Sometimes if you wait long enough, questions will answer themselves.
Such as this one explored by feminist Naomi Wolf in her 1993 book, "Fire With Fire": Why are women so reluctant to declare themselves feminists?
Fast-forward to February 2004 and Wolf solved her own riddle in a long piece she wrote for New York magazine. The answer is Naomi Wolf.
Women busy being women rather than building resumes around the incidental fact of their womanhood, see feminists like Wolf as part of the problem. How can any grown-up take seriously, for instance, a woman who 20 years after the fact must - simply must! - come clean about the professor who once put his hand on her leg.
The story Wolf portentously tells revolves around her senior year at Yale when Harold Bloom, the revered literature professor, put his hand on her thigh following a candlelit dinner lubricated with a bottle of sherry at her apartment. In prose that suggests Wolf missed her calling as a romance novelist, she writes that Bloom leaned toward her and breathed:
"You have the aura of election upon you." Wolf was seeking Bloom's recommendation for a Rhodes scholarship as well as a review of her poetry.
The next thing little ol' Naomi knew, Bloom's "heavy, boneless hand was hot on my thigh."
Gad. What's a girl to do? Just so "no"? It's always an option, but instead Wolf lurched to the sink and "found myself vomiting," whereupon Bloom corked his bottle of Amontillado and took his leave. As a gentleman might, one could argue. But not Wolf.
For Wolf, this episode of "sexual encroachment" when she was 20 and not yet a feminist of waning fame, caused her "spiritual discomfort." To her minimal credit, Wolf admits that she hasn't suffered materially. She managed to write a few books, briefly turned Al Gore into an Alpha Male and continues to enjoy speaking invitations.
But her soul, alas, was not rested. "Keeping bad secrets hurts," she writes.
Telling insignificant secrets to resurrect one's career, while ruining another's life (Bloom is 80 and reportedly in declining health) is, on the other hand, presumably painless.
Why the sudden need to verbally purge what her 20-year-old tummy apparently failed to cede? Feminist duty and Jewish guilt, according to Wolf.
As a feminist author and activist, Wolf says she is haunted by the possibility that others might have suffered because she failed to report Bloom's advances. According to her faith, Wolf says she is a sinner of omission, complicit in Bloom's and Yale's tyranny of secrecy.
Without irony, Wolf says she felt like Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" as she recently tried to discuss with Yale its procedures for welcoming and resolving claims of sexual encroachment. She made numerous phone calls over a six-month period, promising that she only wanted personal assurance, not a public forum. After being ignored, Wolf threatened to go public.
Yale has learned that Wolf makes no idle threats; no word on Bloom's bunny.
However Yale may respond to Wolf's petit mal, her expose permits a glimpse into the confused world of victim feminism, which even Wolf once held in contempt. In "Fire With Fire," she demonstrated a capacity for even-handedness toward the sexual complexities among men and women, urging for instance that we not trivialize genuine sex crimes by exaggerating minor insults.
Such as, perhaps, Bloom's clumsy attempt at seducing an attractive young woman who agreed to a candlelit dinner in her apartment and enjoyed his wine while convincing herself that he was interested only in her poetry? Come on. Even a Yalie with a Rhodes scholarship isn't that stupid. Or, oh, so innocent.
I've always maintained that any woman with a checkbook is a feminist, so I'm not anti-feminist. But something happened to the swashbuckling sisterhood on the way to the bank. Once an ideology has its own accountant and bureaucratic organization, it seems, all allegiance to first principles is off.
One of those principles was that women are not so sensitive and vulnerable as to need constant protection from men. If Wolf's description of that long-ago evening is accurate, any jungle girl would know that Bloom might misjudge her sexual reluctance.
The fact that Bloom's boneless hand prompted Wolf to regurgitate her dinner inarguably put an immediate and explicit end to this would-be tale of sexual harassment, with no harm to any except perhaps to poor Bloom's withered self-esteem. Given Wolf's then-considerable gifts of youth, beauty and guile, I should think she owes the dear fellow an apology.