Feminist history is full of examples, big and small, of women making valuable contributions, then being deemed entirely unworthy after being wrong about a particular issue. This is a logical fallacy called “poisoning the well;” if someone is wrong about one thing or bad in one way, they are therefore wrong about everything and bad in every way. Omar is a thief; I tell you that while he’s describing a crime he witnessed, and therefore you doubt Omar. Until he gives a stirring speech about how he and I are part of the same dirty system, because I am describing a memorable scene from The Wire. Or, a more common example: Your marriage ended in a bitter divorce. Therefore your former spouse is a terrible person who is wrong about everything, even the topics on which s/he was charmingly well-informed while you were married. Naomi Wolf attacked two women for filing rape claims; therefore, she is not a real feminist and can’t give advice about consensual sex.
To be blunt: This is just not how grown-ups think. And the increasingly Manichean slant of some contemporary feminists, in which one is either a perfect feminist who has never been wrong or a traitor who must be disgraced and expelled from the ranks, risks teaching us all to think less like like grown-ups. No-one is “a liar” or “a bad person.” People lie about some things, and are honest about others; people do bad things sometimes, and at other times they do good ones. This is the principle that allowed some feminists, myself included, to allow that Assange might be guilty, when other progressives were too much in love with WikiLeaks to admit that possibility. It should be the same principle that allows us not to make a punching bag out of Naomi Wolf.
From Sady Doyle at In These Times on the backlash against Naomi Wolf’s book, Vagina.