Naomi Wolf: a round-up of some recent links

// 9 January 2011

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Last month, Naomi Wolf was quite vocal about the sex assault charges faced by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in her open letter to Interpol in the Huffington Post and her subsequent debate with Jaclyn Friedman (videos at Democracy Now: part 1, part 2).

And last week, Ms Wolf again became the focus of much media attention after her suggestion in The Guardian that not only should the women accusing Assange of rape be identified, but also that rape accusers in general shouldn’t be granted anonymity.

She went on to debate the subject with Louise Bagshawe, MP on the BBC’s Newsnight (video on BBC Newsnight web page) and World Have Your Say (podcast on the BBC WHYS web page).

Other responses to her Guardian piece are at (amongst others): Feministe, Shakesville, LudditeJourno, Samizdata, Shameless Mag and Student Activism – and the Twitter hashtag #MooreandMe (a Twitter campaign to support the two Swedish women) is still being added to as I write this.

Comments From You

earwicga // Posted 9 January 2011 at 8:25 am

‘And last week, Ms Wolf again became the focus of much media attention’

Spot on – that’s what it’s all about. Shameful.

kinelfire // Posted 9 January 2011 at 9:44 am

A thought. Ms. Wolf’s argument seems to be that rapists think they can get away with it. Her reasoning just falls apart after departing this reality. However, I think I may have gleaned the point she’s trying to make, albeit badly, and with entirely the wrong focus.

If a national newspaper (how about the Daily Mail? They adore reporting anything to do with rape cases, after all) ran a column on the front page, ideally, that was basically a list of convictions for rape across the UK for the previous day, perhaps the wider public would start to get the sense that rape is common; it’s happening all the time and that it is going through the courts. The column wouldn’t necessarily have to include the names of those convicted (though to include them might help to uncover previous crimes)

but it could also help people considering whether or not to go forward with their case. There might also be uproar over the sentencing, which would be a bonus…

Jennifer Drew // Posted 9 January 2011 at 11:29 am

I wonder how much profit (fake feminist) Wolf is earning by deliberately exploiting the two women who had the courage to charge Assange with rape.

Malestream media too is earning huge profits by sensationalising and promoting the male-centric myth that women who charge men with sexual violence are inherent liars.

Male supremacist system continues to use every means in its power to ensure male sex right to women and girls must never be curbed or even horrors – eliminated. This is how male domination over women operates and for once it is not hidden but is being widely promoted as ‘men’s rights.’

Missing from malestream coverage is any analysis of how and why social constructions of male sexuality are used to reinforce male sex right to women and girls 24/7.

Name Goes Here // Posted 10 January 2011 at 12:59 am

Simply don’t get why anyone should want to be another anonymous rape victim when there are far too many already. Waded though a load of writing and still remain confused as to why we’ve got a problem here.

People have been utterly (fucking) violated, why aren’t they angry? Why don’t they want justice served in their name? There are transgressions of basic human decency all over the shop but because this traumatic assault has genitalia involved we’re meant to stay quiet about at, maybe blame a victim who’s already blaming themselves in the shoulda, woulda, coulda of post stress wreckage?

That’s not right.

Wolf’s got a point with the Victorian allusions too – it’s like reading those novels where some great and terrible secret’s been kept, only all it turns out to be is something as mundane as an unwed mother. The horror!

Are we really still meant to be that stigmatised by sex?

(It would be great if all accusations of sexual assault were dealt with as seriously as ones against people who’ve pissed off the powerful but we need to keep working on that for now…)

gherkinette // Posted 10 January 2011 at 11:39 am

Name Goes Here, I’m angry about being raped and I’m angry that it wasn’t taken seriously. But that doesn’t stop me campaigning and in fact being the person who debated with Naomi Wolf on the BBC WHYS show on Friday, albeit using a pseudonym.

I have never been ashamed being raped, but others were and while I was busy dealing with the abuse, stigma and hatred that came with speaking out (didn’t I know that a victim should just shut up and put up at least?) all I could do was keep my head above water.

Once I removed myself from a situation when my name and face was known and became properly anonymous, I was able to start fighting the injustices. I made a complaint against the Met and consulted on getting the Sapphire Unit restructured and I got the law changed on criminal compensation in the UK.

If anything needs to change, it’s society, culture, the police and the judiciary, not rape victims. We’ve already been changed for life after all…

polly // Posted 10 January 2011 at 9:06 pm

Wolf is either being stupid and naive or is incredibly cynical and just wants publicity (I know what option I’d go for by the way). Does she not think that women who are publicly identified as rape victims face a risk of further harassment from other idiots out there?

I knew of a woman who was raped and while the case was going on the perpetrators friends were discussing it on facebook. Women who are identified could be put in further danger if Wolf had her way.

polly // Posted 11 January 2011 at 12:39 pm

Also, this may be a bit unfair, but can I point out to Namegoeshere that they haven’t used their real name to post on this blog. Neither have I, and the reason why is because yet again, I fear harassment – when I used to have a blog it was amazing the searches that showed up that were clearly people trying to find out my real name and ID.

Holly Combe // Posted 11 January 2011 at 7:35 pm

Today’s excellent piece by Katha Pollitt on The Nation website is well worth a read. She argues against the idea that anonymity for victims is “infantalising” and “Victorian” and talks about the very real (and, indeed, often “Victorian”) attitudes women who speak out end up having to face:

If what women see all around them is that those who come forward have their lives shredded and their reputations, thanks to the Internet, forever linked to their most traumatic experience, they will decide, in even greater numbers than now, that coming forward just isn’t worth it.

I guess Wolf thinks that kind of crap doesn’t happen anymore.

Kay // Posted 12 January 2011 at 6:16 pm

First off, I’m no fan of Naomi Wolf. And I’m DEFINITELY no supporter of Assange, even before the rape allegations.

However. Jennifer Drew: “fake feminist”? I never understood this term. If someone is a feminist, says so, and says so with conviction (i.e., not to, for lack of a better term, take the mick), what right has you or anyone else got to denounce them? That “with us or against us” mentality is exactly the sort which steers so many women — especially younger women — away from feminism. Comments like that are exactly what is shackling the rebirth of this movement.

Frankly, I agree with her. I am aware of the other arguments. As someone who has been the victim of a sexual assault, I can accept the arguments about fear, shame, etc., but agree that anonymity will shackle the trials of MOST crimes, let alone rape. A jury should have the right to see both parties, and anyone accused of a crime should have the right to face their accuser.

I think there are extreme circumstances where this should perhaps not be the case — for example, when there is overwhelming evidence against the defendant, even without a victim’s testimony, when a crime has been particularly heinous, or when a victim suffers acute mental health problems, to name a few. But this should be decided on a case-by-case basis, and a blanket of anonymity should not be applied to all rape victims automatically.

I don’t love everything she says all the time, but I do have to agree with Wolf that it undermines the strength of all women to say that if you make an allegation that serious, you don’t need to face it. (“It’s ok, love, we know you can’t handle it. Weak constitution and hysteria and all that lot…”)

polly // Posted 13 January 2011 at 9:04 am

” A jury should have the right to see both parties, ”

They do have the right to see both parties. The use of screens/video links is only for vulnerable witnesses, it’s not routine. And it’s to screen the witness from the defendant/general public, not the jury.

” anyone accused of a crime should have the right to face their accuser”

Why, so they can intimidate them? I don’t see why that would be relevant to the processes of the court. It’s noteworthy that in the past, defendants in rape trials have chosen to defend themselves and insisted on cross examining the alleged victim. This is no longer allowed in the UK, for the reason that it was being used to intimidate victims.

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