Yes! We should criticize the ones on “our side”!

Rebecca Watson makes a good point in this video, that we shouldn’t overlook the failings of those who put themselves in the same group as us. She takes a few potshots at familiar targets, like Bill Maher, but focuses in on Naomi Wolf. Wolf is terrible — I remember wondering what the hell was wrong with Bill Clinton, that he appointed her to be his advisor on women’s issues. For me, it was the first crack in the facade, and hoo boy, did all the flaws in that man come pouring out.

Lately, Wolf has come out as a dangerous proponent of pandemic pseudoscience, as Rebecca explains.

Also noteworthy is this comment from Lipzig Schweitzer.

Just as an aside, my younger brother is a deeply conservative Mormon public school English teacher, and he uses Naomi Wolfe books as a teaching tool for how stupid the feminist movement is. The admin let it fly because they think, due to her “reputation” that he’s teaching the exact opposite lesson. She’s being weaponized against you, THAT’S how stupid she is and how crucial community self- policing is. And believe me, he’s not smart enough to come up with this lesson plan on his own, someone he’s listening to told him to do this because on his own, he’d never have even known her name. He did not seek out controversial characters to demonize

That’s how bad Naomi Wolf is.


  1. says

    he uses Naomi Wolfe books as a teaching tool for how stupid the feminist movement is ….

    Because using Hitler’s Mein Kampf as a teaching tool for how stupid conservatism and the “men going their own way” movement is would be unfair?

  2. taikonotaiko says

    I think forcing anyone to read Mein Kampf is unfair… mostly because it’s badly written! XD (j/k)

  3. microraptor says

    Marcus Ranum @3: Basic conservative ideology: if you can find a single example that supports your side, no matter how hard you have to look and how much counter-evidence you’ve got to discard along the way, you claim that it disproves everything that your opponents say. One place where the average yearly temperature went down over the last 20 years- climate change is fake. One gap in the fossil record, evolution is a lie. One wingnut who has little to no actual following- the entire feminist movement.

  4. says

    @5 It’s because they’re trying to cause doubt and confusion. They’re not – and never were – trying to persuade. They just need a stalemate to preserve the Status Quo.

  5. keinsignal says

    timgueguen @1 – I had the same problem until I found this helpful mnemonic from twitter user @markpopham:

    “If the Naomi be Klein,
    you’re doing just fine.
    If the Naomi be Wolf,
    oh buddy, ooooof.”

  6. Tethys says

    Nobody is above criticism.

    I fail to see how Ms Wolf is on my side. I am not familiar with her work, and Rebecca’s video illustrated that she doesn’t say anything worth reading in the first place. Who published such tripe?

  7. yknot says

    Before claiming to criticize someone on “our side”, you first have to be clear who and what qualifies. If you’re like most people, you represent lots of overlapping “sides”. For example, you’re a scientist and an educator, but you’re also an atheist. The specifications for these “sides” are not mutually exclusive. So are you a lumper or a splitter? It’s easy to make the qualifications so restrictive that “our side” includes only you. It’s also easy to make the qualifications so broad that “our side” doesn’t mean anything. I know of no definition of “feminism” that includes “stick to the facts”. Which raises the question: In what “side” are you including Naomi Watson in?

  8. John Morales says


    Which raises the question: In what “side” are you including Naomi Watson in?

    Naomi Watson? Heh.

    Anyway, I think you’ve answered your own rhetorical question:
    “I know of no definition of “feminism” that includes “stick to the facts”.”

    So you know damn well to what PZ refers.

    (Incidentally, it is an implicit part of the definition; the very concept of feminism is that things are not as they should be (that’s the implicit fact) and therefore things should change (that’s the explicit ideology))

  9. brucegee1962 says

    @9 yknot,
    You’re right that sometimes excessive tests for ideological purity sometimes leaves everyone standing on their own island. But it’s also true that every community of opinion (which FtB+Skepchick clearly is) needs to have some sense of what types of disagreement are allowed, and which are beyond the pale — which ones lead the community to cast out the interloper and say “You are not one of us.”
    For instance, Crip Dyke has started a debate on her blog about nuclear power. I happen to agree with her assessment, but I can recognize that people I consider my allies may disagree with both of us strongly.
    But just to give a few examples from these parts:
    you aren’t my ally if you are a TERF.
    you aren’t my ally if you aggressively hit on much younger women at conferences.
    you aren’t my ally if you are a Trump supporter.

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    brucegee1962 @11: How about

    you aren’t my ally if you aggressively hit on anyone anywhere.

  11. unclefrogy says

    I am baffled by people and their ability to put words together and fail to a line the words and facts with the meaning the words have and think they are making sense. I first really noticed it when listening to R.Reagan on the radio and not seeing him speak on TV.
    How do they do that?
    uncle frogy

  12. PaulBC says

    unclefrogy@13 You’re interpreting language too narrowly as a means of communicating information and completely missing its value as performative display. You’d think four years of Trump would make it obvious.

  13. Russell Glasser says

    She’s being weaponized against you, THAT’S how stupid she is and how crucial community self- policing is.

    I mean… in a way, Rebecca herself was “weaponized” against feminists for years. Right now AOC seems to be the popular right wing target du jour. I’m not saying Naomi Wolf doesn’t deserve it, just that being an boogeywoman to anti-feminists doesn’t automatically prove someone is stupid.

  14. chrislawson says

    I was never a fan of Naomi Wolf and found almost every time someone criticised her it was automatically labelled anti-feminist (to be fair, this criticism seemed to come from her supporters, not herself; Wolf’s problem seemed to be that she blithely ignored all criticism, which I imagine was great for her equanimity but terrible for her intellectual development). So thank you, Ms Watson, for dissecting Wolf’s arguments so clearly while also making it clear that her failings are not failings of feminism itself.

  15. yknot says

    John Morales@10 My apologies for using the wrong name.
    To your larger point, just about every -ism makes an implicit claim to sticking to the facts, even Young Earth Creation-ism. The question is whether an implicit claim is a bona fide feature of the -ism. For example, not sticking to the facts is a valid criticism of a scientist as a scientist. But when a self-identified feminist fails to stick to the facts, that’s not a criticism of their ideology but of their cognition. An example of the conflict I had in mind is when atheists make anti-feminist remarks, two -isms some FreeThought bloggers combine in their identities.

    brucegee1962@11 Your comments are an accurate amplification of my point. Thank you.

  16. microraptor says

    chrislawson @ 21: That was sort of my point- the accusations started coming in several years ago at this point, by now there’s no real question about what type of person he is.

  17. Howard Brazee says

    My expect much more from my side than from the other side. I suppose that’s a fallacy, but shouldn’t my side have better standards?