Monday, 22 March 2010

Crying Wolf

As usual, I am wasting my day off by wandering around on the internet. Sometimes that feels like the worst way to waste time because it is so unfocused, but in the moment, I am always interested by things I come across.

Here's an article I've read this morning. It's from the New York Magazine a couple of years ago, and it's written by Naomi Wolf about Harold Bloom, who was a lecturer at Yale while she was a student there. She uses an odd phrase, 'sexual encroachment', to describe an incident from over 20 years earlier in which he put his hand on her leg. Reading the article, there certainly were many cases of sexual harassment of others that she came across in her research, but her own situation entirely failed to elicit my sympathy. She described a meal at her house with him which ended with his hand reaching out to rest on her inner thigh. She got up and vomited and he left, with no other interaction between the two of them ever occurring.

I wanted to feel sympathy for her as a woman, but I just think that she's making matters worse. She details the ways in which she has, over a couple of years preceding the writing of the article, tried to somehow get Yale to acknowledge that they were accountable for the action.

I can't bear the way that she portrays herself as someone betrayed by the university that somehow should have protected her. She is making a passive victim of herself by blaming a grand educational entity for putting her in the proximity of Harold Bloom. She was the one who agreed the have him over for a candle-lit dinner at her house, and though it wasn't exactly gentlemanly for him to reach over to touch her leg, he didn't pursue anything when she made it clear that the romantic-looking dinner was not what he thought.

I certainly don't think that it's right for men to push themselves on women, but I don't believe that the university had anything to do with it when Bloom 'sexually encroached' upon Wolf.

I think that a number of the other people mentioned in the article are far more worthy of coverage than Wolf's fear of some big bad man touching her leg. Unfortunately, the actual tales of people being harassed and even raped by their professors were relegated to anecdotes that were somehow intended to bolster Wolf's claim that the university should have fired Bloom for touching her leg.

Women can be powerful and strong, but they cannot do that if they run to others all the time to blame them for not being controlling enough. I actually think that it's fine for students and professors to be close and have relationships if they should choose to do so. But a student would be a fool to not expect that to have an effect on their reputation in the academic circle they hope to run in. You make your own choices, that is all part of sexual empowerment. It does nobody any good if a woman runs to some daddy-figure as soon as a man shows interest in her.

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