Friday, March 30, 2012

The Shame of Naomi Wolf

Every time a true-believing feminist says the word “woman” she qualifies it with the adjective “strong.”

At first, it was like a tic: she’s a strong woman, she’s a strong woman, she’s a strong woman….

Then, it became something of a fetish. Some men found strong women to be irresistibly attractive, as though strong women were living breathing aphrodisiacs.

Not a lot of men, but enough to make strong women feel that they possessed more than their fair share of sex appeal.

But, feminists had a darker purpose. They believed that if they kept repeating—strong woman, strong woman, strong woman—over and over again, then everyone would stop associating womanhood with weakness. Women would no longer be the weaker sex; the patriarchy would quiver. Nothing like a magical incantation to transform reality.

This new consciousness would undermine the traditional male role of protecting of women. Strong, independent women do not need protection. (I mean that they do not need that kind of protection.)

Since men were no longer allowed to protect strong women, the task would be left to the government and the court system.

Nowadays, in popular culture a strong woman is one who has survived rejection and who embraces her independence and autonomy. She is so thoroughly empowered that she does not see herself has having been rejected by a man. Her ex-- has given her a glorious opportunity to discover her strength.

So much so that you begin to wonder whether strong women are attractive only up to a point… the point at which the appeal of the fetish wears off.

The songs and stories tell us that rejection produces strength, but one is permitted, on this blog at least, to muse that it might be the other way around: these women overpower their men, to the point that men walk away from them.

The theme has spawned a musical genre all its own. Obviously, Kelly Clarkson is the queen of rejected women. Her recent hit song, “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” has become an instant classic in the genre. In case you missed it:

Now, another major chanteuse, Katy Perry, has joined the club. Since Perry is a bigger star than even Kelly Clarkson her comings and goings attract more attention.

As almost everyone knows, Perry recently divorced her husband, Russell Brand. The marriage was short-lived and fiery, but it ended on a more-or-less civil tone.

Anyway, Perry celebrated her divorce by writing a song called “Part of Me.” In the song and the music video I have posted below, Perry tries to rebuild her strength and independence by joining the United States Marine Corps.

One accepts the metaphor. Does anything signify strength and toughness better than the Marines?

You would have thought that the metaphor would have been unobjectionable. And you would have thought that feminists, and one in particular who made her name railing against “the beauty myth” would celebrate Perry’s declaration of strength and independence.

More so since Perry, in her video, disembarrasses herself of all the trappings of femininity that were once so offensive to Naomi Wolf.

You would have been wrong.

However much feminine beauty offends Wolf’s feminist consciousness, it is nothing when compared with the contempt she feels for the United States Marines.

When she was apprised of the Katy Perry video, Wolf took to her Facebook fan page and posted the following:

Have you all seen the Katy Perry Marines video? It is a total piece of propaganda for the Marines...I really want to find out if she was paid by them for making is truly shameful. I would suggest a boycott of this singer whom I really liked -- if you are as offended at this glorification of violence as I am . 

One does not know where to start.

Let’s be kind and begin by pointing out that the author of a book about the beauty myth had previously been a great fan of Katy Perry. That assumes that she liked Perry’s video about “California Gurls” which I am happy to post here, for your edification.

It’s about sunshine and lollipops and living in a world that is supersaturated with classical feminine stereotypes.

To that Wolf has no objection.

If you watch Perry’s video you will see that it depicts the slog of Marine basic training. If you believe that the Marines are, intrinsically, the enemy because they glorify violence, you might be offended, but otherwise there is no reason to call it propaganda.

Nor is there any reason to impugn Katy Perry’s ethics by saying that she must have been bought off by the Marines.

The problem is: if joining the Marines means succumbing to propaganda and if the Marines are your enemy, we are well within our rights to ask whose side Naomi Wolf is on?

It’s not that I want to impugn her patriotism, but, if you will forgive a grammatical infelicity,  she has impugned her own patriotism.

Wolf’s opinion is shameful, a disgrace. She owes Katy Perry and her readers a full apology. One that goes well beyond her current protestations about having been misunderstood.

