Does this make me a bad person? I’m really enjoying reading bad reviews of Naomi Wolf’s new book Vagina: A Biography. I’m gleefully clapping my hands together like a little kid at a birthday party as the piñata nears the point of collapse. Maybe because in these reviews I can smell the gathering tide of smart people getting absolutely fed up with people like Naomi Wolf.
You may or may not know about my long-standing gripes with Ms. Wolf. If not, you can read all about them here. We go way back. Suffice it to say that I find Naomi Wolf the worst kind of knee-jerk-reactionary, wrong-headed, anti-porn, essentially conservative, self-centered activist. The kind who dons the mantel of “feminism” to try to mask intellectual feebleness and who uses her own, completely subjective emotional reactions to try to convince people she’s right about why “Porn Drives Men Crazy” and other such nonsense. She compares apples to oranges and then demands to be taken seriously as a thinker because she quotes scientific sources (sometimes) and because she’s a feminist, while dragging the good name of feminism (or at least the good name it could have if people would treat it with some respect) through the mud on her weird, ill-conceived, self-obsessed crusades.
But enough about what I think. She just released a book called Vagina: A Biography that supposedly redefines the vagina not just as a sexual organ but as the most fundamental organ of female-ness. She supposedly tries to use neuroscience to back her up on this, and reached the conclusion that the vagina is an extension of the brain. She told Publisher’s Weekly that “it’s much better understood as part of the female brain, an extension of the female consciousness, connected to women’s creativity, confidence, and sense of connection to the world.” Which… ok, I’m willing to listen about. But it already sounds a bit reductionist, doesn’t it?
I wasn’t sure what to do with myself; part of me wanted to buy the book and read it because it might either offer me more fodder for being annoyed by this woman who tries to be one of the world’s most outspoken feminism and does it all wrong, or it might be ok. But the other part of me doesn’t want to support her obnoxiousness with my money.
But lucky for me, critics from alllll over the place are doing the work for me. And I’m just giddy about it. Check these out:
From Salon: “Vagina’s navel-gazing, psuedo-scientific argument has made for an easy target — but critics have said that by posing as a serious, comprehensive work on feminism, it’s also a well-deserved one.”
From The New York Review of Books: “‘Serotonin,’ Wolf writes, ‘literally subdues the female voice, and dopamine literally raises it.’ Wolf literally does not understand the meaning of ‘literally’ and her grasp of the scientific research she has read is pretty shaky too.”
The Guardian: “She comes in a package that is marketed as feminism but is actually breathlessly written self-help…. What we have here is Californication, with a little trot through some basic women’s studies linking female creativity with sexual awakening.”
From The Daily Beast: “A woman, in this formulation, basically is her vagina. It shouldn’t need pointing out that plenty of misogynists believe the same thing. ”
From Publisher’s Weekly: “Neither scientist, sociologist, sex-educator, physiologist, nor psychologist herself, reporter Wolf draws liberally and uncritically from work in those fields.”
From The Neurocritic: “This unlikely combination of pseudoscientific and mystical elements provides a little something for everyone to hate.”
And from Slate: “She uses faux academic language, and science, and personal confession mingled with a new-age idiom, to essentially express the idea that sexual happiness is vitally connected to women’s sense of well-being (a conclusion we could perhaps have come to without fancy studies, and Technicolor orgasm stories, but who knows?).”
I could do this all day. I don’t really care if it makes me a bad person.