Naomi Wolf says sorry… sort of

Consistently, since her original “Dear Interpol” letter in the Huffington Post in December 2010, Naomi Wolf has been the most high-profile self-identified feminist to argue that Assange did not rape or sexually assault either of the two women. In February 2011 she wrote a much-cited essay Something Rotten in the State of Sweden: 8 Big Problems with the ‘Case’ Against Assange. She’s been outspoken in interviews and at parties – Naomi Wolf slams feminists’ response to the Assange rape prosecution (Thursday, 17th November 2011).

She’s been cited with relief from Cory Doctorow to Reuters:

Even well-known feminist Naomi Wolf criticized the international judicial hunt for Assange, writing that she personally knew “1.3 million guys” with similar complaints made against them by women.

But she had never faced an interview like Mumsnet, yesterday lunchtime (Thursday 6th September) Nor did she seem to be aware that Mumset had launched a campaign in March this year:

called We Believe You, and it has two simple aims. First, we want to shine a spotlight on the prevalence of rape and sexual assault in women’s lives; then, we want to pull apart the many myths surrounding rape, which make so many women feel that they will not be believed if they report this crime.

To all those women, we say: we believe you.

Mumsnet interviewed Naomi Wolf, and it didn’t go as Wolf wanted.

Not even in the questions being posted before Naomi Wolf arrived.

  • Are we allowed to ask questions about J****n A*****e?
  • Hi Naomi, How does a woman say ‘no’ if she’s asleep? thanks.
  • Dear Naomi, Why do you speak so authoritatively on Swedish law when you can’t read Swedish and are not a lawyer? Do you have a response to these criticisms of your statements about the Assange matter? You got so many things factually and legally wrong. Thanks!
  • I’m finding it very difficult to understand how Ms Wolf’s participation in a webchat does not invalidate the We Believe You campaign since Ms Wolf has spent the better part of the past 2 years spreading rape myths about a case she clearly does not understand since she has consistently made fallacious remarks about what constitutes rape under Swedish law and fails to understand the legal process in Sweden.
  • Hello Naomi, just wondering if you would consider donating your time to rape crisis and womens aid so that you can get a better understanding of rape and the effect it has on survivors? I look forward to your response.
  • Ms Wolf, I would like to ask about your assertion, made on Women’s Hour, that Sweden has the highest reported rate of rape, and yet one of the lowest conviction rates in Europe.
    According to the Swedish government this is partly explained by the fact that many crimes which would not be recorded as rape in other countries, are termed so in Sweden. The Swedish justice system also records individual incidents of rape separately so if a woman is raped by a man several times it is recorded as several rapes.
    The rate of conviction is 10%, which when you compare with UK is almost double, and compared with US of around 13%, is in line with other countries (still atrocious but not remarkable).
    I am very surprised that you base your objection to the transfer of Assange back to Sweden to face rape charges on dubious statistics, and disappointed that you would lend your voice to such a campaign.
    I would like to ask you how you reconcile the defence of an alleged rapist with your feminist ideals, and would like to ask MNHQ how they reconcile the invitation of someone who defends a rapist with the We Believe You campaign.
  • Hi Naomi How do you think promoting rape myths and defending the right of men to penetrate women who are asleep and therefore cannot consent to sex, fits in with calling yourself a feminist? Also you appear like other Assange fans, to believe that if a woman consents to sex with a man, that means that she consents under any terms and doesn’t have the right to set conditions, like for example that he must wear a condom. Can you explain how that is a feminist position? Because it sounds to me very much closer to a rapey position.
    And Mumsnet, how does having a woman who defends the right of men to penetrate women without their consent if they have had previous sexual intercourse with them on for a webchat, fit in with your “We Believe You” anti-rape campaign?
  • Have you read this article on the myths surrounding the Swedish legal system?
    Are you even remotely concerned about the effects that rape myths have on the victims of rape and the prosecution of rapists? Myths that you were perpetuating on Newsnight this week?
  • Naomi, I just re-read the original Huffington Post piece you wrote about Assange here and once again am utterly gobsmacked by the viciousness of the tone and your choice to deploy that tone against woman victims in a way that serves to promote dangerous rape myths, such as the belief that women regularly ‘cry rape’ because they are upset about the behaviour of their male sexual partner. I understand from your ‘correction’ that you blame the Mail for your failure to get the facts straight before writing this; however I would like to ask, how, as an experienced journalist, were you so quick to jump into writing an attack piece against these two women without the most cursory checking of the facts? And how can you do that whilst calling yourself a feminist?

