Naomi cries Wolf

Naomi Wolf has more to say about rape, and given that it’s contrary to what most feminists working in the area of sexual violence would recommend, the media has lapped it up.  She thinks that survivors of sexual violence should not have anonymity when it comes to rape allegations:

Feminists have long argued that rape must be treated like any other crime. But in no other crime are accusers’ identities hidden. Treating rape differently serves only to maintain its mischaracterisation as a “different” kind of crime, loaded with cultural baggage.

Her article, and some of her other discussion of sexual violence recently, has repeatedly claimed that “rape accusers” are not subjected to the same kind of scrutiny as “rape accused”.  She has also said that because rape is so awful, women need to be “moral adults” when they are making “rape accusations.”

Over at Life in A Pickle, Gherkinette has written about her experience in debating this issue with Naomi Wolf on the BBC World Service.  Having listened to the show, I have less respect for Naomi Wolf than I can say without using bad words.  Her blatant, continued disrespect and patronising power over behaviour with Gherkinette is one thing.  Her telling everyone else to “bear with her” so she can keep talking…and talking…and talking, is another.  Then there is her idea that reporting rape has no consequences for survivors now.  And by no means finally, but I’m over this list, is her repeated insistance that rape is not robustly investigated now because the world doesn’t know who rape survivors are. 

Is she really saying that the Police stop investigating a particular case because the media can’t give the name of a rape survivor for that case?

Her helpful comparison of rape survivors having to have their anonymity waived if they report to the Police with queer people is spectacular.  It is certainly true that queer people deliberately choosing to come out has changed much of the western world since the 1970s.  Because our families, non-queer friends and non-queer work colleagues know who we are – and know they love, like, respect, or find us as irritating as the next (straight) person – dehumanising homophobia that relied on the invisibility of queer people has altered unrecognisably.

But we’re not talking about the same thing for rape survivors.  “This is what someone did to me, let me tell you all about it, my body is the scene of the crime” is not the same as telling the world who you have the capacity to love.

Naomi Wolf did admit she didn’t know all the facts when she wrote her first piece defending Julian Assange, so it was inaccurate.  Thanks for that.

I feel so angry about what she is saying and how she is saying it that she has completely lost my respect.  Which is frustrating because this issue needs consideration, serious consideration. 

Let’s think about this here in Aotearoa – which woman, single-handedly, has most drawn attention to the endemic problems in our justice sector when it comes to sexual violence? 

Louise Nicholas.

Why did we get a Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence in Aotearoa from July 2007 to 2009, which put together a staggering amount of information on the appalling problems here based on an astonishing number of work projects?

Because Aotearoa was angry that when Louise Nicholas told the world three men had raped her, the world didn’t know that two of them were already in prison for a very similar gang rape.  So when they were acquitted, most of Aotearoa smelt a very big rat in our justice sector.

Louise Nicholas, in waiving her right to anonymity, became the face of what was wrong with how New Zealand society deals with sexual violence.  And is doing that, she drove huge change.

The difference between me raising this fact and what Naomi Wolf is proposing is choice and agency.  As a liberal feminist – and this is somewhat snide readers, but what the hell, I’ve never pretended that’s where I sit – I would have thought Naomi could get that.  Louise Nicholas did not lose her anonymity because she reported to the Police.  She chose to waive it. 

In recovering from sexual violence, perhaps most critical is regaining the sense of control and autonomy over yourself that has been violated.  Naomi Wolf’s suggestions would certainly decrease attrition rates – because no one would report to the Police.


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