NAOMI Wolf has a new book out.
The American author's seminal work, The Beauty Myth, was one of the greatest works of feminist literature: the most important since The Female Eunuch, according to Germaine Greer; "a clarion call to freedom" in the words of Gloria Steinem. Will this one be similarly acclaimed? I doubt it. Like Misconceptions, Wolf's critique of modern childbirth, this new book is told largely through the prism of her own personal experience. Think navel-gazing – only in this case, with the focal point centred a few inches lower down. Vagina: A New Biography promises a cultural history of the world's most worshipped, reviled and potent female body part.
Much of it – without veering into too-much-information territory – centres around Wolf's apparent preoccupation with her ability, or previous lack thereof, to achieve the perfect orgasm. The condensed version is this: having discovered lower-vertebrae nerve damage in her back to be root of the problem ("not culture, not upbringing, not patriarchy, not feminism, not Freud"), she realised it was a condition she could not face living with and underwent surgery to correct it.
What follows, Wolf waxes lyrically, is a journey of rediscovery "like that transition in The Wizard Of Oz in which Dorothy goes from black-and-white Kansas to colourful, magical Oz".
Now, I think it's just dandy that Wolf has taken ownership of the V-word. But while she clearly believes that publicly sharing her journey of enlightenment provides a service to her fellow womankind, her zealous determination to bestow this epiphany sets my teeth on edge.
Don't get me wrong: if Wolf really has found a cure for rubbish sex, I'm delighted for her. And if her book helps other women, then all the better. So why does the whole thing leave me feeling queasy?
For a start, half the global population – some 3.5 billion people – have a vagina, so why is it deserving of its own biography?
Secondly, why should we care? I'm guessing the average woman hasn't the time, inclination or financial resources to embark on such self-indulgent exploration, never mind give two figs about Wolf's – no matter how she dresses it up with tales of interviewing handsome neurologists on luxury yachts.
Thirdly, isn't the whole demystifying-the-orgasm business a little Cosmopolitan magazine circa 1983? Move along people, nothing to see.
Yet Wolf is not alone. She is part of a growing breed of female social commentators for whom unabashed insular analysis has become a calling card. Take Rachel Cusk, by all accounts an excellent writer, for whom no thorny issue – be it dissecting the apotheosis of childbirth or sharing in excruciating detail the breakdown of a marriage – appears too personal to reap column inches from.
Perhaps it's symptomatic of an era in which social networking has made public confessionals a national pastime, but somewhere, the line between imparting a pertinent experience and morphing into me, me, me mode, has imploded into a chasm. It smacks of middle-class navel-gazing: the concerns of a bunch of highly-educated, privileged women pondering why their lives aren't as fabulous as they had expected, writing about their anxieties at tedious length and dressing it up as a call to arms, as they demand solutions to whatever their latest personal crisis happens to be.
Is this the best these towering feminist intellects can come up with? None of these women is starving on some African plain without food or fresh running water. Nor are they living under oppressive political regimes, or searching for a cure for cancer.
I don't feel engaged by their rhetoric – just disappointed, because I had expected more, not least from the woman who has been described as a pioneer of the third wave of the women's movement.
Next to someone like Waris Dirie, who laid bare her experiences of female genital mutilation in her 1998 book Desert Flower, Wolf simply comes across as pretentious, smug and frankly a little silly.
So please, a little less about what's going in your own back yard and a bit more outward looking.
Anything else just sells us all a little short.
We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules, which are available here.
Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.