Naomi Wolf accusations  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In 2004, Naomi 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. 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.


"In the late fall of 1983, professor Harold Bloom did something banal, human, and destructive: He put his hand on a student's inner thigh — a student whom he was tasked with teaching and grading. The student was me, a 20-year-old senior at Yale. ...

"Finally, last summer, I could no longer bear my own collusive silence. Yale had reached out to me once again. The Office of Development had assigned an alumna to cultivate me: She sent a flattering letter inviting me to join a group of women to raise money for Yale.

"I wrote my own letter back to Charles Pagnam, vice-president of development. I could not join such an effort because I had been sexually encroached upon at Yale 20 years ago, I explained. ... I asked for a private meeting. I heard nothing. ...

"Is a one-time sexual encroachment by Harold Bloom, two decades ago, a major secret or a minor one? Minor, when it comes to a practical effect on my life; I have obviously survived. ... My career was fine; my soul was not fine. I had an obligation to protect others from which I had run away." -— Naomi Wolf, writing on "The Silent Treatment," in the March 1 2003 issue of New York magazine





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