Naomi Wolf

Naomi Wolf

Wolf at the Brooklyn Book Festival in New York City in September 2008
Born (1962-11-12) November 12, 1962
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Occupation Author, activist
Alma mater Yale University
New College, Oxford
Notable works The Beauty Myth
The End of America
Spouse David Shipley (1993–2005), divorced
Children 2

Naomi R. Wolf (born November 12, 1962)[1][2][3] is an American author, journalist and former political advisor to Al Gore and Bill Clinton.

Wolf first came to prominence in 1991 as the author of The Beauty Myth.[4] With the book, she became a leading spokeswoman of what was later described as the third wave of the feminist movement.[5] Such leading feminists as Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan praised the book; others, like Camille Paglia and Christina Hoff Sommers, criticized it. She has since written other books, including the bestselling book The End of America in 2007 and her latest Vagina: A New Biography.

Her journalism career began in 1995 and has included topics such as abortion, the Occupy Wall Street movement, Edward Snowden and ISIS. She has written in venues such as The Nation, The Guardian and The Huffington Post. Writers in, National Review, Alternet, Mother Jones and The Atlantic have for some time criticized her journalism as conspiratorial and overblown.

Childhood, education and personal life

Wolf was born in San Francisco, to a Jewish family.[6][7] Her mother is Deborah Goleman, an anthropologist and the author of The Lesbian Community.[5] Her father is the Romanian-born gothic horror scholar and Yiddish translator Leonard Wolf. She attended Lowell High School and debated in regional speech tournaments as a member of the Lowell Forensic Society. Wolf then attended Yale University where in 1984, she received her Bachelor of Arts in English literature. From 1985 to 1987, she was a Rhodes Scholar at New College, Oxford.[8]

In 2004, Wolf reported an alleged incident of "sexual encroachment" by professor Harold Bloom she said she had experienced when she was a Yale undergraduate working on poetry with Bloom two decades earlier. Due to Wolf's feeling that the university had not taken her complaint seriously, she made her complaint public.[9]

Wolf was married to journalist David Shipley. They have two children, Rosa (b. 1995) and Joseph (b. 2000). Wolf and Shipley divorced in 2005.[10]


The Beauty Myth

Naomi Wolf speaking at Brooklyn Law School, January 29, 2009

In 1991 Wolf gained international fame as a spokeswoman of third-wave feminism[11][12] as a result of the success of her first book The Beauty Myth, which became an international bestseller and was named "one of the seventy most influential books of the twentieth century" by the New York Times.[8][13] In the book, she argues that "beauty" as a normative value is entirely socially constructed, and that the patriarchy determines the content of that construction with the goal of reproducing its own hegemony.

Wolf posits the idea of an "iron-maiden," an intrinsically unattainable standard that is then used to punish women physically and psychologically for their failure to achieve and conform to it. Wolf criticized the fashion and beauty industries as exploitative of women, but added that the beauty myth extended into all areas of human functioning. Wolf writes that women should have "the choice to do whatever we want with our faces and bodies without being punished by an ideology that is using attitudes, economic pressure, and even legal judgments regarding women's appearance to undermine us psychologically and politically". Wolf argues that women were under assault by the "beauty myth" in five areas: work, religion, sex, violence, and hunger. Ultimately, Wolf argues for a relaxation of normative standards of beauty.[14] In her introduction, Wolf positioned her argument against the concerns of second-wave feminists and offered the following analysis:

The more legal and material hindrances women have broken through, the more strictly and heavily and cruelly images of female beauty have come to weigh upon us... [D]uring the past decade, women breached the power structure; meanwhile, eating disorders rose exponentially and cosmetic surgery became the fastest-growing specialty... [P]ornography became the main media category, ahead of legitimate films and records combined, and thirty-three thousand American women told researchers that they would rather lose ten to fifteen pounds than achieve any other goal...More women have more money and power and scope and legal recognition than we have ever had before; but in terms of how we feel about ourselves physically, we may actually be worse off than our unliberated grandmothers.[15]

Wolf's book was a bestseller, receiving polarized responses from the public and mainstream media, but winning praise from most feminists. Second-wave feminist Germaine Greer wrote that The Beauty Myth was "the most important feminist publication since The Female Eunuch, and Gloria Steinem wrote, "The Beauty Myth is a smart, angry, insightful book, and a clarion call to freedom. Every woman should read it."[16] British novelist Fay Weldon called the book "essential reading for the New Woman".[17] Betty Friedan wrote in Allure magazine that "'The Beauty Myth' and the controversy it is eliciting could be a hopeful sign of a new surge of feminist consciousness."

