Back in early December, I wrote a post about the rape charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. A day or so later, Twitter exploded, and suddenly this topic was everywhere I looked. I followed the #mooreandme campaign very closely; I didn't post about it here, because it moved too fast for me to gather my thoughts enough for a post, but I did keep up with the hashtag and retweeted quite a lot. After Michael Moore made good (sort of), things died down, but the case is still very much in the media and on my mind, largely because people keep saying stupid things.
People like Naomi Wolf, whose comments around the Assange case keep getting worse and worse. First she was dismissing Assange's accusers as jealous exes; then she went on Democracy Now to assert that you can consent to sex while unconscious; and now today's gem, in which she claims that not identifying rape victims by name in news reports is patronizing and a "Victorian relic". I'm not linking directly to any of these articles because I'm starting to suspect that she's stirring the pot for hits, but the originals are all easy enough to find. However, unlike others, I'm afraid we can't just ignore her and hope she'll go away, because Wolf is one of the mainstream media's go-to talking heads on women's issues. We need to face her, rebut her, make a lot of noise when she's wrong.
And she is wrong, on this one; very wrong. To expand on my earlier tweet, it would be one thing if the media wouldn't engage in victim blaming and slut shaming and ruining the lives of women who file rape charges. Maybe, in that world, Wolf would be right. But we don't live in that world. We live in this one, where Assange's accusers have gotten goddamn death threats. It's hard enough for women to press rape charges against famous men; when their names go into the public doman, it becomes nearly impossible.
And Naomi Wolf, famous feminist, should know this, which is what makes her case so frustrating and depressing to me. To a certain extent, I expect male progressives like Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann and, most recently, Daniel Ellsberg to fail on issues like this. Not that I give them a pass -- quite the opposite, which is why I was so glad to see the #mooreandme campaign, and people otherwise holding these men responsible for what they say and do. But it doesn't hurt nearly as much as Naomi Wolf screwing it up does. Maybe I shouldn't expect better from her, but Wolf was one of the writers directly responsible for my decision to self-identify as a feminist. The Beauty Myth and Fire With Fire are two of the books that really opened my eyes to feminism and how far women still have to come in our society. So it's hard to acknowledge that a woman I really admired, that I took as a role model, has either drifted really far from the principles that she helped teach me to hold dear, or that she never really had them in the first place. It breaks my heart to give up on her, but for now I'm afraid I have to. She's failed so many times, so hard, on this issue, that she's left me with no choice.
Fortunately, the Internet has provided me with a host of awesome feminist bloggers to follow, who inspire me and make them think. But it still makes me sad to see my early heroes falling.
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