Topic: Professions & Institutions
Naomi Wolf and Harold Bloom: The Meanness of the Righteous
Who knows what motivated Naomi Wolf to accuse her former college professor and renowned Yale scholar Harold Bloom of sexual harassment now, after 20 years? Maybe a therapist told her it would be therapeutic; maybe she needed to get her name in print; maybe he didn’t send her a Christmas card. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether the accusation is true or false, either. It doesn’t matter whether one is a feminist, a fan of Bloom’s scholarship on Shakespeare and literature, or a neutral on-looker. Only one verdict is possible: Wolf’s actions are dastardly, and violate all standards of fairness, process, and equity.
Bloom denies the charges. Yale informed Wolf that the University, appropriately, has a two year limit on responding to such charges, and that the proper time for her to complain was two decades ago when the alleged incident could have been investigated.
Wolf states that she has no intention of filing any kind of civil suit.
So it all boils down to this: a 70 year old scholar, whose reputation is one of his most cherished possessions, finds himself publicly attacked and degraded by a celebrated feminist author, under conditions that allow him no opportunity for absolution or vindication. After twenty years, all that is possible is a “yes you did no I didn’t” dispute in which no final resolution is possible.
If Wolf had spent all these years planning her actions out of pure vindictiveness, she could not have caused more damage. Twenty years ago, a timely accusation would have been dealt with on the Yale campus, with no national publicity. Now, she is a celebrity, and he is a celebrity: the attention and publicity is magnified exponentially. As Wolf certainly knows, the timing of her accusation seems to prove Professor Bloom’s guilt: why would she make up such a thing now?
Again: it doesn’t matter. The motives and judgment of someone who would wait so long to make such a claim are suspect; the truth is undiscoverable, and the conduct is unethical. In America, nobody, including Professor Bloom, should have his reputation destroyed by the mere existence of an accusation. The circumstances cry out for a defamation suit by Professor Bloom against Wolf, but Bloom’s decision in that regard should also have no bearing on public perceptions of his guilt.
Wolf may have been a victim at one time, but she is now a victimizer. Her accusation is nothing but a willful and reckless act of character assassination. The lesson of the episode is not that victims of sexual harassment should have the courage to come forward, but they should have the courage and the decency to come forward in a timely fashion.
Related Links: http://www.observer.com/pages/frontpage7.asp