This past Sunday, the Los Angeles Times ran an opinion piece of mine titled “Feminist Fatale” and subtitled “Where Are the Great Women Thinkers? Thinking So Much About Women Has Shrunk Their Minds.” My point was that we don’t have many women public intellectuals these days–the likes of Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy Gertrude Stein, or the recently deceased Susan Sontag–because most credentialed women nowadays would rather be feminist ideologues than tackle larger issues of politics, culture, and art.
The article, part of a front-page package of four articles on gender issues, got the goat of none other than Susan Estrich, the voluble and famously feminist University of Southern California law professor who’s on every Democrat’s short list for Supreme Court justice–if only “President Gore” or “President Kerry” were around to appoint her.
Susan’s reaction, expressed in a rambling e-mail that’s now been forwarded to everyone in the universe with online access, is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever read in my life. She never got around to addressing any of the arguments I’d made. Instead, she accused the Times of “blatant sex discrimination” and called for her fellow femnistas to put pressure on the Times, via a letter-writing campaign and advertising boycott, to establish quotas for women columnists.
That sounded to me like what the lawyers call a “non sequitur.” After all, to paraphrase Sojourner Truth, I’m a woman, ain’t I? And so is my fellow IWF web-regular Cathy Seipp, who wrote one of the other articles in the package, “La Difference Isn’t Rocket Science,” making fun of the female MIT biologist who got an attack of the vapors when she heard Harvard president Lawrence Summers’s speech pointing out that differences between male and female brains might have something to do with the supposed statistical underrepresentation of women in science. And so was the author of the third article and the two authors who collaborated on the fourth. That’s five women on the front page of the Times opinion page. Where’s the “blatant sex discrimination”?
But Susan didn’t let the facts get in her way. Instead, she went on and on and on:
“What could be more important– or easier for that matter –than ensuring that women’s voices are heard in public discourse in our community. For the last three years, my students and I have been counting the number of women whose opinion pieces appear in the Los Angeles Times, and the record is worse than dismal….I have been trying, quietly, to force the editors there to address it – – but things have gone from bad to worse under the leadership of the new opinion editor, Michael Kinsley, who replaced an African American woman, and now has three men in the top jobs, and 90 percent men writing for his section….
“A few weeks ago, I pointed out to Michael that they went looking for people to ask about their opinions on the war in Iraq: and found THIRTEEN MEN AND NO WOMEN. Then there was two weeks ago, when I did a spot check of a Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday… and counted TWENTY FOUR MEN AND ONE WOMAN IN A THREE DAY PERIOD”….I sent emails to my old friends at the Times. Neither time did they even bother to respond….
“I don’t know how many of you saw Sunday’s opinion section (from my brief survey to date it seems many of you don’t even bother to read it because it is so irrelevant to our lives). But if you did, I am certain you would have been as angry as I was, particularly if you knew how hard my students and I have been fighting to have women’s voices included.”
Your “students,” Susan? I thought you were supposed to be teaching law over there at USC–you know, torts, contracts, that kind of thing–not lining up young people to do free research on your pet ideological projects. That qualifies as exploitation in my book.
Estrich’s e-screed also included an ad feminam attack on me:
“The article last Sunday was penned by a feminist-hater I have never heard of, nor probably have you, by the name of Charlotte Allen… her only book was about Jesus and religion written eight years ago, and as far as I can tell what she does is to edit a blog for the Independent Womens Forum which is a group of right wing women who exist to get on tv and get in newspapers attacking the likes of us.”
I think that translates into: Charlotte Allen is a nobody, whereas I am the great Susan Estrich.
What’s really bugging Susan, I think, isn’t just that the Times folks won’t answer her hysterical all-caps e-mails. It’s that Susan writes a twice-a-week syndicated column that the Los Angeles Times and most other newspapers frequently decline to carry. My own hometown newspaper, the Washington Post, tried running Susan’s column regularly a few years ago, but relegated it to the seldom-to-never category when its utterly predictable rad-fem rants started putting even the most liberal of Post editors to sleep. And then there was Susan’s famously bizarro “What if Bush were to fall off the wagon?” column last September, in which she urged the Dems to spend gazillions of last-minute dollars on a smear campaign against the president. (Come to think of it, the Dems tried just that, and look where they got.)
Trouble is, Susan, the Los Angeles Times in its wisdom has decided to run Cathy and me, not you. (I contribute a piece to the Times’s Sunday opinion section every couple of months.) I’ve often criticized other pieces that have run in the ultra-liberal Times, and I regularly disagree with nearly everything that Michael Kinsley writes. But I can’t fault the the Times for not running a diversity of opinions, including mine and Cathy’s, and unlike Susan Estrich, I would never lobby for a column gender-quota so that I could see my name in print more often. Susan, your quarrel with the Times isn’t over its failure to let women’s voices be heard; it’s over its insistence that conservative voices be heard.
I could go on about how radicals like Estrich are always against boycotts and letter-writing campaigns when the target is a fellow radical like Ward Churchill, but they love boycotts and letter-writing campaigns when the target is, say, me. Or Larry Summers. Instead, I’ll offer a last excerpt from Estrich’s e-mail, a lollapalooza climaxing in an endless run-on sentence:
“The fact is that the LA Times isn’t alone. A story in today’s paper recounted the travails at PBS where, if you’ve noticed, they have added THREE MALE CONSERVATIVES AS COMMENTATORS, GIVEN TUCKER CARLSON A SHOW — AND ADDED NO WOMEN AT ALL TO DO COMMENTARY, HOST A SHOW; their review panel to review standards doesnt even have a woman….
“I have been thinking for a long time that we need a group of powerful women in this town, ‘The Club’ is the name I have in mind, to throw our collective weight around when it is needed — to make sure there is a woman on the list when Disney starts interviewing CEO’s, or to put pressure on News Corp to add a woman to their board (believe it or not, there isnt a single woman on the News Corp board, and given that I work for Fox News, somebody else needs to take the lead on this one, again I’ve even gone to Mike Milken on this one, lord knows if working through the system worked, I wouldnt be writing this email….)”
This is a woman who is supposed to be sitting on the United States Supreme Court?