role models

Camille Paglia and Naomi Wolf Debate Role Models in Cosmo

Photo: Corbis

On the hunt for a feminist-ish role model for 2013, Cosmopolitan consulted feminist-ish writers Naomi Wolf and Camille Paglia, signaling, at the very least, that the nineties are definitely back.

Wolf said the concept of role models is bad for women because it sets up an unattainable ideal that makes women feel inadequate. “To me, the ideal is for women to see themselves as their role models,” Wolf told Cosmo. With all due respect to Wolf, an expert in self-love, we’re still reaching for something more. But it probably shouldn’t be the pop stars Paglia says her university students look up to. “It’s alarming, in fact, that today’s leading female figures and top earners are mainly entertainers, with their chaotic private lives,” she told Cosmo, especially the girly style of Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, which she recently criticized in The Hollywood Reporter. (What’s so chaotic about re-creating Dirty Dancing with your world-famous boy-band boyfriend?) “If young women try to take that boppy persona into the workplace, they will be marginalized forever as pretty airheads.” But they will get laid. “[D]riving ambition and forceful speech help you get ahead career-wise, but they may undermine romance with men.” Bummer.

Wolf countered that Paglia’s read of women’s relationship to celebrities was “idiotic.” “God bless Camille, but women are thoughtful and critical — they’re not going to define themselves based on whoever the culture throws up,” she said. Okay, guys, that’s great, but we still need a role model. Serving as a kind of Gen Y referee, writer Natasha Vargas-Cooper offered Michelle Obama, who straddles Us Weekly and the White House and is “absolutely an adult woman.”

Camille Paglia and Naomi Wolf Debate in Cosmo