The Washington Examiner has the latest on University of Southern California law professor and feminist agitator Susan Estrich’s ongoing campaign to force gender-quotas onto the Los Angeles Times’s opinion pages and/or get Times opinion-pages editor Michael Kinsley fired. (See my posts on the brouhaha here, here, and here.)
The Examiner piece consists of the verbatim transcript of a wild e-mail exchange between Estrich and Kinsley: Kinsley accused Estrich of blackmail (print my letter signed by “50 women, among them some of the most powerful women in town,” she wrote, or I’ll take it to Drudge!), and Estrich, in a surprisingly (or actually not so surprisingly) ugly turn, replied that Kinsley’s “illness”–he’s been battling Parkinson’s disease for several years–“may have affected your brain, your judgment, and your ability to do this job.”
Kinsley had refused to to run the letter (“we don’t run letters from 50 people, and we don’t succumb to blackmail”), but he offered to allow Estrich to contribute a piece critiquing the Times or else a letter to the editor signed by her alone in a couple of weeks when the two of them were less “p—ed off.” But after her crack about his illness, Kinsley informed her that he found her references to his health “disgusting” (who wouldn’t?), and told her she could “[c]onsider my invitation to write for the Times when things calm down rescinded.”
I’m so dumbfounded by this latest behavior of Estrich’s that I scarcely know where to start: the delusions of grandeur (“I now have powerful businesswomen and community leaders, professors and developers and talent agents and managers and journalists, students at the high school, college and law school level, and teachers involved in this effort”), the archaic vocabulary (Estrich claims to write her syndicated column on a “mimeograph machine”). I think I’ll focus on the astonishing crudeness and bad taste. That reference to Kinsley’s illness–eeeew! I wouln’t want to have anything to do with Susan Estrich after that, either.
The subject of Estrich’s wrath is, of course, “Feminist Fatale,” my front-page opinion piece for last Sunday’s Times in which I argued that the reason there are so few female public intellectuals these days is that most credentialed women would rather be feminist ideologues than tackle larger issues of politics, culture, and the arts.
As everyone on the planet with online access (or who listened to Rush Limbaugh yesterday morning) now knows, the enraged Estrich fired off a rambling e-mail on Monday to her gal-pals complaining in an odd non sequitur fashion that the Times doesn’t carry enough opinion pieces written by women (I’m a woman, but because Estrich had “never heard of” me and I work for the “right wing” IWF, I don’t count.) As my fellow IWF writer Cathy Seipp (who also contributed a piece to last Sunday’s Times) noted in her fisk of Estrich’s e-mail on her own blog:
“A lot of [IWF-ers] turn out to be the wives of the guys you see on right wing talk shows… As opposed to the wives on Susan Estrich’s email list — like Mrs. Jerry Bruckheimer, Mrs. Larry David, Mrs. Jonathan Dolgen, Mrs. Peter Norton, Mrs. Richard Riordan, Mrs. Haim Saban, and the ex-Mrs. Bud Yorkin — every one of whom is of course fiercely independent of any income or name recognition provided by men.”
And if you look at the signatories to Estrich’s letter, included in the Examiner’s piece today, you’ll notice that they indeed read like a membership roster of the First Wives’ Club of the L.A. Westside political and entertainment world.
Here are some of the zanier excerpts from Estrich’s e-mails to Kinsley:
“You owe me an apology. NO one tried harder to educate you about Los Angeles, introduce you to key players in the city, bring to your attention, quietly, the issues of gender inequality than I did – and you have the arrogance and audacity to say that you couldn’t be bothered reading my emails, spending time in the city where all of us are raising our families … and then we should stop our efforts because you’re ‘p—ed off.’
“I am not engaged in blackmail, and I find that Suggestion to be highly offensive and insulting, and I am certain the many prominent women who have signed the letter would also agree. Far from being ‘p—ed off,’ I believe I have conducted myself with admirable restraint because of our past relationship and my honest concerns for your health….
“My suggestion that your publishing it would be better (for you too) than my having to go outside somehow constitutes me blackmailing you is so outlandish that it underscores the question I’ve been asked repeatedly in recent days, and that does worry me, and should worry you: people are beginning to think that your illness may have affected your brain, your judgment, and your ability to do this job. The fact that you were not in Los Angeles all week hardly helps matters, nor does the fact that you don’t return phone calls. You are making things worse for yourself.
“My point wasn’t blackmail, Michael, it was that if you prefer me to conduct this discussion outside your pages, and make it into an even bigger fight, that makes you look even more afraid and more foolish, and angers every woman who signed a temperate letter that you are now refusing to publish.”
You get the idea.
Now for some further record-straightening with respect to myself. Estrich makes a big deal out of the fact that I live in Washington, D.C., which is supposed to disqualify me, in contrast to Estrich and her Westside friends, from writing for a Southern California newspaper:
Unlike you, Susan, with your all-Massachusetts-all-the-time resume, I was born and bred in L.A. County (Pasadena), and I spent a good 33 years living there off and on. Indeed, my mother and my two brothers still live in SoCal, and my husband is from Hawthorne, a few miles from LAX.
I attended a California college, Stanford University, and I also attended the very law school where you teach, the University of Southern California, from which, I am proud to say, I graduated in the top 15 percent of my class. (Fortunately, I didn’t have to take any of your classes, or I would have been required to spend my time counting the number of women with op-ed pieces in the L.A. Times instead of studying for my torts exam.) I am to this day a member, albeit an inactive one, of the California State Bar. From the five years I spent practicing law and driving to every dinky courthouse within a 25-mile radius of City Hall, I learned the city of Los Angeles and how to maneuver its rush-hour traffic backwards and forwards. I’ll bet two Tommyburgers that you, Susan, who undoubtedly venture east of La Cienega Blvd. only when you have to, don’t know how to get from Norwalk to Tujunga “on the streets”!
Update: The Anchoress has two great Estrich posts:
1) “Parkinson’s while it affects motor function, does NOT affect brain function“–meaning that Estrich is medically illiterate as well as classless.
2) Here come the “Demobrats“–the folks who, when faced with some observation they don’t like, shriek (Estrich), swoon (MIT bio professor Nancy Hopkins when Larry Summers spoke), or feel “nauseous” (North Carolina Democratic Rep. Melvin Watts, on hearing Alan Greenspan’s endorsement of Social Security reform).
The Anchoress asks: Instead of throwing a temper tantrum a la Estrich, why not respond to the substance of the arguments? I agree.