Naomi Wolf, Huffington Post, 7th December 2010:

As a longtime feminist activist, I have been overjoyed to discover your new commitment to engaging in global manhunts to arrest and prosecute men who behave like narcissistic jerks to women they are dating.
I see that Julian Assange is accused of having consensual sex with two women, in one case using a condom that broke. I understand, from the alleged victims’ complaints to the media, that Assange is also accused of texting and tweeting in the taxi on the way to one of the women’s apartments while on a date, and, disgustingly enough, ‘reading stories about himself online’ in the cab.
Both alleged victims are also upset that he began dating a second woman while still being in a relationship with the first. (Of course, as a feminist, I am also pleased that the alleged victims are using feminist-inspired rhetoric and law to assuage what appears to be personal injured feelings. That’s what our brave suffragette foremothers intended!).

  • I would also like you to justify your frankly bizarre claim on Newsnight recently that the 6% conviction rate is the result of victim anonymity. (Quote: ‘It had wonderful motivations, but the upshot here is that in Britain, only 6 per cent of reported rapes, which is a small fraction of all rapes, get convicted’) How many rape victims do you think would report if they did not even have that basic right of anonymity? Seriously?
    MNHQ, I admit in the light of the splendid We Believe You campaign I am a touch surprised at your giving airtime to Naomi Wolf. Please promise you won’t be getting George Galloway on next…. confused
  • So what is your position on Assange then Naomi?
    If we accept your premise, that this prosecution is politically motivated, does that mean it shouldn’t go ahead even if those women in Sweden are claiming to be raped?
    Should we ignore women who describe being raped in cases where we like the politics of the men accused of raping them?
    I totally agree with you that in normal cases, rape victims are treated shamefully badly and rape allegations are not taken as seriously as they ought to be. But does this mean that because most rape allegations are not pursued with the vigour that they should be, it’s wrong for a state to pursue rape allegations in the case of men the state might not like and the rest of us might admire or agree with on other issues?
    Because you do realise that if that is your position (and it is the position of many people on the left) then it’s not a feminist position, don’t you? It’s a position which says that although women’s rights are all fine and dandy, when it comes to the really important things in life, like fighting imperialism/ poverty/ racism/ insert worthy cause here, women’s human rights have to go to the back of the queue? You do understand that feminism does not accept the premise that women’s human rights come last, don’t you?
    Actually Mumsnet, I’d bloody love it if you got George Galloway on. 😀
  • This will be interesting.
    I am *shocked* that Naomi wrote that huff post thing using facts gleaned from the Daily Mail.
    I too would be interested in why Assange’s worry about a theoretical extradition to the US (they haven’t applied for one) trumps the rights of two women to have their case heard.
  • I feel really conflicted about this.
    Naomi Wolf was a hero for many years, I LOVED The Beauty Myth, read all her other books, even the dire Fire with Fire, and generally read her articles with interest and respect.
    I admit I have not followed the Assange case closely, but thanks to these links on this thread, I see that Wolf has adopted a very surprising and disappointing stance which seems to have liberal politics trumping feminism.
    Naomi – are you willing to rescind your original misinformed article about Swedish law / Assange’s case?
    How do you feel knowing you have disappointed so many people who by instinct and intellect self identify as feminists (ie a constituency you presumably identify with)?

Naomi Wolf: [enters, stage right]

Hello — I am glad to be here and have always admired the Mumsnet community. I will be talking about Vagina: A New Biography, which is about the latest neuroscience about women’s sexuality and how that relates to their courage and confidence, but I want to clear the air by addressing some issues first.

I want to set straight very strongly and clearly for the record a number of misconceptions that are around in the UK press right now, and that I see reflected in some ways below.

A) I don’t ‘support Julian Assange’ in the sense of defending anything he may be found to have done in terms of accusations of sexual assault. I have — based on my twenty-three years as a worker in rape crisis centers and battered women’s shelters, and as an advocate for women’s rights, due process and the rule of law, consistently pointed out — most recently this week in a globally syndicated column, which is why the UK press’ misstatement of my position is indefensible — that rape victims in Sweden whose assailants are NOT wanted by the US government face underfunded hotlines, brutal neglect by police, the highest rape rates and some of the lowest convictions in Europe — and that a situation in which the whole world waits for an accused assailant while thousands of injured, traumatized and desperate women are ignored by the same police and prosecutors — is a terrible miscarriage of justice for RAPE VICTIMS all over the world whose attackers are not pursued in the same way.

I also make the case that the US government is entirely capable of cynically making use of women’s issues to pursue its own agenda but that this cooption of this crucial women’s issue by my government has no bearing on whatever happened between these people, which should be pursued in a court of law with a single justice system, and with the US government, which cares nothing about the rights of rape victims in this case, not involved. No ALWAYS means No. Having sex with a sleeping partner who is not consenting is ALWAYS legally and morally rape.

No other reporter has called the Swedish Rape Crisis line — I did because, as a counselor for rape victims, I know these are the only people who really understand what Swedish rape victims go through. They described official neglect or worse, which is what rape victims face from police all over the world.

Over six hundred women in Sweden are waiting fruitlessly for space in shelters, trying to flee violent sexually abusive men. So once again: I am against the hijacking of the rape issue for unrelated government agendas that have nothing to do with justice and the wellbeing of rape victims and I am FOR justice and support for every single rape victim in the world, as my quarter-century advocating on their behalf and supporting them as a volunteer should make clear beyond any doubt. Now I look forward to our discussion.