However, Camille Paglia, whose Sexual Personae was published the same year as The Beauty Myth, derided Wolf as unable to perform "historical analysis," and called her education "completely removed from reality."[18] Her comments touched off a series of contentious debates between Wolf and Paglia in the pages of The New Republic.[19][20][21]

Likewise, Christina Hoff Sommers criticized Wolf for publishing the estimate that 150,000 women were dying every year from anorexia. Sommers states that she tracked down the source to the American Anorexia and Bulimia Association who stated that they were misquoted; the figure refers to sufferers, not fatalities. Wolf's citation for the incorrect figure came from a book by Brumberg, who referred to an American Anorexia and Bulimia Association newsletter and misquoted the newsletter. Wolf accepted the error and changed it in future editions. Sommers gave an estimate for the number of fatalities in 1990 as 100-400.[22][23]

The New York Times published a harshly critical assessment of Wolf's work by Caryn James. She lambasted the book as a "sloppily researched polemic as dismissible as a hackneyed adventure film...Even by the standards of pop-cultural feminist studies, The Beauty Myth is a mess."[24] In a comparatively positive review, The Washington Post called the book "persuasive" and praised its "accumulated evidence."[25]

Fire with Fire

In 1993 Wolf published Fire with Fire on politics, female empowerment and women's sexual liberation.[26] In the U.S. The New York Times assailed the work for its "dubious oversimplifications and highly debatable assertions" and its "disconcerting penchant for inflationary prose," nonetheless noting Wolf's "efforts to articulate an accessible, pragmatic feminism, ...helping to replace strident dogma with common sense."[27] The Time magazine reviewer dismissed the book as "flawed," noting however that Wolf was "an engaging raconteur" who was also "savvy about the role of TV – especially the Thomas-Hill hearings and daytime talk shows – in radicalizing women, including homemakers." The reviewer characterized the book as advocating an inclusive strain of feminism that welcomed abortion opponents.[28] In the UK, feminist author Natasha Walter writing in The Independent said that the book "has its faults, but compared with The Beauty Myth it has energy and spirit, and generosity too." But she also criticized it for having a "narrow agenda" where "you will look in vain for much discussion of older women, of black women, of women with low incomes, of mothers." Characterizing Wolf as a "media star", Walter wrote: "She is particularly good, naturally, on the role of women in the media."[29]


Promiscuities reports on and analyzes the shifting patterns of contemporary adolescent sexuality. Wolf argues that literature is rife with examples of male coming-of-age stories, covered autobiographically by D. H. Lawrence, Tobias Wolff, J. D. Salinger, and Ernest Hemingway, and covered misogynistically by Henry Miller, Philip Roth, and Norman Mailer. Wolf insists, however, that female accounts of adolescent sexuality have been systematically suppressed. She adduces cross-cultural material to demonstrate that women have, across history, been celebrated as more carnal than men. Wolf also argues that women must reclaim the legitimacy of their own sexuality by shattering the polarization of women between virgin and whore.[30]

Promiscuities received, in general, negative reviews. The New York Times published a review that characterized Wolf as a "frustratingly inept messenger: a sloppy thinker and incompetent writer. She tries in vain to pass off tired observations as radical aperçus, subjective musings as generational truths, sappy suggestions as useful ideas".[31] Two days earlier, however, a different Times reviewer praised the book, writing, "Anyone—particularly anyone who, like Ms. Wolf, was born in the 1960s—will have a very hard time putting down Promiscuities. Told through a series of confessions, her book is a searing and thoroughly fascinating exploration of the complex wildlife of female sexuality and desire."[32] In contrast, The Library Journal excoriated the work, writing, "Overgeneralization abounds as she attempts to apply the microcosmic events of this mostly white, middle-class, liberal milieu to a whole generation....There is a desperate defensiveness in the tone of this book which diminishes the force of her argument."[33]


Misconceptions examines modern assumptions surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. Most of the book is told through the prism of Wolf's personal experience of her first pregnancy. She describes the "vacuous impassivity" of the ultrasound technician who gives her the first glimpse of her new baby. Wolf both laments her C-section and examines why the procedure is commonplace in the United States, and advocates a return to more personal approaches to childbirth such as midwifery. The second half of the book catalogs a series of anecdotes about life after giving birth, focusing in particular on inequalities that arise in men and women's approaches and adjustments to child care.[34]

The End of America

In The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, Wolf takes a historical look at the rise of fascism, outlining 10 steps necessary for a fascist group (or government) to destroy the democratic character of a nation-state and subvert the social/political liberty previously exercised by its citizens:

  1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
  2. Create secret prisons where torture takes place
  3. Develop a thug caste or paramilitary force not answerable to citizens
  4. Set up an internal surveillance system
  5. Harass citizens' groups
  6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
  7. Target key individuals
  8. Control the press
  9. Treat all political dissidents as traitors
  10. Suspend the rule of law[35]

The book details how this pattern was implemented in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and elsewhere, and analyzes its emergence and application of all the 10 steps in American political affairs since the September 11 attacks.[36][37]

The End of America was adapted for the screen as a documentary by filmmakers Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern, best known for The Devil Came on Horseback and The Trials of Darryl Hunt. It had its worldwide premiere at the Hamptons International Film Festival on October 17, 2008. It has since been screened at Sheffield DocFest in the UK, as well as in limited release at New York City's IFC Center. The film became available online on October 21, 2008 at SnagFilms. End of America was favorably reviewed in The New York Times by Stephen Holden[38] as well as in Variety magazine.[39]

Mark Nuckols of the Russian Academy of National Economy argues in The Atlantic that Wolf 'twists its meaning and ignores its context' of historical parallels based on highly selective and misleading citations.[40] In The Daily Beast, Michael Moynihan characterized the book as "an astoundingly lazy piece of writing."[41]

Give Me Liberty

Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries was written as a sequel to The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot.

