"WHAT you're seeing is how a civilisation commits suicide," says Camille Paglia, the self-described "notorious Amazon feminist" tells a journalist in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
Her indictment is wide-ranging: The military is out of fashion; Americans undervalue manual labour; schools neuter male students; opinion-makers deny the biological differences between men and women; and sexiness is dead.
When Paglia burst on to the American stage in 1990 with the publication of Sexual Personae, she immediately established herself as a feminist who was the scourge of the movement's establishment, a heretic to its orthodoxy. Pick up the 700-page tome, subtitled Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, and it's easy to see why.
"If civilisation had been left in female hands," she wrote, "we would still be living in grass huts."
Paglia argues that the softening of modern American society begins as early as kindergarten. "Primary-school education is a crock, basically. It's oppressive to anyone with physical energy, especially guys," she says, pointing to the most obvious example: the way many schools have cut recess.
|"Primary school makes a toxic environment for boys. Primary education does everything in its power to turn boys into neuters", says Camille Paglia|
They're making a toxic environment for boys. Primary education does everything in its power to turn boys into neuters."
Paglia is not the first to make this argument, as she readily notes. Fellow feminist Christina Hoff Sommers has written about the "war against boys" for more than a decade. The notion was once met with derision, but now data backs it up: almost one in five high school age boys has been diagnosed with ADHD, boys get worse grades than girls and are less likely to go to college.
She sees the tacit elevation of "female values" - such as sensitivity, socialisation and co-operation - as the main aim of teachers, rather than fostering creative energy and teaching hard geographical and historical facts.
By her lights, things only get worse in higher education. "This PC gender politics thing - the way gender is being taught in the universities - in a very anti-male way, it's all about neutralisation of maleness." The result: upper-middle-class men who are "intimidated" and "can't say anything ... They understand the agenda."
Politically correct, inadequate education, along with the decline of America's brawny industrial base, leaves many men with "no models of manhood", she says. "Masculinity is just becoming something that is imitated from the movies. There's nothing left. There's no room for anything manly right now."
Paglia has been a professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia since 1984,