OK, so let me see if I have this straight. 20 years after the event–and four years after she consulted for the would be successor to the president who never met an intern he didn’t like–feminist icon Naomi Wolf accuses literary scholar Harold Bloom of having put his hand on her thigh at Yale University 20 years ago.
As Anne Applebaum writes, “Sometimes in the course of a great American debate there comes a moment when the big battle guns fall silent, the pundits run out of breath, and — unexpectedly — the long, bitter argument suddenly turns into farce”:
What is most extraordinary about Wolf is the way in which she has voluntarily stripped herself of her achievements and her status, and reduced herself to a victim, nothing more. The implication here is that women are psychologically weak: One hand on the thigh, and they never get over it. The implication is also that women are naive, and powerless as well: Even Yale undergraduates are not savvy enough to avoid late-night encounters with male professors whose romantic intentions don’t interest them.
The larger implications are for the movement that used to be called “feminism.” Twenty years of fame, money, success, happy marriage and the children she has described in her books — and Naomi Wolf, one of my generation’s leading feminists, is still obsessed with her own exaggerated victimhood? It’s not an ideology I’d want younger women to follow.
Don’t worry, Anne. I’d say Naomi just put the proverbial fork in it.
Something remarkable has happened to the cultural Left in the 1990s. Sex is everything. Sexuality has become the linchpin of human identity, replacing race as the chief source of activism and passion in discussions of civil rights, politics, and public morality. In a calculated maneuver, the Left has decided to brand Clinton’s sexual behavior with Monica Lewinsky private-despite all of the evidence that Clinton dragooned the country into the most public illicit affair in modern history and then compounded his misdeed with other crimes. Yes, the affair was metaphysically tacky and bordered on the deviant, but the more unconventional the expression of sexuality, the more comfortable the Left is in defending it.
Obviously, this represents a tectonic shift in feminist dogma. It is a shift that was occurring well before the Lewinsky scandal. Today, the most provocative academic feminist isn’t a sex hater. She is Jane Gallop, Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin. When asked about her sexual preference-at a conference entitled “Flaunting It”-she responded, “Graduate students.” On talk shows and on the op-ed pages, the sex-is-rape school is in full retreat while the sex-is-a-passport-to-a-cushy-job school is attracting adherents in droves. Katie Roiphe in the New York Times says of Lewinsky, “There is nothing inherently wrong . . . with her attempt to translate her personal relationship with the President into professional advancement.”
The Slate article from 1999 about Wolf that I linked to above has this pretzel-logic quote from her:
The Lewinsky affair was a tricky issue for most liberal feminists, who were caught between protesting sexual harassment and supporting the president they had elected. Wolf did both, by turning the issue into an object lesson on women’s professional success. “The people who should be looking into these allegations is not a partisan prosecutor but the EEOC,” she opined on the talk-show circuit.
But today, Wolf has blown a gasket because Yale won’t investigate charges about an incident that occurred 20 years ago.