In the book, Wolf looks at times and places in history where citizens were faced with the closing of an open society and successfully fought back, and looks back at the ordinary people of the Founding Fathers of the United States' generation, the ones not named by history, all of whom had this "vision of liberty" and moved it forward by putting their lives on the line to make the vision real. She is an outspoken advocate for citizenship and wonders whether younger Americans have the skills and commitment to act as true citizens.[42] She wrote in 2007:

This lack of understanding about how democracy works is disturbing enough. But at a time when our system of government is under assault from an administration that ignores traditional checks and balances, engages in illegal wiretapping and writes secret laws on torture, it means that we're facing an unprecedented crisis. As the Founders knew, if citizens are ignorant of or complacent about the proper workings of a republic "of laws not of men," then any leader of any party – or any tyrannical Congress or even a tyrannical majority – can abuse the power they hold. But at this moment of threat to the system the Framers set in place, a third of young Americans don't really understand what they were up to.[43]

Vagina: A New Biography

Published in 2012 on the topic of the vagina, Vagina: A New Biography was widely criticized, especially by feminist authors. Calling it "ludicrous" at, Katie Roiphe wrote, "I doubt the most brilliant novelist in the world could have created a more skewering satire of Naomi Wolf’s career than her latest book."[44] In The Nation, Katha Pollitt said the book was "silly" and contained "much dubious neuroscience and much foolishness"; she concluded, "It’s lucky vaginas can’t read, or mine would be cringing in embarrassment."[45] Although writing that "Wolf’s ideas and suggestions in 'Vagina' are valuable ones," Toni Bentley said in The New York Times Book Review that the book contained "shoddy" research and "is undermined by the fact that she has rendered herself less than unreliable over the past couple of decades, with one rant more hysterical than another."[46] In The New York Review of Books Zoë Heller called Vagina "a shoddy piece of work, full of childlike generalizations and dreary, feminist auto-think."[47] Los Angeles Times columnist Meghan Daum decried the book’s "painful" writing and its "hoary ideas about how women think."[48] In The New York Observer, Nina Burleigh suggested that critics of the book were so vehement "because (a) their editors handed the book to them for review because they thought it was an Important Feminist Book when it's actually slight and (b) there’s a grain of truth in what she’s trying to say."[49]

In response to the criticism, Wolf stated the following in a television interview:

...anything that shows documentation of the brain and vagina connection is going to alarm some feminists... ...also feminism has kind of retreated into the academy and sort of embraced the idea that all gender is socially constructed and so here is a book that is actually looking at science... ... though there has been some criticisms of the book from some feminists ... who say, well you can’t look at the science because that means we have to grapple with the science... ... to me the feminist task of creating a just world isn’t changed at all by this fascinating neuroscience that shows some differences between men and women.[50]

Other writings

In 2005, Wolf published The Treehouse: Eccentric Wisdom from my Father on How to Live, Love, and See, which chronicled her midlife crisis attempt to reclaim her creative and poetic vision and revalue her father's love, and her father's force as an artist and a teacher.

Feminist positions


In publishing an article in The New Republic that criticized contemporary pro-choice positions, Wolf argued that the movement had "developed a lexicon of dehumanization" and urged feminists to accept abortion as a form of homicide and defend the procedure within the ambiguity of this moral conundrum. She continues, "Abortion should be legal; it is sometimes even necessary. Sometimes the mother must be able to decide that the fetus, in its full humanity, must die."[51]

Wolf concluded by speculating that in a world of "real gender equality," passionate feminists "might well hold candlelight vigils at abortion clinics, standing shoulder to shoulder with the doctors who work there, commemorating and saying goodbye to the dead."[51] More recently, in an article on the subtle manipulation of George W. Bush's image among women, Wolf wrote "Abortion is an issue not of Ms. Magazine-style fanaticism or suicidal Republican religious reaction, but a complex issue."[52]

Pro-life commentators said Wolf "fails to carry through fully in her analysis...this simply is not, or should not be, the unqualified response of our society to the destruction of innocent life."[53]


Wolf suggested in 2003 that the ubiquity of internet pornography tends to enervate the sexual attraction of men toward typical real women. She writes, "The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as 'porn-worthy.' Far from having to fend off porn-crazed young men, young women are worrying that as mere flesh and blood, they can scarcely get, let alone hold, their attention." Wolf advocates abstaining from porn not on moral grounds, but because "greater supply of the stimulant equals diminished capacity."[54]

Women in Fascism

Wolf has examined how modern Western women, born in inclusive, egalitarian liberal democracies, are assuming positions of leadership in neofascist political movements:

Second-wave feminist theory abounds in assertions that war, racism, love of hierarchy, and general repressiveness belong to “patriarchy”; women’s leadership, by contrast, would naturally create a more inclusive, collaborative world. The problem is that it has never worked out that way, as the rise of women to leadership positions in Western Europe’s far-right parties should remind us. Leaders such as Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front, Pia Kjaersgaard of Danish People's Party, and Siv Jensen of Norway’s Progress Party reflect the enduring appeal of neofascist movements to many modern women in egalitarian, inclusive liberal democracies.[55]

Women in Islamic countries

Wolf has spoken about the dress required of women living in Muslim countries:

