Somebody Has Vagina Issues

By Goldberg, Michelle | Newsweek, September 17, 2012 | Go to article overview

Somebody Has Vagina Issues


Goldberg, Michelle, Newsweek


Byline: Michelle Goldberg

Naomi Wolf's prayer for a better orgasm.

Reading Vagina: A New Biography, Naomi Wolf's self-parodying ode to female genitalia, one wonders what's happened to a writer who was once one of feminism's freshest voices.

In 1991, Wolf published The Beauty Myth, a classic that's helped many young women navigate between their resentment of our culture's punishing physical ideals and their often excruciating desperation to live up to them. She argued that as women gained more social, economic, and political power, standards of beauty and grooming ratcheted up to oppressive levels, replacing earlier systems of control. This was before Brazilian bikini waxes became de rigueur, before proliferating celebrity magazines started stalking actresses who dare show makeup-free faces in public, before the boom in cosmetic labiaplasty. If anything, Wolf's debut is even more relevant two decades later.

It's also more relevant than anything she's written or said since. Wolf has had many incarnations in the ensuing years, each more puzzling than the last. She was a $15,000-a-month adviser to Al Gore's presidential campaign, famous for urging him to wear earth tones and to assert himself as an "alpha male." In 2006 she made news for telling Scotland's Sunday Herald about a vision in which she, in the form of a teenage boy, encountered Jesus leading her to a spiritual mission to help "women remember what's sacred about them or what's sacred about femininity." Then she detoured away from mysticism to write about the imminent arrival of fascism in America, a fear that led her to call the Tea Party "a prescient effort to constrain overweening corporate and military power in national government."

Now she's back to sex and religion, with a book arguing that the key to women's self-expression and transcendence lies between our legs. The vagina, she writes in her introduction, "is not only coextensive with the female brain but also is part of the female soul... a gateway to, and medium of, female self-knowledge and consciousness themselves." A woman, in this formulation, basically is her vagina.

It shouldn't need pointing out that plenty of misogynists believe the same thing. Vagina may intend to celebrate and empower women, but it has a reactionary way of treating them as slaves to biology. "For women to really be free, we have to understand the ways in which nature designed us to be attached to and dependent upon love, connection, intimacy, and the right kind of Eros in the hands of the right kind of man," Wolf writes.

The impetus for Vagina, Wolf informs us early on, was a crisis in her own sex life. It was 2009 and she was in love with a man who sexually satisfied her, but something was awry. "To my astonishment and dismay, while my clitoral orgasms were as strong and pleasurable as ever, something different than usual was happening, after sex, to my mind," she writes. She realized she was missing "the usual postcoital rush of a sense of vitality infusing the world, of delight with myself and with all around me."

This sounds disappointing. For Wolf, it was a dark night of the soul, "like a horror movie." Late one frantic night, she writes, "I began literally bargaining with the universe, as one does in times of great crisis. I actually prayed, proposing a deal--if God (or whoever was listening; I would go with anyone who was willing to take the call) would somehow heal me ... I would write about it if there was the least chance that what I had learned could help anyone else." Hence, this book. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Somebody Has Vagina Issues
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.