Friday, May 24, 2019

Schadenfreude or woman-hating? Naomi Wolf and the big mistake

First, I already know this: #notallwomen

But Selina Meyer, the hilariously foul-mouthed VPOTUS on VEEP, had this to say when her staff tried to get her to say what she thought "as a woman":

“No, no, no, I can’t identify as a woman! People can’t know that. Men hate that. And women who hate women hate that, which, I believe, is most women.”

You watch VEEP and you like to think that she's kidding.

And then Naomi Wolf, who goes by @DrNaomiWolf on Twitter, makes a gaffe, and you see what happens.

Now, I hold no brief for Naomi Wolf, whom I've never read or even read about except for seeing her name. I probably should, but I don't. Sue me.

Anyway, today she made a mistake.

A big mistake:

Short version: in an interview with the BBC to promote her new book, which argues that the number of gay men executed for homosexuality was undercounted in the 19th century, the interviewer, Matthew Sweet, called attention to her misunderstanding of a term:
When she went on BBC radio on Thursday, Wolf, the author of Vagina and the forthcoming Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love, probably expected to discuss the historical revelations she’d uncovered her book. But during the interview, broadcaster Matthew Sweet read to Wolf the definition of “death recorded,” a 19th-century English legal term. “Death recorded” means that a convict was pardoned for his crimes rather than given the death sentence.

Oops. But the discussion that I saw unfolding on Twitter was gracious, with Wolf acknowledging her mistake and Sweet being gracious in return.  

It was altogether a model of how to behave. Yes, bad scholarship needs to be corrected. Yes, we need standards. I agree.

And then Caitlin Flanagan got into it to pile on the hate.

I used to read Flanagan in The Atlantic, so I wasn't exactly surprised, but somehow this ad hominem attack confirmed that she had drunk the Internet hatred Kool-aid.

You get used to attacks, from the ridiculous faked video of Nancy Pelosi that right-wingers created and that Facebook won't take down, to the "likability" test that has people, chin in hand saying, "Hmm, that Elizabeth Warren. Did you know that she wants to make money? You just can't trust a woman like that."

Maybe Wolf deserves to be dragged in this way for reasons beyond bad scholarship. Don't know. Can't say.

My point is this, though: Could we please stop proving that VEEP is as accurate with its bleakly hilarious view of who hates women (everyone) as it is about how the political system works?

Updated to add: Just read this about Naomi Wolf's career of truthiness and, okay, I get it now. 


nicoleandmaggie said...

It would have been nice if he'd contacted her before the radio interview(!)

Servetus said...

I'm sure Flanagan would love to have Wolf's audience.

undine said...

nicoleandmaggie--would have been nice, yes. I'm guessing that he didn't want to have some kind of end-run spin on the information of the sort that her celebrity status would allow but wanted an actual correction. I didn't listen to the interview, though.

Servetus--probably. Is Wolf more famous than Flanagan? I'm still seeing a lot of "yeah, Flanagan's great, stickin' it to the (wo)man!" on Twitter and am like "can you just not?" I'm on Twitter for the otter pictures and the occasional great thread, like this one with people telling cool facts & family legends.