The West interprets veiling as repression of women and suppression of their sexuality. But when I traveled in Muslim countries and was invited to join a discussion in women-only settings within Muslim homes, I learned that Muslim attitudes toward women's appearance and sexuality are not rooted in repression, but in a strong sense of public versus private, of what is due to God and what is due to one's husband. It is not that Islam suppresses sexuality, but that it embodies a strongly developed sense of its appropriate channeling – toward marriage, the bonds that sustain family life, and the attachment that secures a home.[56]

In response, feminist author Phyllis Chesler wrote: "Most Muslim girls and women are not given a choice about wearing the chador, burqa, abaya, niqab, jilbab, or hijab (headscarf) and those who resist are beaten, threatened with death, arrested, caned or lashed, jailed, or honor murdered by their own families. Is Wolf thoroughly unfamiliar with the news coming out of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan on these very subjects?"[57]

Defense of Julian Assange

The December 20, 2010 airing of Democracy Now! featured a segment titled "Naomi Wolf vs. Jaclyn Friedman: Feminists Debate the Sexual Allegations Against Julian Assange" in which Jaclyn Friedman argues the sexual assault allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange shouldn't be dismissed just because they may be politically motivated. Wolf argues that the alleged victims should have said no, that they consented to having sex with Assange, that the charges are politically motivated and demean the cause of legitimate rape victims. The discussion took place shortly after the leaking of the Swedish police report on the incident.[58]

Alleged sexual encroachment incident at Yale

In 2004, Wolf wrote an article for New York magazine accusing literary scholar Harold Bloom of a "sexual encroachment" more than two decades earlier by touching her thigh. She said that what she alleged Bloom did was not harassment, either legally or emotionally, and she did not think herself a "victim", but that she had harbored this secret for 21 years. Explaining why she had finally gone public with the charges, Wolf wrote, "I began, nearly a year ago, to try—privately—to start a conversation with my alma mater that would reassure me that steps had been taken in the ensuing years to ensure that unwanted sexual advances of this sort weren't still occurring. I expected Yale to be responsive. After nine months and many calls and e-mails, I was shocked to conclude that the atmosphere of collusion that had helped to keep me quiet twenty years ago was still intact—as secretive as a Masonic lodge."[9]

Reflecting on Yale University's sexual harassment guidelines, Wolf wrote, "Sexual encroachment in an educational context or a workplace is, most seriously, a corruption of meritocracy; it is in this sense parallel to bribery. I was not traumatized personally, but my educational experience was corrupted. If we rephrase sexual transgression in school and work as a civil-rights and civil-society issue, everything becomes less emotional, less personal. If we see this as a systemic corruption issue, then when people bring allegations, the focus will be on whether the institution has been damaged in its larger mission."[9]

In, Meghan O'Rourke wrote that Wolf generalized about sexual assault at Yale on the basis of her alleged personal experience. Moreover, O'Rourke noted that, despite Wolf's assertion that sexual assault existed at Yale, she did not interview any Yale students for her story. In addition, O'Rourke wrote, "She jumps through verbal hoops to make it clear she was not 'personally traumatized,' yet she spends paragraphs describing the incident in precisely those terms." O'Rourke noted that, despite Wolf's claim that her educational experience was corrupted, "(s)he neglects to mention that she later was awarded a Rhodes (scholarship)..." Criticizing her "gaps and imprecision," O'Rourke concluded that Wolf's claim that no viable mechanism existed at Yale to prevent and prosecute sexual harassment was "deeply flawed."[59]

Separately, a formal complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights on March 15, 2011, by 16 current and former Yale students—12 female and 4 male—describing a sexually hostile environment at Yale. A federal investigation of Yale University began in March 2011 in response to the complaints.[60] "Wolf said on CBS's The Early Show: 'Yale has been systematically covering up much more serious crimes than the ones that can be easily identified. What they do is that they use the sexual harassment grievance procedure in a very cynical way, purporting to be supporting victims, but actually using a process to stonewall victims, to isolate them, and to protect the university'", as quoted in the Daily Mail.[61] Yale settled the federal complaint in June 2012, acknowledging "inadequacies" but not "facing disciplinary action with the understanding that it keeps in place policy changes instituted after the complaint was filed. The school was required to report on its progress to the Office of Civil Rights until May, 2014."[62]

Political consultant

Wolf was involved in Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election bid, brainstorming with the president's team about ways to reach female voters.[63] During Al Gore's unsuccessful bid for the presidency in the 2000 election, Wolf was hired as a consultant to target female voters, reprising her role in the Clinton campaign. Wolf's ideas and participation in the Gore campaign generated considerable media coverage and criticism.[64] According to a report by Michael Duffy in Time, Wolf was paid a monthly salary of $15,000 "in exchange for advice on everything from how to win the women's vote to shirt-and-tie combinations." This article was the original source of the widely reported assertion that Wolf was responsible for Gore's "three-buttoned, earth-toned look."[63][65]

In an interview with Melinda Henneberger in The New York Times, Wolf denied ever advising Gore on his wardrobe. Wolf herself said she mentioned the term "alpha male" only once in passing and that "[it] was just a truism, something the pundits had been saying for months, that the vice president is in a supportive role and the President is in an initiatory role... I used those terms as shorthand in talking about the difference in their job descriptions".[66]

