Remember that you read it here first: Last Monday I predicted that University of Southern California law professor/feminista scold Susan Estrich’s bizarre e-mail jihad against Los Angeles Times opinion-page editor Michael Kinsley would end up actually being taken seriously by the Mainstream Media. (See Susan Estrich’s Message: Go Hysterical and Get Results, March 7).
In dozens of electronic messages that quickly got into the hands of the media, Estrich called Kinsley an unprintable name, hinted that his Parkinson’s disease had impaired his brain, and–in what is surely the funniest of her e-rants–accused him of deliberately running two columns in the Times by her ex-husband, Martin Kaplan, associate dean of USC’s communications school, just to get back at her. The result of all this d-e-rangement? Opinion-page editors all over the country are pulling their chins in a frenzy of apologetic political correctitude in response to Estrich’s charge that they don’t publish enough articles written by women.
Last Monday I blogged about Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz’s report quoting the mea culpas of opinion editors at the L.A. Times, the New York Times, and the Post itself. The L.A. Times’s James Rainey followed suit on Friday with a big story that included quotes from Kinsley and New York Times opinion editor Gail Collins. Collins, sounding like a Susan Estrich-bot, told Rainey, “I presume that it’s because we are coming out of two millennia of prejudice against women having strong public opinions.” Yes, it’s all the fault of that darned patriarchy. Both Collins and Kinsley assured Rainey that their papers were scrambling to find more women to fill their op-ed pages–just what Estrich is demanding.
I regard all this with amusement, since it was a front-page Sunday opinion page by me, published by Kinsley in the L.A. Times on Feb. 13, that triggered Estrich’s fit of wrath. Talk about “strong public opinions”–I had ’em. In “Feminist Fatale,” I argued that the reason there are so few female public intellectuals these days is because most women commentators would rather be feminist ideologues than take on broad issues of politics, culture and the arts. But as Estrich herself made it clear in one of the e-mails, I didn’t count as a woman.
And now Maureen Dowd has weighed in on the issue of female op-ed underrepresentation, in yesterday’s New York Times. And–fans, we won’t disappoint you–it’s a MoDo’umdinger of a take:
“Guys don’t appreciate being lectured by a woman. It taps into myths of carping Harpies and hounding Furies, and distaste for nagging by wives and mothers….
“While a man writing a column taking on the powerful may be seen as authoritative, a woman doing the same thing may be seen as castrating. If a man writes a scathing piece about men in power, it’s seen as his job; a woman can be cast as an emasculating man-hater.”
So it’s official: Michael Kinsley is the new Larry Summers. Just as women scientists’ complaints that they felt nauseous over the Harvard president’s remark that male and female brains might be different triggered wholesale apologies and promises to hire more women professors at Harvard, Estrich’s hiss-e-fit is now triggering wholesale apologies and promises to hire more women op-ed commentators at Kinsley’s L.A. Times and every other big mainstream paper in the country.
Susan, you got what you wanted. Naturally I believe that affirmative-action hiring of women columnists insults such hardworking writers as Cathy Young, Heather Mac Donald, and Anne Applebaum (and even on the left, Barbara Ehrenreich, Ellen Goodman, and others) who have made it onto newspaper op-ed pages on their own steam and strictly on the basis of their own shrewdness and talent. And, Mainstream Media, beware: Forcing your readers to slog through cookie-cutter rehashes of feminist ideology shoved onto your opinion pages in the name of gender quotas is guaranteed to mean one more curve rounded in the downward spiral of your readership.