You ask the questions: Camille Paglia

(Such as: Camille Paglia, feminist icon, how do you feel about being described as a misogynist?)
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The feminist author and cultural critic Camille Paglia, 51, is professor of humanities at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She rose to fame eight years ago with the publication of Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson which challenged prevailing feminist attitudes - she is, for example, anti-censorship and pro-pornography.

She is also a regular columnist on the Internet magazine, Salon ( and lives in Philadelphia.

Is there anything in society and culture that you would censor?

Matthew Jennings

Portsmouth, Hampshire.

I am a free-speech militant. As a teacher, however, I think one must always consider appropriateness and context.

What do you think of Bridget Jones?

Karen M Smyth, Glasgow.

What a boring, dithery twit.

Isn't it insulting to women to say, "If civilisation had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts"?

Sophia Merchant

Camden, London.

That sentence relates to the history of architecture, to which you appear to be indifferent. See my chapter on Egyptian stonework in Sexual Personae.

Which American feminists, if any, do you admire, and why?

Serena Finnegan, Dundee.

The pugnacious, pioneering Betty Friedan, who belongs to no feminist clique, and the classy Faye Wattleton, who eloquently led Planned Parenthood and now heads the Centre for Gender Equality.

Why do you think some people find you scary?

Tania Brockley

Shepherd's Bush, London.

Because I think for myself and don't seek approval. Most people are trapped by habit and fear.

Which British men do you like most?

Nora Lister

Wembley, Middlesex.

Voluptuaries and dandies.

Which aspects of British culture do you prefer to American culture?

Vicki Lyons, North Yorkshire.

The verbal virtuosity and genius for comedy.

How do you respond to Natasha Walter's comment that you just slag off other women, rather than engaging with their ideas?

Victoria Campbell

Thetford, Norfolk.

Only small-minded ideologues and philistines make such silly charges. They missed their chance for dialogue in the early Nineties. Evolving feminist history has passed them by. They must educate themselves and stop whingeing on with crocodile tears.

How do you feel about being described as a "pro-penis lesbian"? What do you mean by the term?

Jason Wood, Chichester.

I have written that "the erect penis is the ultimate symbol of human desire". Any woman who finds the penis ugly or trivial is a neurotic.

Would you still describe yourself as a "world phenomenon"?

Martin Teale, St Andrews, Fife.

Can you name one living intellectual, male or female, who is more widely known across the social spectrum?

What was the last book you read, and the last film you saw?

Daisy Sullivan, Norwich.

The War with Hannibal. On video: X, Y, and Zee. Susannah York is just divine!

What's your favourite Hitchcock film, excluding The Birds?

Leslie Moore, Taunton, Somerset

North by Northwest; I adore Cary Grant for his grace and style.

What is your star sign, and are you a typical one?

Liz Nash, Warwick.

I am a classic Aries, the fierce ram ruled by Mars.

What are your thoughts on Madonna's reincarnation as a mother? Are you still a fan?

Susie Collins Newcastle.

Let her spawn at will. I will be a lifelong fan of Madonna the artist. It's Madonna the shallow person whom I like to needle.

Who's your greatest female idol? And why?

Michael Smith, St Helens.

The visionary writer and reformer St Teresa of Avila, who fought the church hierarchy.

What do you think of Jonathan Dimbleby now?

Thomas Carpenter

Hayes, Middlesex.

Once a prat, always a prat.

Have you ever tried to control your temper?

Portia Sawyer,


Coolly walking out, in order to make a point, is not the same thing as losing one's temper. Italians communicate choreographically.

Do you think Bill Clinton should resign? And do you think Monica Lewinsky is a good or a bad girl?

Dan Elliot, Winchester.

Stone him with rotten tomatoes, then move on. Monica is a generic Beverly Hills brat.

What do you eat for breakfast?

Robin Grice, Blackheath, London.

English muffins in America and American cornflakes in England.

When, and how much, do you resort to physical violence?

Ian Rhodes, Chester.

Rarely, but colourfully. A series of such episodes ended my first teaching job.

What is your idea of a good argument?

Peter Boyd, Northampton.

Arguments are pointless. I am a writer, but my consciousness and experience transcend mere words.

Do you believe in true love?

Tessa Jackson, Lewisham.

All love should be true - that is, honest and faithful.

Do you regret not being a mother?

Louisa Wilson, Stevenage.

I have no maternal instincts whatsoever. But I am a vigilant shepherd to my flock of students.

Do you consider yourself a celebrity and/or an intellectual? And can anyone be both?

Troy McEwen, Edinburgh.

I am an intellectual and career teacher who, at age 43, suddenly became a celebrity. Despite the media glare, my daily life is quiet and private.

Are you a misogynist?

Belinda Jones, Southampton.

What a bizarre question to ask a lesbian who has so fervently celebrated Emily Dickinson, Jane Harrison, Amelia Earhart, Katharine Hepburn, Simone de Beauvoir, Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Onassis, Tippi Hedren, Catherine Deneuve, Diana Rigg, Barbra Streisand, Raquel Welch, Chrissie Hynde, Madonna, Sharon Stone, and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Camille Paglia's `The Birds', a BFI Film Classic, is now on sale, priced pounds 7.99

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