  • So should Assange be extradited so that he can face questions about rape allegations?
    What is your actual position on that?
  • It is terrible when rape victims are subjected to police neglect or are disbelieved. Rape victims often find that, just as we think our ordeal is over, it is actually just beginning.
    These injustices are compounded by hacky poorly researched articles sneering snidely at them and rewriting their trauma and violation as “personally injured feelings”.
    Would you agree Naomi?
  • With respect Naomi, the issue is not the UK press’s misrepresentation of your position. Please credit us with more intelligence than this. Our concerns arise from your own words, in articles you wrote and interviews you have given.

Naomi Wolf [fails to answer these questions]

  • The fact that loads of other alleged rapists are not being pursued does not seem a good reason not to chase a prosecution for the one who happens to be well known.
  • Naomi – Women Against Rape have also stated publicly that they feel, after so many years of fighting for rape victims’ rights that the Assange case is being hijacked for political reasons, largely men who don’t usually give a sh*t about the subject. But they have now been called ‘anti-women’. However it has also brought out of the woodwork a huge number of those that before one wouldn’t have known were apologists for rape, like Galloway and Todd Akin. Surely Assange should go to Sweden and face up to the charges, if he is innocent?
  • Naomi – Do you think that the rights of Assange are more important than the rights of two women who accused him of serious sexual assault and rape?
    And what does that signal to any woman raped by an important political figure?
    Should DSK not have been investigated because of his political standing? Maybe that was a conspiracy too.
    This is why it is important that these cases come to trial. Because it is not up to journalists or bloggers to decide, but a judge and jury.
  • My vagina gets really upset at the thought of rape victims being told they should lose their anonymity 😦
  • So, let’s get this straight, it seems you think they should lay off Assange because not every rape victim is privileged with the same political backing?
  • My vagina’s a bit confused about whether you think Assange should face trial for rape allegations or not, Naomi.
    My brain’s a bit confused about it as well.
    To say nothing of my nipples. They’re waiting hopefully for a straight answer to that.

Naomi Wolf [fails to answer these questions]

  • Mine too – almost weeps, 😦
  • What’s your favourite biscuit?

Naomi Wolf:

This is why it is important that these cases come to trial. Because it is not up to journalists or bloggers to decide, but a judge and jury.
I completely agree, a judge and jury should decide and I think progress is being made by Hague suggesting that if the US seeks to extradite (to send Assange to GTMO for reasons completely unrelated to the sexual allegations, they want to extradite him under the Espionage Act for releasing state secrets) Sweden should not extradite. Of course everyone should have a fair trial.

  • Naomi published this letter in the Huffington Post without bothering to research the case properly. She based her opinion on an entirely discredited article in the Daily Mail and a retraction was printed since Wolf got the facts wrong. In this letter, she writes numerous rape myths. The actual title is Julian Assange: Captured by the World’s Dating Police. This is only one instance where Wolf’s words make a complete mockery of the We Believe You campaign.
  • The condom didn’t break. He stopped the woman reaching for it.
    This is quite basic research really.

Naomi Wolf:

So that headline is not mine: editors post their own headlines and I do not agree with it. It was an immediate reaction of frustration to how millions of other women are completely neglected as I wrote above and I certainly regret my phrasing.

I do not write or post rape myths. My concern is always to support rape victims and support prosecution and conviction of rapists.

  • I must have missed the bit where sticking your penis into a woman who was sleeping constitutes consensual sex. Weirdly, I’ve always assumed that women need to be, you know, awake to consent to sex. Silly me.
  • What part of rape counselling training suggests sarky public pisstaking as being beneficial to survivors of rape?
  • Can’t believe a feminist would take that trivialising, minimising and silencing tone about alleged rape victims, tbh.
    Bloody shocking, that letter.

Naomi Wolf [fails to answer these questions]

  • Sorry, silly me, ALLEGED survivors of rape.

Naomi Wolf [fails to answer these questions]

  • That letter is disgraceful.
    You should be ashamed.
  • This the Twilight Zone *shock*

Naomi Wolf:

see my statement.

  • This is embarrassing.

Naomi Wolf:

That letter is disgraceful.
You should be ashamed.

I do totally regret it.

  • Naomi – Have you read the article linked earlier by David Allen Green where he discussed the legal implications of extraditing JA to Sweden and the chance of him being further extradited to US?
    Leading legal experts have stated that JA is safer from extradition to US if he returns to Sweden. Why would he want to prevent that, other than because he is trying to avoid a rape conviction.
  • ‘I do not write or post rape myths.’
    How can you say that when that is EXACTLY what that Huff Post article was doing? If you have spent as much time supporting rape victims as you say you must be aware of the very widespread and damaging myth that women ‘cry rape’ when displeased with the behaviour of their male sexual partner. That was exactly what you were promulgating the idea of their having done in that piece.
    Perhaps you should admit that on this case you did write a rape myth, and try harder not to do it again?
  • Yes our culture does ignore and trivialise lots of issues to do with women doesn’t it Naomi.
    Rape’s another one it ignores and trivialises. It doesn’t help when self-identified feminists buy into that by publishing open letters mocking alleged rape victims.
    – OK, sorry, cross posted, you’ve apologised for that letter so I’ll shut up about it. Thank you.
  • oh dear, where has she gone. have you all scared her off!

