Fat Steve's Blatherings

Friday, March 11, 2005

Charlotte Allen Was Right

      Back on Feb. 13th, the Los Angeles Times published four opinion pieces by women.  One of them was by Charlotte Allen, entitled "Feminist Fatale".  It's subtitle was "Where are the great women thinkers?  Thinking so much about women has shrunk their minds."

      The argument was straightforward: by getting women obsessed with feminist issues, and turning feminism itself into an orthodoxy that brooks no dissent, women writers had been diverted from taking on diverse subjects from unique points of view. There was hardly anyone left like:
Gertrude Stein, Dorothy Parker, Simone de Beauvoir, Simone Weil, Mary McCarthy, Iris Murdoch, Hannah Arendt and [Susan] Sontag.
Allen noted that there are female intellectuals like
Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, Barbara Ehrenreich, Naomi Wolf, Susan Faludi, Deborah Tannen, Natalie Angier . . . [but] They are all professional feminists. They don't simply espouse feminism; they write about little else.

      Camille Paglia, Gertrude Himmelfarb and perhaps Germaine Greer were the only female "public intellectuals" Allen could think of.

      This was read by Susan Estrich, who was Mike Dukakasis's presidential campaign manager, a Fox News commentator, a syndicated opinion columnist, and is a law professor at USC.  For months she'd been trying to get her old law school classmate Michael Kinsley to put more women into the Times opinion pages.  And now that Kinsley had just put four into the paper in one day, she felt glad, right?

      OK, stop laughing, it wasn't that funny.  Estrich proceeded to demonstrate Allen's point about feminism being an intolerant orthodoxy by nearly having a stroke over Allen's piece.  Estrich DEMANDED that Kinsley immediately change his ways, or else.  Estrich recounted the dismal statistics on male vs. female authors her law school class had compiled (I don't see what clipping newspapers, and noting whether or not the author is male or female has to do with law school, by the way).  Estrich rounded up various LA women, known mostly for having prominent husbands, and they all signed a letter scolding Kinsley.

      Kinsley said the Times didn't print letters with forty five signatures, wouldn't be blackmailed, and offered Estrich the opportunity to have a column on the issue in a few weeks, after tempers had cooled.  Estrich responded by saying Kinsley health had affected his judgment (Kinsley has Parkinson's,which makes you tremble but has no known affect on the mind), e-mailed copies of her correspondence with Kinsley all over the country, and formed a website to attack the Times, latimesbias.org.

      Today, the Times has its own story on the controversy, and boy is there some funny stuff there:
As the controversy drags into a fourth week, Estrich continues to bounce from conciliation to confrontation. She seemed near tears in an interview, saying she never intended the fight to get so personal. She blamed the operators of her website for improperly posting comments about Kinsley's mental health and contended she didn't think e-mails to Drudge and others in the media would get into the public domain.

But she also accused Kinsley of "playing small and petty" by, among other things, ignoring her demands and then recently publishing two columns by her ex-husband. (Martin Kaplan is associate dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication.) And she said the newspaper continues to dwell on her comments about Kinsley as a tactic to avoid talking about the failure to give a larger platform to women.

"What do you do when you don't have a defense?" she said. "You play this card."

      She insults Kinsley's mental stability, but didn't intend the fight to be personal; she sends e-mails to people all over the country, including journalists, announcing a public campaign against the Times, but didn't think the e-mails would be made public; she spends her time talking about one topic, the ratio of male and female opinion authors, and then can't imagine why that subject isn't half of all op-ed space.

      Truly, there's never been a mind that shrank quite as much as Estrich's.

      Suze, honey, chill out, then start writing about anything, anything at all, that doesn't concern feminist issues.  You just might get interesting.



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