Occupy Wall Street

On October 18, 2011, Wolf was arrested in New York during the Occupy Wall Street protests, and spent about half an hour in a cell.[67] Speaking about her arrest, Wolf said, "I was taken into custody for disobeying an unlawful order. The issue is that I actually know New York City permit law ... I didn’t choose to get myself arrested. I chose to obey the law and that didn’t protect me."[68]

A month later, Wolf wrote an article which argued that attacks on the Occupy movement were a coordinated plot, orchestrated by federal law enforcement agencies and implemented by American mayors. She alleged that "congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces—pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS—to make war on peaceful citizens."[69] The response to this article ranged from praise to criticism of Wolf for being overly speculative and creating a "conspiracy theory".[70] Wolf responded that there is ample evidence for her argument, and proceeded to review the information available to her at the time of the article, and what she alleged was new evidence since that time.[71]

In response, Joshua Holland, an editor at AlterNet, accused her of "many misstatements of fact, logical leaps and baseless assertions" and also a "reckless disregard of the available facts, a tendency toward inaccuracy...". Rejecting her criticism of his previous analysis in which he wrote: "The headline of the piece is 'The Shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy,' but there is nothing truthful about what follows", he also claimed that Wolf "offers...a theory with no factual basis".[72] Holland further stated that "my criticism of Wolf's piece was based on the many inaccuracies in her writing...".[73] Another critic, Imani Gandy of Balloon Juice, wrote that "nothing substantiates Wolf's claims", that "Wolf's article has no factual basis whatsoever and is, therefore, a journalistic failure of the highest order" and that "it was incumbent upon (Wolf) to fully research her claims and to provide facts to back them up."[74] Corey Robin, a political theorist, journalist, and associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, stated on his blog: "The reason Wolf gets her facts wrong is that she's got her theory wrong."[75]

In early 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing the Global Intelligence Files, a trove of e-mails obtained via a hack by Anonymous and Jeremy Hammond. Among them was an email with an official Department of Homeland Security document from October 2011 attached. It indicated that DHS was closely watching Occupy, and concluded, "While the peaceful nature of the protests has served so far to mitigate their impact, larger numbers and support from groups such as Anonymous substantially increase the risk for potential incidents and enhance the potential security risk to critical infrastructure." In late December 2012, FBI documents released following an FOIA request from the Partnership for Civil Justice revealed that the FBI used counterterrorism agents and other resources to extensively monitor the national Occupy movement.[76] The documents contained no references to agency personnel covertly infiltrating Occupy branches, but did indicate that the FBI gathered information from police departments and other law enforcement agencies relating to planned protests.[77] Additionally, the blog Techdirt reported that the documents disclosed a plot by unnamed parties "to murder OWS leadership in Texas" but that "the FBI never bothered to inform the targets of the threats against their lives."[78]

In a December 2012 article for The Guardian Wolf wrote:

"It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall [2011]—so mystifying at the time—was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves—was coordinated with the big banks themselves."

"How simple ... just to label an entity a 'terrorist organization' and choke off, disrupt or indict its sources of financing."

"[The FBI crackdown on Occupy] was never really about 'the terrorists'. It was not even about civil unrest. It was always about this moment, when vast crimes might be uncovered by citizens—it was always, that is to say, meant to be about you."[79]

Mother Jones claimed that none of the documents revealed efforts by federal law enforcement agencies to disband the Occupy camps, and that the documents did not provide much evidence that federal officials attempted to suppress protesters' free speech rights. It was, said Mother Jones, "a far cry from Wolf's contention..." [80]


In the January 2013 issue of The Atlantic, law and business professor Mark Nuckols wrote, "In her various books, articles, and public speeches, Wolf has demonstrated recurring disregard for the historical record and consistently mutilated the truth with selective and ultimately deceptive use of her sources." He wrote further, "[W]hen she distorts facts to advance her political agenda, she dishonors the victims of history and poisons present-day public discourse about issues of vital importance to a free society." Nuckols argued that Wolf "has for many years now been claiming that a fascist coup in America is imminent. Most recently in The Guardian she alleged, with no substantiation, that the U.S. government and big American banks are conspiring to impose a 'totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent.'"[40]

In June 2013, New York magazine reported that in a recent Facebook post, Wolf had expressed her "creeping concern" that NSA leaker Edward Snowden "is not who he purports to be, and that the motivations involved in the story may be more complex than they appear to be." Wolf was similarly skeptical of Snowden's "very pretty pole-dancing Facebooking girlfriend who appeared for, well, no reason in the media coverage ... and who keeps leaking commentary, so her picture can be recycled in the press."[81] Wolf responded at her website, "I do find a great deal of media/blog discussion about serious questions such as those I raised, questions that relate to querying some sources of news stories, and their potential relationship to intelligence agencies or to other agendas that may not coincide with the overt narrative, to be extraordinarily ill-informed and naive." Specifically regarding Snowden, she wrote, "Why should it be seen as bizarre to wonder, if there are some potential red flags—the key term is 'wonder'—if a former NSA spy turned apparent whistleblower might possibly still be—working for the same people he was working for before?"[82]