What does Wolf find so offensive about the Marines? She says that she is especially “offended by the glorification of violence….”

First, the video is about basic training. It does not glorify violence.

Second, would Wolf prefer that the Marines had used less violent methods on Iwo Jima, on D Day, or at Guadalcanal?

Third, is she going to find it equally offensive when the Obama administration wraps itself around the Navy Seals who killed Osama bin Laden?

At a time when the Obama administration has been working to overcome the anti-war image that has dogged the Democratic Party since the Vietnam War, why does Naomi Wolf take offense at Marines who engage in violent actions to protect and defend us all?

Is she offended by the World War II movies that glorify the Marines? Shouldn’t we glorify those who fight and die for the country? Shouldn’t we glorify those who win wars? Is there  glory in victory over Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan?

Clearly, Wolf belongs on the radical left, not the liberal or progressive wing of the Democratic party.

Fourth, let’s be very clear. Wolf is calling for a boycott of a singer. She is saying that Katy Perry should be shunned by those who inhabit Wolf's radical political circles.

This means that she is, effectively, calling for culture warfare against Katy Perry. Why is she doing so? Because Katy Perry used her divorce as an opportunity to assert strength and independence.

Since Katy Perry considers the Marines an apt representative of the concept of strength, Naomi Wolf is sorely offended. This can only mean that she considers the Marines to be her Enemy, and that she believes that Katy Perry is consorting with the Enemy. Any association with an Enemy group requires a boycott and ostracism.

Now, of course, Wolf has discovered a new reason to be offended. She cannot understand how anyone could have taken her words as an insult to the brave men and women in the Marines.

Unfortunately, her high dudgeon is mere posturing.  Her words are clear enough, and we are all well within our rights to ask which side she’s on.


n.n said...

Wolf seems detached from reality. Not only does she betray the men and women of our armed forces, but her selective expression of indignation would suggest she is envious of Perry. Maybe Wolf is simply lashing out in her confusion.

Slartibartfast said...

As far as the 'Strong Woman' trope is concerned: I constantly hear women saying 'Men are intimidated by a strong woman' I hear it in my social life, at work, on tv, nauseam. I could never understand it. Not one of my friends has ever been intimidated by a woman, and I can't imagine ever being so. Then I realized that what women consider a 'strong woman' is quite different than what a man would consider a SW. To men, a SW is one who can be trusted and relied upon. A woman who would make a good wife and mother. To women, a strong woman is one who is aggressive, abrasive and overly-competitive. Mannish, if you will. As a man, I'm not intimidated by that, I just want nothing to do, sexually/romantically with a woman like that. I get enough of that at the office.

n.n said...


I think it begins with respect, which, as you have identified, is defined in a context.

There is a class of feminist who seems to be afraid of their feminine qualities. They consider themselves oppressed by nature/man and their animosity is reflected in overt hostility to anyone who is capable of reasonably compromising between their natural and conscious imperatives. I can't imagine that this can be justified other than in the exception. We may be sexual creatures, but we are simply not so crude as some women would like to believe.

Anonymous said...

Naomi Wolf longs for a burqa and a strong hand at the end of her leash. She always has.


Dennis said...

I have never meet a feminist who is a strong woman. I have meet many a conservative woman who are strong women.
I, like a previous commenter, have never meet a man who was intimidated by a woman. The fact that we might possess manners and are polite does not mean we fear anyone. It is akin to the steps one learns in martial arts. The first step, and one of the most importance, is avoidance. Then progressive responses go from there until one has no other choice.
If a strong woman is one who whines at almost every challenge they face, blames others especially men, talks a lot, but cringes when it is time to face up to Islamists or dangerous people, et al then feminists are strong women. If we avoid them it is because of the aura of inhumanity and death that surrounds them. What does feminism stand for: abortion, infanticide, the killing of men if they could find a way do it without getting their hands dirty or put themselves in danger, et al.
I have been married to a strong woman for so long I cannot remember what is was like not to be married. I have raised daughters, and a son, granddaughters and spent most of my life around women. They have made my life a joy. I like and love women I just don't like feminists because they are bigots and possessed of misandry.