|Photo courtesy of Flickr user dalliedee under Creative Commons 3.0|
Self-proclaimed “longtime feminist activist” Naomi Wolf is under fire this week for an open letter she wrote to the International Criminal Police Organization via the Huffington Post. Wolf likened Interpol to “the dating police” after they arrested Wikileaks enabler Julian Assange on sexual assault charges.
Her words were dripping with sarcasm as she eagerly thanked Interpol for apprehending the man accused of rape by two women. And now Wolf is left standing in a puddle, or better said, a steaming pile-- of her own doing.
“I have been overjoyed to discover your new commitment to engaging in global manhunts to arrest and prosecute men who behave like narcissistic jerks to women they are dating,” she started.
Wolf argued the accusers are pressing charges in a scheme for revenge, conjured only after they realized he was dating both of them at the same time. She snarkily suggests that if these vindictive charges stick, Interpol also arrest an entire fraternity, as well as boyfriends who patronize strippers and don’t notice haircuts—because they are all guilty of similar wrong-doing.
But why is a well-known feminist affirming the douchebag defense that only angry women cry sexual assault to get back at men who cheat or have hurt them in some way other than actually violating them?
Andi Zeisler blogged a response for Bitch, stating Wolf’s words were particularly disappointing, considering she wrote a cover story for New York Magazine in 2004 about her own sexual assault. She admitted that as an undergraduate student at Yale, she was too scared to report the crime—and has regretted it ever since. Apparently Wolf used to think women should be encouraged to come forward with their stories, and when they are brave enough to speak the truth, they should be believed.
But now she is publicly denying two women victim-status because of the power and influence of the accused.
Feminist author and blogger Jessica Valenti responded to Wolf in the Washington Post, where she asserted actual facts pertaining to the Assange case are hard to come by-- while assumptions are a dime a dozen. Valenti explained the accusations rest on something called “withdrawn consent”-- an unknown concept in the United States.
To Americans, initial consent is all that matters. “So if you initially agree to have sex and later change your mind for whatever reason - it hurts, your partner has become violent, or you're simply no longer in the mood - your partner can continue despite your protestations, and it won't be considered rape. It defies common sense,” Valenti said. And more importantly, it is illegal in Sweden.
Victim-blaming has run rampant because people are confusing the crimes. The Wikileaks scandal is one thing—but this is sexual violence.
Yesterday, National Public Radio reported Assange’s bail was set at $380,000. “The former computer hacker is wanted for questioning after two women accused him of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion in separate encounters in Sweden over the summer,” and was originally denied bail.
Yet in the same story, NPR reported “Supporters [of Assange] outside City of Westminster Magistrates' Court erupted in cheers when they heard news of Tuesday's ruling”-- a frightening scene when we consider why he was actually arrested.
Wolf, blatantly on team Assange, wrote another piece for HuffPo just three days later, likening his arrest to the revival of the Espionage Act. She also congratulated herself for predicting these events indicating “the end of America” four years prior. After plugging her book by the same name, Wolf warns that we are all Julian Assange and our first amendment rights are at stake.
But seriously, what about the raping?
Is her unexpected stance just risky advertising? Is Wolf using the Assange incident to prove a past point and push a book that didn’t sell as well as she had hoped? Wolf is better known for The Beauty Myth and her opinions on sexism rather than democracy. Perhaps she is consciously attempting to distance herself from feminism as she takes on American history and politics?
Regardless of whether or not her distasteful commentary was an (un)clever marketing ploy, it has lost her a significant amount of respect in the feminist community. And I can’t imagine discrediting successful titles like Promiscuities and Fire With Fire is worth the limited attention her controversial and career jeopardizing actions have earned her latest literary installment.