In October 2014, Wolf again aroused controversy, with a series of Facebook posts questioning the authenticity of videos that purported to show beheadings of two Americans and two Britons by the Islamic State, implying that they had been staged by the U.S. government and that the victims and their parents were actors. Wolf also charged that the U.S. was dispatching troops not to assist in treating the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa but to carry the disease back home to justify a military takeover of America. She further said that the Scottish independence referendum, in which Scots voted to remain in the United Kingdom, was faked.[83] Speaking about this at a demonstration in Glasgow on October 12, Wolf said, "I truly believe it was rigged."[84]

Vox journalist Max Fisher urged Wolf's readers "to understand the distinction between her earlier work, which rose on its merits, and her newer conspiracy theories, which are unhinged, damaging, and dangerous."[83] Charles C. W. Cooke observed at the National Review Online, "Over the last eight years, Naomi Wolf has written hysterically about coups and about vaginas and about little else besides. She has repeatedly insisted that the country is on the verge of martial law, and transmogrified every threat—both pronounced and overhyped—into a government-led plot to establish a dictatorship. She has made prediction after prediction that has simply not come to pass. Hers are not sober and sensible forecasts of runaway human nature, institutional atrophy, and constitutional decline, but psychedelic fever-dreams that are more typically suited to the InfoWars crowd."[85] Under the headline "Naomi Wolf Went Off the Deep End Long Ago," Aaron Goldstein in The American Spectator advised, "Her words must be taken not just with a grain of salt, but a full shaker's worth."[86]

Responding to such criticism, Wolf said, "All the people who are attacking me right now for 'conspiracy theories' have no idea what they are talking about ... people who assume the dominant narrative MUST BE TRUE and the dominant reasons MUST BE REAL are not experienced in how that world works." To her nearly 100,000 Facebook followers, Wolf maintained, "I stand by what I wrote."[87] However, in a follow-up Facebook post two days later, Wolf retracted her statement: "I am not asserting that the ISIS videos have been staged," she wrote. "I certainly sincerely apologize if one of my posts was insensitively worded. I have taken that one down. ... I am not saying the ISIS beheading videos are not authentic. I am not saying they are not records of terrible atrocities. I am saying that they are not yet independently confirmed by two sources as authentic, which any Journalism School teaches, and the single source for several of them, SITE, which received half a million dollars in government funding in 2004, and which is the only source cited for several, has conflicts of interest that should be disclosed to readers of news outlets." Wolf did not say how it was possible to independently verify the videos posted by SITE.[88]

