The Ex Files #3: The Two Boys Who Helped Make Me a Feminist

Whether he was the man that go away or the jerk you were thrilled to get away from, a long-ago love can reverberate in the most suprising ways. Five women spill….

by Teresa Wiltz, Lee Woodruff, Naomi Wolf, Mel Miskimen and Louise Farr
Photograph: Eddie Guy

In my work today, I find I keep circling back to female adolescence. Are we imprinted for life by what we learn about gender in those years? Mark showed me that between men and women there can be hope and kindness and grace. From Sam I drew a lifelong interest in fighting female trauma and victimization. But I also took from him my refusal to see gender relations, even the worst examples of what men do to women, in “feminist” black and white. Sam was a good guy with his own pain and struggles who, for complicated reasons, did some very bad, very unacceptable things.

It is good that we have learned how to empathize with women of any age who are on the receiving end of blows.

But the world will never grapple fully with the roots of male violence against women until we also seek to understand what happened to Sam that led him to that terrible place of his own.

NAOMI WOLF’s latest book, Vagina, is now available in a revised and updated paperback edition.

Previous: The Ex Files: He Has Me in Stitches

Next: The Ex Files: He Makes Me Feel So Young

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First published in the February 2014 issue

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