Naomi Wolf [fails to answer these questions]

  • I am just….speechless really.
    How on earth can you identify yourself as a feminist and yet be the author of that letter?
    You may well regret it – I am glad you do – but you wrote it. You sat down and thought of those vile words, sentences and paragraphs.
    You then took the time to send it to the editor of the publication in question.
    Let’s not pretending was a spur of the moment action, shall we?
    I think the whole concept of feminism is harmed by women like you.
    And it saddens me greatly to say that. 😦
  • In the Democracy Now debate with Jaclyn Friedman you cast doubt on one of Assange’s alleged victims because she went on to spend time with him afterwards and threw a party for him.

From the transcript:

Jaclyn Friedman: And I am speaking on behalf of the rape victims that I work with every day, and I’m speaking on behalf of myself as a rape victim whose situation was accused to have not been cut and dry, because you know what most women hear when they allege rape? They hear, “Oh, well, it’s ambiguous. We really can’t do much about this.” You know how endemic that is, and how much that is the reason rape is not reported and prosecuted?
Naomi Wolf: Well, I do. I do know, Jaclyn, which is why —
Jaclyn Friedman: It’s the exact thing you’re saying right here: “Oh, it’s not a real, cut-and-dried rape.”
Naomi Wolf: Jaclyn, please do not twist what I’m saying.
Jaclyn Friedman: And that is insulting to victims worldwide.
Naomi Wolf: What I’m saying is, it’s because —
Jaclyn Friedman: You just said it!

  • This is actually quite common, in fact many victims go on to have a relationship with their rapist (not to mention those who are raped within the context of an ongoing relationship) – there isn’t a correct way to behave after you’ve been raped.
    How do you think your comments will have affected rape victims who have continued to be pleasant and amenable to the men who have raped them?

Naomi Wolf [fails to answer these questions]

  • Were you surprised at the backlash against that letter?
    Have you heard of the Mumsnet We Believe You Campaign?
    It is the reason for your rather hostile reception here. It was a very personal campaign for many of us and we find it very hard to see a ‘leading feminist’ trampling on all the work that we did to draw attention to rape myths.

Naomi Wolf [fails to answer these questions]

  • Naomi – if you’ve spent so much time supporting rape victims, how come you don’t know these basic things about rape?
    Like for example, many rape victims continue to have relationships with their rapists after they have raped them.
    How can you not know this?
    Seriously, I am not taking the piss, either you’re not aware of this, which seems incredible if you genuinely have worked a lot with organisations which support rape victims and survivors, or you chose to ignore that in order to make a political point, knowing that most of your readers would accept your basic premise.
    Seriously, how could you?

Naomi Wolf [fails to answer these questions]

  • How do you define “non-violent rape” because I have never ever heard a feminist use that term. Rape is, by definition, violence. It can be accompanied by other forms of physical violence but the act of rape is always violent.
    The idea that there is a difference between violent rape and non-violent rape is a rape myth.

Naomi Wolf:

See below, I said there is no such thing as a nonviolent rape and my 2The Traumatized Vagina” chapter goes further than anything I have ever read to put together all of the latest data on how lastingly damaging in new ways we have not understood, any kind of rape or sexual abuse is to women, and I am glad to hear that prosecutors and lawyers representing victims are using that chapter in their aim to put rapists away.

  • Erm, I think you’ll find the British laws on rape have been doing that since well before your book was published.
  • I hope all those rapey men in the Occupy movement read your book and realise they are actually missing out on great sex by being mean. If only they just knew, it could transform everything!
  • I can’t quite put my finger on it, but all this ‘traumatized vagina” thing makes me very squirmy. I realise you are trying to reclaim the word, and all that goes along with that, but it just doesn’t sit right. Is it just me??
    Is it that you are isolating one part of my womanhood for scrutiny when I am much more than a vagina?
  • Yes and if we let them know that the more housework a man does, the more sex he gets, they’ll just abolish patriarchy completely won’t they BoF?
    Job done.
  • Please can we come back to your claim on Newsnight that victim anonymity is a cause of the 6% conviction rate? How does that work, because it goes against everything I have heard from rape victims and those who work with them. Victim anonymity is usually considered to be a vital condition in allowing victims to report.
  • I am still a bit open mouthed at the letter, for which I see you express regret, you haven’t been on my radar since The Beauty Myth. What happened to you? How will you regain credibility?