Selected bibliography


Book chapters


  1. Chapman, Roger. Culture Wars: An Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints, and Voices, Volume 1. New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc, 2010. p. 620
  2. Sandler, Lauren. The New York Times. "Naomi Wolf Sparks Another Debate (on Sex, of Course)"
  3. Goleman, Daniel. Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead With Emotional Intelligence, 2004. p. xvi
  4. Wolf, Naomi (1991). The Beauty Myth. New York: Bantham Doubleday Dell Publishing. ISBN 978-0-06-051218-7. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  5. 1 2 Hix, Lisa (June 19, 2005). "Did Father Know Best? In Her New Book, Third Wave Feminist Naomi Wolf Reconsiders Her Bohemian Upbringing". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  6. Wolf, in an interview on The Alex Jones Show podcast October 22, 08 @ 2:40:38 into the program: "Well, you know, I'm Jewish and so, you know, I think there's this very deep reaction in people with my ancestry because my dad's family was largely wiped out by the holocaust, a sensitivity to travel restrictions because for people of my ethnicity there's a giant divide between people who got out before the border hardened during the National Nazi Socialist regime and those who waited a little too long. So I watch with concern when I travel, the growth of the [US] watchlist which is growing by 20,000 names a month..."
  7. Blaisdell, Bob (May 15, 2005). "Naomi Wolf starts listening to her dad / 12 tidy lessons in wisdom of the heart". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 21, 2009.
  8. 1 2 "Naomi Wolf (biography and blog)". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  9. 1 2 3 Wolf, Naomi (March 1, 2004). "The Silent Treatment". New York. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  10. Baxter, Sarah (January 8, 2006). "Finding her heart – and getting a divorce". The Sunday Times (London). 'It is truly nobody's fault,' she says. 'We had a wonderful 10 to 12 years....' Subscription required.
  11. Project Syndicate "The Next Wave."
  12. Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth. New York: Bantham Doubleday Dell Publishing, 1991; p. 281: "The beauty myth can be defeated only through an electric resurgence of the woman-centered political activism of the seventies—a feminist third wave—updated to take on the new issues of the nineties...I've become convinced that here are thousands of young women ready and eager to join forces with a peer-driven feminist third wave that would take on, along with the classic feminist agenda, the new problems that have arisen with the shift in Zeitgeist and beauty backlash."
  13. Deborah, Felder (February 28, 2006). A Bookshelf of Our Own: Works that Changed Women's Lives. Kensington Publishing Corporation. p. 274. ISBN 9780806527420. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  14. The Beauty Myth, pp. 17–18, 20, 86, 131, 179, 218.
  15. The Beauty Myth. pp. 10
  16. Abbott, Carl. "Reviews". Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  17. Kim Hubbard, The Tyranny of Beauty, To Naomi Wolf, Pressure to Look Good Equals Oppression, People, June 24, 1991.
  18. Paglia, Camille. Sex, Art, and American Culture. New York: Random House, 1992. p. 262
  19. Naomi Wolf. "Feminist Fatale." The New Republic. March 16, 1992. pp. 23–25
  20. Camille Paglia. "Wolf Pack." The New Republic. April 13, 1992. pp. 4–5
  21. Naomi Wolf and Camille Paglia. "The Last Words." The New Republic. May 18, 1992. pp. 4–5
  22. Christina Hoff Sommers (1 May 1995). Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women. Simon and Schuster. pp. 12–13. ISBN 978-0-684-80156-8.
  23. Tetanya Pekars (7 June 2012). "Naomi Wolf Got Her Facts Wrong. Really, Really, Really Wrong".
  24. Caryn, James. The New York Times. "Feminine Beauty as a Masculine Plot."
  25. Yalom, Marilyn. The Washington Post. "Feminism's Latest Makeover."
  26. Wolf, Naomi (1993). Fire with Fire. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-679-42718-6.
  27. Kakutani, Michiko (December 3, 1993). "Books of The Times; Helpful Hints for an Era of Practical Feminism". The New York Times.
  28. Duffy, Martha (Dec 27, 1993). "Tremors of Genderquake". Time. Retrieved December 16, 2010.
  29. Walter, Natasha (November 18, 1993). "How to change the world and be sexy: Fire with fire". The Independent. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  30. Wolf, Naomi (1997). Promiscuities. New York: Balantine Publishing Group. OCLC 473694368.
  31. Kakutani, Michiko (June 10, 1997). "Feminism Lite: She Is Woman, Hear Her Roar". The New York Times.
  32. Weaver, Courtney (June 8, 1997). "Growing Up Sexual". The New York Times.
  33. The Library Journal, June 1997.
  34. Wolf, Naomi (2001). Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-49302-4.
  35. Wolf, Naomi. "Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps." The Guardian. April 24, 2007.
  36. Wolf, Naomi (2007). The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. White River, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing. ISBN 978-1-933392-79-0.
  37. Wolf, Naomi (September 27, 2007). "Books: The End of America". Washington Post. Retrieved December 6, 2009. I want to summarize why I believe we are facing a real crisis. My reading showed me that there are 10 key steps that would-be despots always take when they are seeking to close down an open society or to crush a democracy movement, and we are seeing each of those in the US today.
  38. Holden, Stephen (December 3, 2008). "When Laws and Liberties Test Each Other's Limits". The New York Times. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  39. Scheib, Ronnie (October 20, 2008). "The End of America Movie Review". Variety.
  40. 1 2 Nuckols, Mark (January 9, 2013). "No, Naomi Wolf, America Is Not Becoming a Fascist State". The Atlantic. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  42. Felling, Matthew (November 27, 2007). "What About The Candidates?". CBS News. Retrieved December 7, 2009. That came to mind when I read the Washington Post's Outlook section this weekend, and looked over Naomi Wolf's piece about how young people don't understand capital-D Democracy. According to a recent study by the National Center for Education Statistics, only 47 percent of high school seniors have mastered a minimum level of U.S. history and civics, while only 14 percent performed at or above the "proficient" level.
  43. Wolf, Naomi (November 25, 2007). "Hey, Young Americans, Here's a Text for You". Washington Post. Retrieved December 7, 2009. Is America still America if millions of us no longer know how democracy works? When I speak on college campuses, I find that students are either baffled by democracy's workings or that they don't see any point in engaging in the democratic process. Sometimes both.
  44. Roiphe, Katie, "Naomi Wolf’s New Book About Her Vagina: It’s as ludicrous as you think it is.",, September 10, 2012.
