cover image Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism

Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism

Camille Paglia. Pantheon, $26.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-375-42477-9

Feminist and culture critic Paglia is at her feisty, full-throated best in this series of short manifestos that spans her career from her breakthrough 1990 study, Sexual Personae, to the present. Paglia’s remedy for the ills besetting contemporary women is an infusion of her personal brand of “Amazonian feminism,” which combines staunch libertarian principles with 1960s rebellion. She refuses to bow to ideology (“The premier principles of this book are free thought and free speech—open, mobile, and unconstrained by either liberal or conservative ideology”) and is uncompromising in her convictions. Paglia’s sharp tongue and clear vision veer toward forceful assertions and snappy insults as often as practical perspective and common-sense solutions. Her narrative of the major moments of second-wave feminism starts to sound rehearsed by the end, but her stances on date rape, abortion, free speech, sex, art, and the importance of historical perspective are admirably consistent, as is her contempt for university coddling, poststructuralism, women’s studies programs, cults of victimhood, and anything mainstream. Paglia’s adversarial stance and scattered self-applause sometimes obscure the excellence of her prose, which is terse and studded with vivid metaphor. One does not have to agree with her theories about masculinity, femininity, and sex to enjoy Paglia’s bracing intellect and scrappy attitude. [em]Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit. (Mar.) [/em]