May 24, 2010
Maureen Dowd: Sex and the Single KaganBy Stuart Schwartz
Sex and the single Kagan.
That's what the nomination of Elena Kagan is all about for New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who just this past week offered her take on the controversy surrounding the nomination of the elite leftist from Princeton and Harvard to the Supreme Court. Kagan is single and a woman, and men -- especially those who are conservative and occupy the nation's less financially blessed zip codes -- "are threatened by more successful women."
And again, the spinning spinster of Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, headquarters of the Times and ground zero for the media elite, is writing the same story: sex and the single Kagan on the one hand, and on the other, those hate-filled conservative men and their brain-dead women. Conservatives and flyover country "goober[s]" are threatened by Kagan's Harvard education, unashamed self-awareness (she describes herself as a "famously excellent teacher," notes Dowd) and a "common touch" commitment to "social justice" developed as a professor and administrator at Yale University.
For Dowd, the reasons offered for opposing Kagan are patently absurd: that she is anti-military, radical left, and regards a Constitution that is unique for its emphasis on individual freedom and self-governance as a mere bump on the road to Obama's statist paradise. In upper Manhattan and inside the Beltway, on Rodeo Drive and in Cambridge and Berkeley, her views are as mainstream as $7 lattes and free-range chicken.
And so, for Maureen Dowd, there can be no principled opposition to this Ivy League woman of "appealing swagger" except...sex. She is being opposed because I...no, she is so smart that men are threatened by me...er, her. And now that I am 60...uh, she is 50 and unmarried, a status that has so many men sniffing my...uh, no -- her "aroma of mothballs and perpetual aunt."
Kagan is a smart woman. And in Dowdworld, conservative men loathe smart women, while many right-thinking men of the left acquiesce to their sexual stereotypes, so eager are they to prove that -- as celebrity and conservative chef Gordon Ramsey would put it -- they have "bollocks." And so, when there were hints that the nominee was gay, Dowd said the weenies of the White House (all males other than Obama) created this "pre-feminist fugue": she's not lesbian, just "undesirable" and "unmarried."
Enter Maureen Dowd. Washington hath no fury like a New York Times columnist with a ruffled worldview.
It is not hard to imagine Ronald Reagan, perusing this latest Dowd piece on his celestial Kindle, offering with an amused chuckle, "There you go again." No one is more deserving of the now-classic retort used by the Gipper during his debates with the tiresome Jimmy Carter, who endlessly blamed Americans for all things bad in the world.
And now we have Maureen Dowd, Jimmy Carter with keyboard and lipstick, tirelessly offering the same explanation for everything from the affairs of Bill Clinton to opposition to this Supreme Court nomination: Blame it on men who are threatened by smart women.
For the Times columnist of fifteen years, all of politics and all of life rest in her personal narrative of an aging, single leftist who, week after week and year after year, can't help but ask the question put so plaintively by that great political philosopher, Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers, half a century ago: "When will I be loved?"
This question consumes Dowd, who sees in Kagan a "schlumpy" but almost as accomplished version of herself, who is faced with the same problem that has -- as Dowd sees it -- condemned the New York Times columnist to a life of simmering frustration. Anyone can have sex, she lets us know, but brains (which she shares with Kagan) and beauty (Kagan can't have everything, she laments, what with her "bit of a weight problem" and "bad haircut") are "the kiss of death" for intimacy.
And the Dowd version of intimacy is what it is all about for the single/unmarried (pick one) columnist who is as much a culture warrior as political commentator. Surely Kagan is going to Washington not to protect "goober" liberties, but to do "Sex and the City" with the beautiful people, leftists all, attracted to Obama's remake of the Camelot of John F. Kennedy. She'll "get set up on a date by Michelle Obama," "host some single lady fiestas with Sonya Sotomayor," and use her "new and improved job status" to get her some guys with money and celebrity.
That's intimacy Dowd-style. And the opposition to Kagan is rooted not in her leftist ideology (after all, what is there not to like about opposition to the military and an archaic Constitution?), but in an aging process that unfairly casts Kagan as a "sad unmarried rather than a fun single."
Dowd is well-positioned to feel Kagan's pain. The Times veteran is part of a world in which aging is bitterly resented, where joie de vivre is the stuff you buy at $500 an ounce from Saks, and men are the beneficiaries of a sexist God or a misogynistic Darwin (choose according to your worldview) who has "favored" them "as they age." So many grievances, so little time.
And so her words tumble from the pages of the New York Times, a weird mix of leftist ideology and feminism and the very human emotions of a woman wondering "is this all there is?" In column after column, in a book (Are Men Necessary?: When Sexes Collide), Dowd explains that it is male fear of powerful, intelligent women that drives life and politics.
Men, especially of the non-Obama persuasion, fear women like Dowd, who, she makes sure you know, is powerful and intelligent. Sex and the single Dowd...uh, Kagan. Wait -- whom am I writing about? A bit transparent, as even the reliably leftist Slate has called her "extreme" and "clearly projecting" her phobias onto the world at large.
And so Ronald Reagan chuckles and Maureen Dowd writes, the big 6-0 bearing down on her like a UPS articulated semi on an armadillo crossing a Texas highway. For "goober" America, this would be an opportunity to enjoy a few memories (good and bad), gather the family and kids, perhaps the grandchildren for a celebration, and then start on the next few decades. Or, if single, do the same without the kids, and have the church group join you. Nice.
But for Dowd, there is little to celebrate. Her frantic words are symptomatic of the decline of the Times and other mainstream media. Fewer people are reading her column, her analyses are dreary and predictable, and the liberal icon that employs her is, as Thomas Lifson puts it, "circling the drain.
And no matter how hard she tries, she can't shake that feeling of...well, emptiness. Which is weird, because Washington is now filled with the right kind of people and she's still taking whacks at "goober" men and the leftist wussies who give in to them, and celebrating accomplished leftist women...
But what's that on the horizon? OMG -- it's Helen Thomas...and mothballs!
Stuart Schwartz, a former retail and media executive, is on the faculty at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.