  45. Pollitt, Katha, " Naomi Wolf's 'Vagina': No Carnations, Please, We're Goddesses", The Nation, September 12, 2012.
  46. Bentley, Toni (September 14, 2012). "Upstairs, Downstairs 'Vagina: A New Biography,' by Naomi Wolf". The New York Times.
  48. Daum, Meghan, "Daum: Naomi Wolf's vaginal sideshow", Los Angeles Times, September 13, 2012.
  49. Burleigh, Nina, "Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf? Why Female Critics Are Piling On", New York Observer, September 13, 2012.
  50. Allen Gregg TV interview "Naomi Wolf on her new book, Vagina: A New Biography", January 18, 2013. Quote starts 21min in.
  51. 1 2 Wolf, Naomi (Oct 16, 1995). "Our Bodies, Our Souls". The New Republic. 213 (16): 26–35, reprinted here .
  52. Wolf, Naomi (May 21, 2005). "Female Trouble". New York.
  53. Getek, Kathryn; Cunningham, Mark (February 1996). "A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing: Language and the Abortion Debate". Princeton Progressive Review, reprinted here .
  54. Wolf, Naomi (October 20, 2003). "The Porn Myth". New York. Archived from the original on September 24, 2012.
  55. Wolf, Naomi (March 31, 2008). "Fascism with a Feminist Face". Project Syndicate.
  56. Wolf, Naomi (August 30, 2008). "Behind the veil lives a thriving Muslim sexuality". Sydney Morning Herald.
  57. Chesler, Phyllis (August 31, 2009). "The burqua: Ultimate feminist choice?".
  58. Goodman, Amy (December 20, 2010). "Naomi Wolf vs. Jaclyn Friedman: Feminists Debate the Sexual Allegations Against Julian Assange". Democracy Now!. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  60. Gassó, Jordi, "Yale under federal investigation for possible Title IX violations", Yale Daily News, April 1–2, 2011. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
  61. "Feminist author Naomi Wolf accuses Yale of covering up sexual harassment as federal probe is launched", Daily Mail, 5 April 2011. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  62. Ariosto, David; Remizowski, Leigh. "Yale settles sexual harassment complaint", CNN, June 15, 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
  63. 1 2 Seelye, Katharine Q. (November 1, 1999). "Adviser Pushes Gore to Be Leader of the Pack". The New York Times.
  64. Somerby, Bob. ""A virtual wilding:" The month of earth tones-and Wolf". How He Got There Chapter 5. Retrieved May 19, 2010. The frenzy about Naomi Wolf began in the pages of Time. On Sunday morning, October 31, just four days after the jeering of Gore, the magazine released a news report headlined, "GORE'S SECRET GURU." (The report appeared in Time's new edition, dated November 8.) In the piece, Michael Duffy and Karen Tumulty reported an underwhelming fact: Author Naomi Wolf, the "secret guru" in question, was advising the Gore campaign-had been doing so since January. Within days, this underwhelming piece of news had turned into a major press frenzy. For the next month, Gore and Wolf would be relentlessly trashed, in ways which were often remarkably ugly and often profoundly inane.
  65. Dowd, Maureen (November 3, 1999). "Liberties; The Alpha-Beta Macarena". The New York Times.
  66. Henneberger, Melinda (November 5, 1999). "Naomi Wolf, Feminist Consultant to Gore, Clarifies Her Campaign Role". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 24, 2012.
  67. Wells, Matt (October 19, 2011). "Occupy Wall St: Naomi Wolf condemns 'Stalinist' erosion of protest rights". The Guardian. London. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  68. Cherkis, Jason (October 19, 2011). "Author Naomi Wolf Speaks Out About Her Arrest At Occupy Wall Street Protest". The Huffington Post. London. Retrieved August 21, 2012.
  69. Wolf, Naomi (November 25, 2011). "The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy". The Guardian. London. Retrieved Feb 29, 2012.
  70. Seaton, Matt (November 28, 2011). "Naomi Wolf: reception, responses, critics". The Guardian. London. Retrieved Feb 29, 2012.
  71. Wolf, Naomi (December 2, 2011). "The crackdown on Occupy controversy: a rebuttal". The Guardian. London. Retrieved Feb 29, 2012.
  72. Holland, Joshua (November 26, 2011). "Naomi Wolf's 'Shocking Truth' About the 'Occupy Crackdowns' Is Anything But True". The Guardian. London. Retrieved February 25, 2015.
  73. Holland, Joshua (December 2, 2011). "Occupy crackdowns: Naomi Wolf's response to my critique largely evades the issue at hand". AlterNet. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
  74. Gandy, Imani (November 27, 2011). "Naomi Wolf's 'Shocking Truths' on #OWS Crackdowns Are False". Balloon Juice. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
  75. Robin, Corey (November 27, 2011). "The Occupy Crackdowns: Why Naomi Wolf Got It Wrong". Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  76. Debucquoy-Dodley, Dominique (December 26, 2012). "FBI considered Occupy movement potential threat, documents say". Retrieved April 19, 2013.
  77. Schmidt, Michael S.; Moynihan, Colin (December 24, 2012). "F.B.I. Counterterrorism Agents Monitored Occupy Movement, Records Show". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2013.
  78. Geigner, Timothy (January 2, 2013). "FBI, Working With Banks, Chose Not To Inform Occupy Leadership Of Assassination Plot On Its Leaders". Techdirt. Retrieved April 19, 2013.
  79. Wolf, Naomi (December 29, 2012). "Revealed: how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy". The Guardian. Retrieved April 19, 2013.
  80. Aronsen, Gavin (January 7, 2013). "What the FBI's Occupy Docs Do—and Don't—Reveal". Mother Jones. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  81. Coscarelli, Joe (June 14, 2013). "Naomi Wolf Thinks Edward Snowden and His Sexy Girlfriend Might Be Government Plants". New York. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  82. Wolf, Naomi (June 15, 2013). "Some aspects of Snowden's presentation that I find worth further inquiry – an update". Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  83. 1 2 Fisher, Max (October 5, 2014). "The insane conspiracy theories of Naomi Wolf". Vox. Vox Media. Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  84. Peter Geoghegan "Glasgow rally shows independence aspiration intact", Irish Times, 13 October 2014
  85. Cooke, Charles C. W. (October 6, 2014). "The Fevered Delusions of Naomi Wolf". National Review Online. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  86. Goldstein, Aaron (October 6, 2014). "Naomi Wolf Went Off the Deep End Long Ago". The American Spectator. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  87. Berry, Sarah (October 6, 2014). "Naomi Wolf slammed for 'unhinged conspiracy theories'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved October 6, 2014.
  88. Wolf, Naomi (October 6, 2014). "My letter to some news outlets". Facebook. Retrieved October 7, 2014.

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