectified sex and objectified sexuality, far from being degrading to women, were their most potent means of empowerment.  Part of me thinks that that may be the greatest confidence trick which men ever played on women. I am sure if the average fourteen year old boy were asked to design a world, it would be one where girls go around wearing the kind of clothes that, you know, they generally wear today.    "Just tell them it's empowering and they'll do what we want.  Can you believe it?!"

Nevertheless, despite the increasing success of the sexually explicit among women, I am aware of few feminists who take this porn-is-girl-power argument to its logical end.  Indeed, only Camille Paglia has, as far as I know, had the Nietzschean consistency to argue the case to its obvious conclusion (and she is, of course, hated by feminists who cannot cope with the terminal logic of their own arguments): that the prostitutes she sees on the streets of Philadelphia are some of the most powerful and independent women she knows .  As a postgraduate, I rented digs in a village near Aberdeen which was separated from the city by the docks and thus by the red light district.  I walked or cycled through its streets many times each week.  If cadaverous faces, eyes that were the gateways to a dark nothingess and life stories that were illustrated with the bruises on their arms from dirty needles were the signs of empowerment, then I guess Paglia is right. 

On another note, the madeleine incident reminded me of the power of the visual. What we see has the power to shape our souls in powerful, unconscious ways; and when that sight is pornographic, whether of a sexual or violent kind, it shapes them for ill.    Augustine realised this and exposed it brilliantly in his account of how his friend Alypius was taken unwillingly to see the gladiatorial games.  Alypius kept his eyes closed until one of the combatants suffered a terrible blow. The crowd roared.  Alypius opened his eyes.  And from that moment on he was hooked on the games far more than the friends who had dragged him there in the first place.  The pornographic sight of the violence had reshaped his soul.

As a postscript, it might be that some of the culture vultures out there might want to read the Alypius incident before they line up to see the latest Tarantino offering, with all of its no doubt beautifully choreographed blood and artistically presented gore.   Is there a Christian perspective on such?   Yes.  It says that thirty years from now you may not remember the individual moments when you told your wife or your children or your parents that you love them, or any of those random acts of kindness of which you were the agent or the recipient. You certainly will not recall the sermon you heard last Sunday.  But you will probably remember the exit wounds, every last splash of them.

Posted January 3, 2013 @ 8:08 PM by Carl Trueman
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