The result of such modes of thought, in my field of English, has been the attrition of majors, as students flock to more masculine fields, like business administration. Among the humanities, it is English departments that suffer the worst reputations as inconsequential and useless places.
Even the radical magazine The Nation ran an editorial last March by staff writer William Deresiewicz bemoaning the loss of the profession’s prestige and its relegation to a service unit, where basic writing skills are taught to undergraduates (who increasingly require remedial help, I might add) — ironically the province of women in pre-second-wave feminist days. While Deresiewicz may wrongly attribute the decay to the lack of exciting new theories since Judith Butler’s book Gender Trouble, it is precisely the patriarchy-challenging feminist theories of those like Butler that brought the profession down.
In 1952, the poet Allen Tate could herald the “man of letters” in a speech and claim for him a salvational role for our culture. While around the same time Modern Language Association presidents in their convention speeches could assign to their profession the task of providing a moral vision for the nation, today’s MLA presidents bring down high culture by conflating it with the lowest popular culture like obscenity-laden rap music, as Patricia Yeager, MLA president, did in the March 2007 issue of PMLA.
In order to climb the tenure ladder, one must join in the emotional championing of the “oppressed” and reject linear (logical) thought even as carried out through the grammatical structure of writing for spectacle, performance art, and female pop icons like Madonna and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
But this kind of “scholarship” provides evidence of an extension of what the academic establishment had been trying to do since the 1960s — overthrow the West at the roots, at its intellectual base. The anti-logical theories of postmodernism, where truth itself is questioned, parallel feminist thinking. Reason, as part of the “Western patriarchal hegemony,” is indicted over and over in jargon-laden obscurantist academic prose.
While anti-reason theories circulated and were repeated in academic discourse, in politics the new ethic of “caring” was promoted by Bill Clinton and in the media by women’s talk shows like Oprah, Ellen, and The View, where politics was wedged into teary discussions about makeovers in fashion and self-esteem. Barack Obama, with his “community organizer” experience, recalls the efforts of women with settlement houses, as proto-social workers.
Women — and men who think like women — rule the liberal media and grant such emotion-based politics legitimacy. But the other side of the “caring” coin is the personality-based “critical” side — a nasty, catty one, indeed.
The confusion of the two spheres, the application of “caring” that is appropriately reserved for the domestic sphere where all fetuses are allowed to be birthed and nurtured, is illustrated by Palin, who does not make such confusions. She does not infuse public policy with those notions suited for the home by promoting increased welfare, negotiation with terrorists, and efforts to “understand” the root causes of terrorism, as Obama said we should do in his post-9/11 speech.
And she enjoys an approval rating among men of 62 percent, nine points higher than among women. Those in middle America who have not been taken up by the postmodern theories dominating our universities, especially at Ivy League schools like Barack Obama’s Harvard and Michelle Obama’s Princeton, like what they see.
Palin presents the American ideal: the frontier woman who lovingly takes care of her family, with a shotgun if necessary. The feminist and her male followers who attempt to change American culture through histrionic grievances, demands, meetings, and mass protests see in Palin a glaring example of how their ideas were not only wrong, but unnecessary and, indeed, harmful to women’s advancement.
Now that she tossed out the political tribute to Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro in her speech on the day John McCain announced his choice, Palin needs to continue in the patriarchal vein and not give lip service to feminism.
Unlike the closed halls of academe, where hiring and curriculum decisions are made by the priestly class of politically correct Ph.D.s, with virtually no oversight by the public, American voters will make the decision this November 4.