A sentinel species is an animal used by human beings to detect early threats in the environment. The classic example is the canary in the coal mine. Well into the 20th century, canaries were carried into the mines to detect the presence of deadly carbon monoxide gas. Canaries react to carbon monoxide faster than people, so if the canary dies, it is a warning to the miner that he has only a few minutes to get out.
Camille Paglia is an accomplished scholar, a feminist and a lesbian – and apparently in that order – because she has a warning for this country that has nothing to do with her sexual preference or her feminism. It is a message about cultural survival. If you’ve not yet read her recent interview in the WSJ entitled, A Feminist Defense of Masculine Virtues, it may be worth your time to do so. Whether Ms. Paglia is dead-on in her assessment or simply trying to make a name as a provocateur is a question that you will answer for yourself. However, I believe that the societal implications of the issues Ms. Paglia raises are worth consideration.
Camille Paglia is not your mother’s feminist. She is an independent thinker. Her opinions run contrary to much of mainstream feminism and she takes on extreme feminist beliefs head-on. In Paglia’s mind, a straight line can be connected between the cultural devaluation of masculine virtues and the decline of Western Civilization.
Before we get started, we should define traditional masculine virtues. We may be hard pressed to find complete agreement on this subject, but few should quibble with the following list of five masculine virtues: Strength, mastery, courage, loyalty, and honor. All of these virtues, for example, are embodied in the ethos of our Special Forces. They are all embedded in the motto: “Leave no man behind.”
The Biology of Men and Women
Ms. Paglia’s interview in the WSJ begins with this statement: “What you’re seeing is how a civilization commits suicide.” As a mother of an 11-year-old boy, Ms. Paglia says, “Primary education does everything in its power to turn boys into neuters.” Recess and PE have been cut from the curriculum in many schools. The emphasis on mastery of hard academic subjects has been deemphasized and replaced with an emphasis on cultural sensitivity training. The focus now is on feelings and self-esteem.
Paglia worries that the military is out of fashion. It is no longer respected. She believes that the lack of military training and experience in the political class has resulted in a group of leaders who possess dangerous delusions. “They literally don’t have any sense of evil or criminality,” she says. Paglia also notes that Americans have come to devalue manual labor. She believes that we have created a cultural myth that says to succeed everyone must go to college, even as many college degrees are utterly worthless.
But Paglia saves her greatest contempt for the extreme feminist position that there are no biological differences between men and women.
Women in Combat
The news is rife with examples of the denial of the biological differences between men and women for political purposes. Nowhere is this denial more striking than in the government’s new plan to introduce women into ground combat by the year 2016. However, it appears that some biological realities are already butting up against the hypothesis that most women have the physical strength to do this violent and brutal work. The U.S. Marines Corps just announced that they will delay their new requirement that female Marines be required to do a minimum of 3 pull-ups. The reason given is that the majority of women cannot do 3 pull-ups, even after completion of boot camp. Men, on the other hand, are required do a minimum of 8 pull-ups. There will be no such waiver of standards for upper body strength in men. If men do not have the strength to carry a comrade to safety or bash enemy skulls on the front lines, they will not become Marines; nor should they. Standards are critical to group survival and success.
If merely blurring the lines between traditional male and female identities were not enough, the “LGBT community” has lobbied to remove any link between gender and genetics. Facebook has now created the option of identifying yourself by one of 51 different gender types. Like using a Lego set, you can create your own gender. If you don’t like the societal pressures of becoming a man or a woman, you can be “bigender” or “gender fluid.” Here’s how the politically-correct explain this issue: According to the Washington Post, “Some people identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, based on their gender; those people are called “cisgender.” Examine the innovative language that is being applied here: “the gender that they were assigned at birth.” I was assigned a locker in high school, but I don’t remember anyone assigning me a gender. Just who assigned the wrong gender to these poor people, making them so unhappy? Is it just me, or is this argument completely incoherent?
In medicine and science, we define entities using a “gold standard.” For example, in diagnosing coronary artery disease, the gold standard is finding a blockage of a coronary artery on angiogram. If you inject dye into an artery and see the blockage, you have heart disease. End of story. It doesn’t matter whether or not the person with coronary disease “feels” that he/she has the disease. I’ve seen many people in denial about their heart disease, but they still have it.
However, in our sexually ambiguous culture, you can deny your own biology. Gender has become uncoupled from our X & Y chromosomes. The new gold standard for gender is apparently “feelings.” If a young boy goes through a stage of playing with dolls, he can tell his parents and teachers that he believes that he is a girl. What is more, some adults will take him seriously. He may be suffering from “gender dysphoria.” Fortunately, he can see a psychiatrist and confirm this diagnosis based upon DSM-V criteria. There may even be an exciting gender change operation in his future. How grand! And yet a long-term study of 324 patients in Sweden who underwent “gender reassignment surgery” (a gender change operation) showed that surgery was not the solution to their problem. After surgery, these people had “considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population.”
Why Ms. Paglia?
At first blush, what surprised me most when I read this WSJ interview was that the case for masculine virtues was being made by a feminist; a feminist who has a sexual preference for women. However, if Ms. Paglia is being honest, her warnings should come as no surprise. She is worried. Rational people, and especially rational parents, are concerned with their own survival and the welfare of their children. She recognizes the societal need for masculine men: “If we had to go to war,” she says, it would be “the men that would save the nation.” Without a society that values and fosters the development of strength, mastery, courage, loyalty, and honor in its men, how are we to protect ourselves against the inevitable invaders? If there are too few masculine men, whom will we send to war; the “bigenders” or the “gender fluids?”