Naomi Wolf [fails to answer these questions]

  • I see she is pointedly ignoring the questions about her promulgation of rape myths. *hmm*

Naomi Wolf [fails to answer these questions]
Naomi Wolf [fails to answer these questions some more]

  • Naomi – Are you surprised by the line of questioning prevalent on this thread? Were you expecting such a grilling? Do you get such feedback in real life? Do your friends agree with the line you took on Assange?

Naomi Wolf [fails to answer these questions]

  • In the light of the strength of feeling about your letter in the Huffington post and if you genuinely regret it now, have you considered submitting an open-letter apology to the two women?
    I think your ideas are really interesting, and it would be a shame if this incident overshadows your future work.
    I always have respect for people how are honest enough to fess up when they get it wrong

Naomi Wolf:

That is a good idea.

  • Why does victim anonymity result in a low rape conviction rate?
    My vagina is positively tying itself in knots trying to work it out.
  • I am interested in that question too

Naomi Wolf:

Because it covers up malfeasance and prosecutorial neglect, no one is accountable to rape victims for low conviction rates and rapists go free.

  • “I did not understand why for throughout recorded history, the vagina and female sexuality had been targeted, abused etc. Now I do, because of the brain-vagina link. The point of the book is that you are much more than a vagina and your vagina is much more than a ‘mere’ sex organ.”
    I think the actual research into this focuses on the control of reproduction. It isn’t really about your vagina but rather who gets to dictate the contents of the uterus. Frankly, suggesting that mass rape is because of the vagina-brain relationship is so utterly offensive that I don’t even know where to begin. It’s certainly not what Gloria Steinem is arguing with the Women Under Siege institute.
  • I think the brain-vagina link is actually fascinating.
    I think the arse-mouth link is also an area worthy of further research. Just how do some people come to talk out of their bottoms?

Naomi Wolf [fails to answer these questions]

  • So when rape victims didn’t have anonymity, were reporting and conviction rates higher and were fewer women raped?
  • But anonymity is a completely separate issue from those things. Victims who wish to waive their anonymity to complain about neglect by police and prosecution can choose to do so, and many do.
    How exactly is naming of victims supposed to lead to greater accountability? And what prevents it deterring large numbers of victims from coming forward?

Naomi Wolf [fails to answer these questions]

  • “Because it covers up malfeasance and prosecutorial neglect”
    Can you explain that a bit more clearly please? Are you only referring to the American or UK justice system?
    You are aware, aren’t you, of the strong societal pressures against women reporting rape and the persecution (see the Assange case) of any women who does publicly name their rapist? Surely working, as you have claimed, in rape crisis centres has made you aware of this? How then, do you propose to defend women who do report rape from the societal backlash that she will inevitably suffer?
  • Dear ms Wolf, Since rapists and other abusive males really are the number one thing that leads to vaginal/female unhappiness, it would be really excellent if you went ahead with your promise to write an official apology for defending Assange

Naomi Wolf [fails to answer these questions]

  • Naomi, your response to the Assange matter is disingenuous at best. You haven’t responded to the criticisms of your assertions made by people with a lot more knowledge of Swedish law, and law generally, than you (eg:)
    I find it gobsmacking that you have bought into the conspiracy theory myths put forward by the nutty Assange supporters without taking the time to actually research UK extradition law or indeed read any of legal blog posts written for lay people (eg: the David Allen Green article in the New Statesman cited above).
    So disappointed. If this is how you research law, then I worry about how you research science.
    Your sloppy research and willingness to manipulate research and conclusions to suit your assumptions discredits your academic credibilities I am afraid. Good luck for getting through the Oxford DPhil.

Naomi Wolf:

Rapists rape with impunity in the US the UK and throughout western europe. In the UK only sic per cent of REPORTED rapes are ever prosecuted and you can’t even find conviction rates. In two years at the UK rape crisis center where I worked we had ONE prosecution, zero convictions.
What I see if that rape survivors are treated like shit with or without anonymity — by the courts and by the outcomes and by not enough helplines or centers etc etc etc. There will be a backlash just as there was when gay people started to eschew anonymity and come out to fight back against homophobic assaults. Their position was: this is not my shame. And now homophobic attacks are better documented, better prosecuted and paradoxivcally perhaps there is far less shame in being the subject of such an attack. I believe this is the analogy. It is not rape victims’ shame, it is the rapists’ shame.

  • God, is it nearly over yet. I’ve got cramp in my feet from all the cringing.
  • dear lord please beam me up.
    the tories are in for another couple of years and feminists are telling us we just need to shag better and patriarchy will fall.
    i can’t cope anymore.
  • But anonymity is OPTIONAL – the rape victim can waive that right. You are trying to take away that option.

