Naomi Wolf’s long, ludicrous career has followed a simple formula. She audits herself for some speck of dissatisfaction, arrives at an epiphany — one that might contravene any number of natural laws — and then extrapolates a set of rules and recommendations for all women. Predictable controversy ensues; grouchy reviews and much attention. Over the years her batty claims have included that a woman’s brain can allow her to become pregnant if she so desires, even if she is using birth control; that women’s intellects and creativity are dependent on their sexual fulfillment and, specifically, the skillful ministrations of a “virile man”; and that writing a letter to a breech baby will induce it to turn right side up.
And believe me, it lives up to the promise of the opening graf.
Relatedly, Laura Wagner makes the excellent point that looking at what kinds of arguments will get women the rare chance to write Atlantic cover stories is as instructive as the data showing that women are much less likely to be assigned them:
That “journalistic muscle” that he says he wants to help women and people of color develop is, after all, a very specific one, involving writing overly long thinkpieces about Society, often premised on the unprovable conceit that an abstract concept is dead or dying. In the last half-year the only cover story a woman has written for The Atlantic is “The Sex Recession,” a handwringy screed about how young women aren’t fucking enough. To Goldberg, the end-all be-all of journalistic success that women should be striving for appears to be having a cover story for The Atlantic called “The End Of Men” or “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” or “Marry Him!”
It’s not an accident that the tough but very fair ride The End of Men got on social media was a core example in Jon Chait’s Great PC Panic story. From the standpoint of the 3rd year of the Grab ‘Em By The Pussy administration, it’s worth remembering that sometimes your angry critics have a point, that contrarianism is often contrarian because it’s wrong, and contrarian arguments are particularly likely to be just wrong when they flatter the prejudices of the kind of powerful elites who assign Atlantic cover stories.