Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

An American Feminist Reveals Her Intimate Goddess

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

An American Feminist Reveals Her Intimate Goddess

Article excerpt

Byline: ROSAMUND URWIN

VAGINA by Naomi Wolf (Virago, [pounds sterling]12.99) IT has been impossible to avoid Naomi Wolf 's Vagina in the past fortnight. As with the Fifty Shades trilogy, every feminist writer seems to have been asked their opinion on this biography of female genitalia, which is part memoir, part potted history, part science and part hokum. Few have found anything positive to say.

As someone who loved Wolf's 1991 polemic The Beauty Myth, I found Vagina especially disappointing. In two decades, she has morphed from feminist heroine into self-indulgent, psychobabble-spouting supporter of Julian Assange.

The book kicks off with an account of her super-orgasms. Post-nookie, Wolf would "see colours as if they were brighter; and the details of the beauty of the natural world would seem sharper and more compelling." Crikey. It's not so much "I want what she's having" as "I want to know what she's smoking".

Suddenly, though, these perceptionaltering climaxes stopped. Wolf, desperate for a return to the ecstasy of old, turned to medicine, discovering that a mild form of spina bifida was hampering her personal pussy riot. She opts for spinal surgery and starts an investigation into the vagina.

Swiftly, though, the book stumbles into unconvincing territory. "They think with their penises" has long been an unfair jibe levelled at the male of our species. But Wolf extends that to women, arguing that our reproductive organs determine how we act: "The vagina is part of the female brain, and thus part of female creativity, confidence and even character." It gets worse, I'm afraid: the vagina "is not only coextensive with the female brain, but is also ... part of the female soul".

Feminists fought hard to see off biological determinism, the kind that claimed such gems as "education shrivels the ovaries", so why is Wolf keen to reintroduce it? Especially when you consider that other bodily organs link to the brain through the nervous system too; what is so special about the vagina? …

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