Naomi Wolf:

So this had certainly been a very frank discussion and that is good. I appreciate the chance to talk directly with you and hope to do so more. Thank you for your time and comments and please do reach out if you have more you want me to think about — yours Naomi

  • Rapists rape with impunity everywhere not just in the UK or USA.
    I’m sure you have witnessed or at least been aware of the huge level of abuse that has fallen on Assange’s accusers. As soon as their anonymity was removed (illegally I should note) they were subject to an unrelenting torrent of abuse, rape threats, death treats etc. their names have been published, their previous sexual behaviour examined in minute detail and the underlying message is they were lying sluts who deserved everything they got because they were stupid enough to claim their right to have a sex life.
    If their anonymity had been kept, don’t you think they would not have been doorstopped, had their email addresses and phone numbers published, had their home address published so every conspiracy theorist could accuse them of being a USA stooge, been hounded in public and in private nor been subject to the daily excruciating process of going about their daily life?
    Surely, watching what happened to these women would make any sane woman think very carefully about accusing any person of rape? The very case you are an apologist for is a stark example of what happens to women who speak publicly.
    Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?
  • So.
    George Galloway next?
  • That went well 🙂
    Thank you Naomi and I look forward to reading your open letter of apology to those two women.

I’m sure we all do. Well done, Mumsnet.

(They gave her a hard time on the “science” in her latest book, too, which was what most of her non-answers to the questions about rape myths and rape victims were about.)


Filed under Women

26 responses to “Naomi Wolf says sorry… sort of

  1. Dear Edinburgh Eye,

    I’ve noted that you have linked to one of my articles about Naomi Wolf’s strange commenting on the Assange case. For you information I want you to know that I have written another one showing that Naomi Wolf is not just misrepresenting facts, she is now into fabricating them.

    Naomi Wolf’s expressed opinions in the Assange case is not based on facts. It is based on made up stories an imaginations. I find her behaviour very peculiar to say the least. Especially since Naomi Wolf in 2004 in a very long article in the New Your Magazine accused one of her former professor’s, Harold Bloom, for “putting his hand on her thigh”.

  2. Cylux

    The only real conclusion from the whole Assange debate is that some people are so completely focused on their anti-Americanism that it overrides absolutely everything else in their brains, and makes them see reds stars and stripes under the bed everywhere. It’s not a nice revelation to discover that they’ll throw any just cause under the bus in order to ‘fight back’ at the American imperial machine, but knowledge is better than ignorance I suppose.

  3. I can’t believe Wolf has fallen from The Beauty Myth to this. I mean, come on. Rape myths from a feminist in the public eye?
    I posted about Galloway and Assange on my own blog soon after Galloway’s comments
    I’m just flummoxed by the whole situation to be honest – ignoring these women’s rights to at least try and bring the man who has allegedly abused them to trial because of Assange’s followers being so frightened of America who haven’t even saught an extradition order. Madness.

    Also, until now I’ve never really thought about or seen Mumsnet in a positive way. This campaign and all-around bashing of Wolf has made me see things differently.
    Well done, Mumsnet.

  4. As far as I can see, no one is “ignoring these women’s right’s”. Every single commentator I have seen has stressed the need for a trial to get to the bottom of the allegations. What some are stressing is that the accused has rights too. Most are ignoring this. Even if Assange was 100% unquestionably guilty of the most heinous rapes, he would be entitled to some basic human rights. The right to a fair trial. The right not to be named – as he is in this blog – as a rapist before any proceedings get under way, He also has the perfectly legitimate and well- grounded right to resist extradition/rendering/disappearing/Mordechai Vanunu-ing into some US gulag. These are simple points. Ignored by just about everyone.

    • JMT

      No one is denying Assange his right to a fair trial, except Julian Assange himself. There is no evidence that Sweden would extradite him to the United States. In fact if anything, he would be safer in Sweden against extradition than he is in the UK.

      • There is plenty of evidence to suggest that both the UK and Sweden would go to some lengths to facilitate the US if they were pressured to do so. You say there is no evidence that they would hand him over to the US, but there is some precedent. And equally there is no evidence that the UK or Sweden would refuse a request from the US.

        • Göran Rudling

          Please show some evidence. Just some.

          There is no evidence that Sweden would hand over Julian to the US. In the last 50 years not one person has been extradited from Sweden to the US for a military or political crime. NOT ONE. There have been more than 400 cases.

          So please show some evidence.

          • Goran, I recognise Sweden’s past record with providing asylum to political and military ‘criminals’ from the US. And in refusing to extradite people in the past. But this is no guarantee of future conduct. Sweden had a policy of neutrality in armed conflict since, I think, the 19th century. Until they sent troops to Bosnia and Afghanistan. It also participated in NATO’s intervention(rape?) of Libya. You did see what was done to Gaddafi, didnt you?

        • “There is plenty of evidence to suggest that both the UK and Sweden would go to some lengths to facilitate the US if they were pressured to do so. ”

          There is actually considerable evidence that the UK government will go to some lengths to please the US when they are pressured to do so: there is also considerable evidence that the UK courts will not. This is a pattern that holds out – the Bosnian Six, for example, were handed over to the US by the Bosnian Government, not by the Bosnian courts.

