Paglia and feminism
Some feminist critics have characterized Paglia as an "anti-feminist feminist", critical of central features of much contemporary feminism but holding out "her own special variety of feminist affirmation". Elaine Showalter notes Paglia's admiration for Simone de Beauvoir and The Second Sex ("the supreme work of modern feminism... its deep learning and massive argument are unsurpassed") as well as Germaine Greer, but Martha Duffy observes that Paglia "does not hesitate to hurl brazen insults" at several feminists including Greer, whom Paglia accused of becoming "a drone in three years" as a result of her early success; Paglia also called Diana Fuss' output "just junk – appalling!" Showalter calls Paglia "unique in the hyperbole and virulence of her hostility to virtually all the prominent feminist activists, public figures, writers and scholars of her generation", mentioning Carolyn Heilbrun, Judith Butler, Carol Gilligan, Marilyn French, Zoe Baird, Kimba Wood, Susan Thomases, and Hillary Clinton as targets of her criticism.
Paglia has accused Kate Millett of starting "the repressive, Stalinist style in feminist criticism..." Paglia has repeatedly criticized Patricia Ireland, former president of the National Organization for Women, calling her a "sanctimonious", unappealing role model for women whose "smug, arrogant" attitude is accompanied by "painfully limited processes of thought". Paglia contends that under Ireland's leadership, NOW "damaged and marginalized the women's movement". Paglia has called feminist philosopher Martha Nussbaum a "PC diva", and accused her of borrowing her ideas without acknowledgement. She further contends that Nussbaum's "preparation or instinct for sex analysis is dubious at best".
Many feminists have criticized Paglia; Christina Hoff Sommers calls her "Perhaps the most conspicuous target of feminist opprobrium", noting that the Women's Review of Books described Sexual Personae as a work of "crackpot extremism", "an apologia for a new post-Cold War fascism", and patriarchy's "counter-assault on feminism". Sommers relates that when Paglia appeared at a Brown University forum, feminists signed a petition censuring her and demanding an investigation into procedures for inviting speakers to the campus.
Naomi Wolf traded a series of sometimes personal attacks with Paglia throughout the early 1990s. In The New Republic, Wolf labeled Paglia, "the nipple-pierced person's Phyllis Schlafly who poses as a sexual renegade but is in fact the most dutiful of patriarchal daughters" and characterized Paglia's writing as "full of howling intellectual dishonesty". In 1991, Paglia referred to Wolf as a "twit".
Gloria Steinem said of Paglia that, "Her calling herself a feminist is sort of like a Nazi saying they're not anti-Semitic." Paglia said that Steinem, whom she accused of not having read her, had compared her to Hitler and Sexual Personae to Mein Kampf. Paglia called Steinem "the Stalin of feminism."
Katha Pollitt has characterized Paglia as one of a "seemingly endless parade of social critics [who] have achieved celebrity by portraying not sexism but feminism as the problem". Pollitt writes that Paglia has glorified "male dominance", and has been able to get away with calling the Spur Posse California high school date-rape gang "beautiful", among other things "that might make even Rush Limbaugh blanch", because she is a woman.
Paglia's view that rape is sexually motivated has been endorsed by evolutionary psychologists Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer; they comment that "Paglia... urges women to be skeptical toward the feminist 'party line' on the subject, to become better informed about risk factors, and to use the information to lower their risk of rape."