The inevitable pun: Crying Wolf


Nothing illustrates feminism's moribund state like the response to Naomi Wolf's charges of sexual harassment against Yale literary lion Harold Bloom. (See also here.) Wolf, as you may or may not recall, firsrt gained fame with her best-seller The Beauty Myth as the feminist glamor girl fulminating against woman-oppressing ideals of beauty. Now she claims in a New York magazine cover story that some 20 years ago when she was a student at Yale, Bloom, her mentor, came over to her apartment to read her poetry over a nice glass of amontillado, and ended up groping her thigh. The incident ended there, but Wolf says that it destroyed her self-esteem and is very upset that Yale did not pursue her recent complaint (even though the deadline for filing a formal harassment charge expired years ago, and it's not entirely clear from her account what it was that she wanted the university to do). While Wolf claims that she was motivated by a sense of duty toward other women at Yale, a cynic might be forgiven for thinking that her coming forward was a publicity ploy from a former mini-celebrity with a flagging career.

What's more interesting than Wolf's motives, though, is the fact that the reaction to her charges—from other women—has been uniformly negative. So far, Wolf has been lambasted by Meghan O'Rourke in Slate, Zoe Williams in The Guardian, Margaret Wente in The Globe and Mail, and Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post. The general consensus is that Wolf is giving feminism a bad name by using a petty charge of sexual harassment for a vendetta and perpetuating an image of women as helpless victims reduced to panic at the first sign of male piggery. Wente even quotes, approvingly, a rather unsisterly observation by the inimitable Camille Paglia: ""It really grates on me that Naomi Wolf for her entire life has been batting her eyes and bobbing her boobs in the face of men and made a profession out of courting male attention by flirting and offering her sexual allure." Ouch.

Clearly, the days of Anita Hill have passed.