          There is considerable evidence – much of it provided by Wikileaks and so presumably known to Julian Assange when he decided to make his home in Sweden in August 2010 – that since a single act of rendition in 2001, which caused public outrage, the Swedish government have been far less willing to comply with what the US wants than the UK government.

          We may suppose that Naomi Wolf didn’t bother to do her research,. and is arguing from ignorance rather than dishonesty. But while it would hardly stand up in a court of law, I doubt very much that when Julian Assange applied for a Swedish residency permit in August 2010, he did so in the belief that Sweden would hand him over to the US any time the US requested. I think he did so in the surety – thanks to extensive Wikileaks-sourced knowledge of relations between the Swedish and US governments – that Sweden was both unlikely to hand him over on request, and had the political/economic muscle to back up that request.

          I ask you seriously. BSD: if everything Julian Assange has been claiming he believes about Sweden since December 2010 was honestly believed by him in August 2010 – why do you think he wanted to live there? Do you think Assange didn’t do the research?

        • If this is the case, shouldn’t we assume that they are not being pressured to do so? After all, they’ve had months to do it in. And if they’re not being pressured to do so, where’s the problem?

    • As far as I can see, no one is “ignoring these women’s right’s”.

      Aside from the range of rape apologists who have argued that, assuming Assange’s defense lawyer’s uncontradicted evidence in court is correct, it’s not rape if it’s just non-consensual sex, you mean? I could wish these people were “no one”, but they exist, and you know it, because you wrote a fairly sinister post suggesting this until (good for you!) your friends pointed out the problems with that.

      Every single commentator I have seen has stressed the need for a trial to get to the bottom of the allegations. What some are stressing is that the accused has rights too. Most are ignoring this

      Very few people are ignoring this, and most of them are angry commenters in the US who have no power in this situation.

      Commentators who argue that Assange’s professed fears of being extradited to the US from Sweden deserve to be taken seriously aren’t arguing that “the accused has rights too”: they’re arguing that Julian Assange has special rights.

      The right not to be named – as he is in this blog – as a rapist before any proceedings get under way

      So many British men argue that 94% of women who have been raped ought to be silenced about the truth of their experiences unless the man who raped them is convicted. Sorry, but no.

      Assange is avoiding having a fair trial. He’s opted instead for an indefinite period of self-inflicted imprisonment in conditions decidedly worse than he would experience in a Swedish jail. He has opted not to exercise his legal right to extradition, charging, trial, and – if found guilty – an appropriate sentence, choosing instead to remain in a room in Knightsbridge in order to frustrate the legal rights of two women in Sweden.

      He also has the perfectly legitimate and well- grounded right to resist extradition/rendering/disappearing/Mordechai Vanunu-ing into some US gulag.

      Absolutely, but he’s opted not to exercise that right, too, preferring to remain physically in the UK – where he is far more likely to be handed over to the US – than accept the legal protection of extradition to Sweden. He is aiming to get to Ecuador, a country where – if the US decide they want to kidnap Assange – they would likely have not much difficulty in hiring it done.

      These are simple points

      Which are being reiterated by people who think Assange deserves special privileges and the women in Sweden don’t deserve their legal rights.

      • I have real issues with the use of the term “rape apologist”. Name me one person who has said that rape is excusable. No doubt this label was attached to me after my genuine and sincere (if misguided) first attempt to understand the nature of the allegations. It’s a horrible phrase, used in my humble opinion, to besmirch and smear, just like the phrases ‘anti-semite’ and ‘genocide denier’ are used in other contexts. It does nothing to help further understanding or correct faulty conclusions. I note how you cast my original post as “sinister” as opposed to naive or misguided. Thanks for that. I’m only trying my best to find my way through the dark, just like the rest of us.

        ” assuming Assange’s defense lawyer’s uncontradicted evidence in court is correct, it’s not rape if it’s just non-consensual sex, you mean?”

        Could you provide a source for this, please?

        “Commentators who argue that Assange’s professed fears of being extradited to the US from Sweden deserve to be taken seriously aren’t arguing that “the accused has rights too”: they’re arguing that Julian Assange has special rights”

        Not true. What people, such as myself are arguing is that there are exceptional circumstances. As I noted on my blog, when Jack Straw had to decide on the extradition of Augusto Pinochet to Spain, he took into consideration the particular circumstances. In the circumstances, it should not be hard to give a guarantee of no onward extradition to the US for political actions, especially if we all want to see the process come to a speedy conclusion. Besides, it is the UK and Sweden who are taking “special” measures, in order to catch an alleged felon, measures they do not take for people who have commited even more heinous crimes, like murder, or peadophilia. Can you find me one example of a European Arrest Warrant being issued with a “red line notice” for an equivalent crime?

        “choosing instead to remain in a room in Knightsbridge in order to frustrate the legal rights of two women in Sweden.”

