See, I’m right! I predicted right here in this blog that University of Southern California law professor Susan Estrich’s protracted hiss-e-fit against Los Angeles Times opinion editor Michael Kinsley–those dozens and dozens of e-mails she sent him calling him an unprintable name and declaring that his Parkinson’s disease had gone to his brain–would pay off for her in a round of chin-pulling over her plaint that newspapers don’t run enough opinion articles written by women. (See my two posts on the subject here and here.)


Yup–instead of writing Estrich off as a d-e-mented feminista fruitcake badly in need of civility lessons, newspaper editors all over the country are tripping over their feet as they scramble to comply with her implicit demand that they set a 50 percent gender quota for their opinion pages. Step up the insults against Michael, Susan–call him “Four Eyes” or make fun of those frumpy faux-lumberjack plaid shirts he wears–and you can get a newspaper op-ed page that’s 100 percent written by women!


On Sunday we had the New York Times’s Maureen Dowd weighing in (or, rather, whining in) with the speculation that the reason women don’t become newspaper columnists is because when they toss verbal cheap shots–the way she always does–men don’t like them anymore. Wah!


And today, Kinsley’s L.A. Times, not to be outdone in political correctness by the New York Times, offered some thoughts by Georgetown University linguistics professor Deborah Tannen on the subject of the dearth of women op-ed writers. Tannen’s theory is that women shy away from expressing their opinions because they’re so much nicer than men:


“Here’s an example that one of my students observed: Two boys and a girl are building structures with blocks. When they’re done, the boys start throwing blocks at each other’s structures to destroy them.


“The girl protects hers with her body. The boys say they don’t really want their own creations destroyed, but the risk is worth it because it’s fun to destroy the other’s structures. The girl sees nothing entertaining about destroying others’ work.


“Arguing ideas as a way to explore them is an adult version of these agonistic rituals. Because they’re used to this agonistic way of exploring ideas — playing devil’s advocate — many men find that their adrenaline gets going when someone challenges them, and it sharpens their minds: They think more clearly and get better ideas. But those who are not used to this mode of exploring ideas, including many women, react differently: They back off, feeling attacked, and they don’t do their best thinking under those circumstances.”


In other words, men are from Mars and women are from the planet Sedna.


And naturally, in Tannen’s view, it’s all the fault of the dead white males who built the West:


“The assumption that fighting is the only way to explore ideas is deeply rooted in Western civilization. It can be found in the militaristic roots of the Christian church and in our educational system, tracing back to all-male medieval universities where students learned by oral disputation.


“[Contrast] this with Chinese science and philosophy, which eschewed disputation and aimed to ‘enlighten an inquirer,’ not to ‘overwhelm an opponent.'”


Yes, that’s why the Chinese, from the Han dynasty to Wen Jiabao, have ruthlessly extended and defended their empire for millennia, squashing all ethnic, linguistic, religious, and ideological groups that have stood in their way. Those “inquirers” who are not sufficiently “enlightened” get sent to reeducation camps where they can be “enlightened” some more.  


The cure for all this white male op-ed aggression, says Tanner, is for newspapers to be more nicey-nice on their opinion pages, and thus lure more nice, nurturing women writers:


“This brings us to our political discourse and the assumption that it must be agonistic in method and spirit. If we accept this false premise, then it is not surprising that fewer women than men will be found who are comfortable writing political columns. But looking for women who can write the same kind of columns that men write is a waste — exactly the opposite of what should be the benefits of diversity: introducing new and different ways of doing things.”


Gag me with a spoon.


Fortunately, just as I was slipping into hyperglycemic coma after ingesting Tannen’s bowl of treacle, Arts and Letters Daily alerted me to these tart thoughts from the Washington Post’s blessedly sane Anne Applebaum:


“This week I had planned to write a column about Sinn Fein, the political front organization for the Irish Republican Army, whose leaders have recently been linked to acts of murder and grand larceny. I chose the subject because I wrote often about the IRA while living in Britain in the 1990s, because I’ve worked as a reporter in Belfast, because it’s timely — tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day — and because there might be lessons in the story for Hamas and Hezbollah, terrorist groups that may or may not be able to make the transition to democratic politics as well.


“These thoughts arose, in other words, out of work I’ve done as a journalist and columnist for nearly 20 years. But in the past 72 hours I’ve discovered that I am not just an ordinary journalist or an ordinary columnist. No. I am a token.


“That, at any rate, is what I conclude from the bumper crop of articles, columns and blogs that have, over the past few days, pointed to the dearth of women on op-ed pages….


“As for Estrich, I don’t know much about her at all, except that she’s just launched a conversation that is seriously bad for female columnists and writers. None of the ones I know — and, yes, I conducted an informal survey — want to think of themselves as beans to be counted, or as ‘female journalists’ with a special obligation to write about ‘women’s issues.’ Most of them got where they are by having clear views, knowing their subjects, writing well and learning to ignore the ad hominem attacks that go with the job. But now, thanks to Estrich, every woman who gets her article accepted will have to wonder whether it was her knowledge of Irish politics, her willingness to court controversy or just her gender that won the editor over.”


My sentiments, exactly, Anne. And of course I revel in the delicious irony that all the gender head-counting got started by my own L.A. Times opinion piece “Feminist Fatale” arguing that the reason we don’t have many female commentators on public issues is because many women have insisted on turning themselves into feminist ideologues who won’t write about anything but ‘women’s issues.’ But I’m not really a woman in Estrich’s view because my views are incorrectly conservative.


For even more Susaniana–we know you can’t get enough of it–read Cathy Seipp’s “Susan Estrich as Bubbles the Hippo” on the IWF home page