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Ravening Wolf

Posted by acdtest on February 24, 2004

Ravening Wolf

Naomi Wolf, in her now (in)famous article for New York Magazine wherein she accuses celebrated Yale professor Harold Bloom of sexual molestation, herself being the victim, gives the following as her reason for leveling the accusation some twenty years after the fact.

I began, nearly a year ago, to try-privately-to start a conversation with my alma mater [Yale University] that would reassure me that steps had been taken in the ensuing years to ensure that unwanted sexual advances of this sort weren’t still occurring. I expected Yale to be responsive. After nine months and many calls and e-mails, I was shocked to conclude that the atmosphere of collusion that had helped to keep me quiet twenty years ago was still intact-as secretive as a Masonic lodge.


I was also in a state of spiritual discomfort. Keeping bad secrets hurts. Is a one-time sexual encroachment by Harold Bloom, two decades ago, a major secret or a minor one? Minor, when it comes to a practical effect on my life; I have obviously survived. […] My career was fine; my soul was not fine. I had an obligation to protect others from which I had run away.

Every Yom Kippur, Jewish tradition requires a strict spiritual inventory. You aren’t supposed to just sit around feeling guilty, but to take action in the real world to set things right. We pray, “Ashamnu. Bagadnu. We have acted shamefully . . . behaved wickedly.” The sin of omission is as serious as the sin of commission.

Every year, I wonder about the young women who might have suffered because I was too scared to tell the truth to the people whose job it is to make sure the institution is clean. I am not at peace when the sun sets and the Book of Life is sealed: I always see that soft spot of complicity.

And does Ms. Wolf feel Bloom is a danger, and that he ought to be punished for his alleged action twenty years ago (he allegedly put his hand on the inside of Ms. Wolf’s thigh), and be removed from his teaching position at Yale?

Apparently not.

Is Harold Bloom a bad man? No. Harold Bloom’s demons are no more demonic than those of any other complex human being’s. Does this complex, brilliant man’s one bad choice make him a monster? No, of course not; nor does this one experience make me a “victim.”

So what, then, I kept thinking as I read the article, was gained by Ms. Wolf identifying Bloom by name in the piece (as opposed to identifying him by name in her private discussions on the matter with the powers that be at Yale)? If what she wanted to accomplish by writing the piece was what she asserts she wanted to accomplish — viz., make Yale University in future accept accountability in such cases, and set up grievance procedures that are genuinely strong — there was zero necessity for publicly identifying Bloom by name. Professor X or any other anonymous designation would have served the purpose equally as well.

Ms. Wolf’s declared purpose, that is.

But there’s a disconnect between that declared purpose and what Ms. Wolf actually wrote. Her article positively reeks of the dishonest. Not as it concerns the alleged twenty-year-old incident, which I suspect happened just as Ms. Wolf said it happened (and so what?), but as it concerns Ms. Wolf’s declared altruistic central reason for writing the piece, which declaration is, not to put too fine a point on it, a clear crock. The article has all the earmarks of personal vendetta — or worse, a bid for personal public attention too long in decline — masquerading as feminist do-gooding, and as such is nothing other than contemptible as it stands to unnecessarily damage permanently, or at very least permanently tarnish unnecessarily, one of the great careers in American letters.

Ms. Wolf needs to have more than her knuckles rapped for this little caper. And we won’t even speak of what New York Magazine needs rapped for its part in this business.


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