        No, in order to ensure he does not end up in a US gulag. You cannot guarantee that will not happen. By refusing to either travel to the UK, or guarantee no on ward US extradition/rendering, it is the Swedish authorities that are frustrating the legal rights of the two women. Police travel abroad to question suspects ALL the time. It is almost a daily occurence. What is so special about this case that it cannot be done?

        “Which are being reiterated by people who think Assange deserves special privileges and the women in Sweden don’t deserve their legal rights.”

        It does no one any favours to misrepresent the views of those you disagree with. Some might suggest it shows a lack of sincerity….

        • Göran Rudling

          First of all. You stated:
          “There is plenty of evidence to suggest that both the UK and Sweden would go to some lengths to facilitate the US if they were pressured to do so.”
          I asked you to show some evidence. Total silence from your part. Not one single letter offered as evidence.

          Now you ask:
          “Can you find me one example of a European Arrest Warrant being issued with a “red line notice” for an equivalent crime?”

          Before I give examples, I am asking you what you will do when I show you examples? Please make a commitment. Otherwise it is pointless for me to prove that you are ignorant.

          • “I asked you to show some evidence. Total silence from your part. Not one single letter offered as evidence.”

            You asked me that less than one hour ago. I am not omipotent. I was replying to others. Patience not your strong point, eh?

          • When you provide examples I will consider them. If your rather unpleasant tone doesnt bore me first.

        • Göran Rudling


          Are you omnipotent or impotent? You go on to make claims that you cannot verify. Seems like you are factually impotent.

          There is a cure. It is not costly. Check your facts and think a little before you put your fingers to the keyboard.

          If my tone was on par with your ignorance you would be blown away from your keyboard.

          • Goran, I see civility and politeness are not your modus operandi. Fair enough, your choice, but the dispassionate observer normally equates rudeness and ad hominems with those with weak arguments. If yours are so strong why resort to, what amounts to linguistic bullying? It makes you look a bit pathetic tbh. I will not respond to you again unless you find a civil tongue. It is not a lot to ask.

          • This is turning into name-calling. Göran, please: stick to the facts, engage civilly. And do bear in mind that people have lives away from the keyboard.

        • I have real issues with the use of the term “rape apologist”. Name me one person who has said that rape is excusable.

          George Galloway.

          No doubt this label was attached to me after my genuine and sincere (if misguided) first attempt to understand the nature of the allegations.

          Well, yes, your first blogpost made you sound like a rape apologist: your second blogpost showed a respectworthy willingness to consider that your first post had been mistaken. Good for you. George Galloway, I note, has not walked back from his assertion that you don’t have to ask a woman twice.

          It’s a horrible phrase, used in my humble opinion, to besmirch and smear, just like the phrases ‘anti-semite’ and ‘genocide denier’ are used in other contexts.

          What would the world be like if we didn’t besmirch and smear David Irving by identifying his denial that the Holocaust happened as “genocide denial” just because he’s publicly expressed those views?

          What would the world be like if men, told that they sound like rape apologists, apologised for doing so and asked how they could avoid that? Well, for one thing, women could feel generally safer: if men found “rape apologist” a label they wished to avoid, rather than to get angry and try to silence women for telling them that this is how they are perceived.

          Now, before we move on to the rest of the discussion: Can I ask why you think it would be preferable if women just avoided the men who sound like rape apologists, rather than letting them know?

    • Blacksheepdiarist

      I disagree with your comment. Julian’s human rights have been respected and are being respected. Just because you don’t know about doesn’t mean his rights are violated.

      Julian has chosen to spend his time in an embassy and cry Wolf along with Naomi and a lot of other ill-informed people. All in order to save himself from ending in some US gulag. We are not saying he is not allowed to. We question if it is in his best interest. Naomi Wolf his chosen to misrepresent facts and lie about circumstances. We are not saying she is not allowed to, we are just commenting on the fact.

      You may, if you so wish, put on leopardskin colored tights and a diaper, put a spiked cap on your head, insert a peacock feather in your bottom, wear pink rubber gloves and walk around in Wellingtons and claim that you do it to save yourself being struck by lightning. You may do so at any time you want to. We are not saying you are not allowed to. But don’t expect us to stand around and cheer you on and say “Yes Black Sheep Diaperist, we think your actions will keep lightning away.”

      • I doubt very much Naomi Wolf “lied” as you suggest. She may have been mistaken or misguided, but no one is infallible. Not Naomi, not me, and not you.
        “All in order to save himself from ending in some US gulag.”

        Well, at least we agree on that.

        • I doubt very much Naomi Wolf “lied” as you suggest.

          You could be right: she could just be speaking from an ignorance so arrogant that it fails to recognise how ignorant it is.

  5. I’m amazed at the bit where Wolf prides herself on having called the Swedish Rape Crisis line. One would think that her 23 years of working in rape crisis centres, etc., would have taught her that such lines are almost always chronically understaffed and should therefore be left free for those who need to use them – that is, actual victims of rape or sexual assault.

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