[Paleopsych] City Journal: Heather Mac Donald: Feminists Get Hysterical
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Tue Apr 19 14:23:45 UTC 2005
Heather Mac Donald: Feminists Get Hysterical
"City Journal is the best magazine in America."
First it was Harvard vs. Summers--and now Estrich vs. Kinsley.
Gee thanks, Susan. Political pundit Susan Estrich has launched a
venomous campaign (links here and here and here) against
the Los Angeles Times's op-ed editor, Michael Kinsley, for alleged
discrimination against female writers. As it happens, I have published
in the Los Angeles Times op-ed pages over the years, without worrying
too much about whether I was merely filling a gender quota. Now,
however, if I appear in the Times again, I will assume that my sex
characteristics, rather than my ideas, got me accepted.
Estrich's insane ravings against the Times cap a month that left one
wondering whether the entry of women into the intellectual and
political arena has been an unqualified boon. In January, nearly the
entire female professoriate at Harvard (and many of their feminized
male colleagues) rose up in outrage at the mere suggestion of an open
discussion about a scientific hypothesis. That hypothesis, of course,
concerned the possibly unequal distribution of cognitive skills across
the male and female populations. Harvard President Larry Summers had
had the temerity to suggest that the continuing preponderance of men
in scientific fields, despite decades of vigorous gender equity
initiatives in schools and universities, may reflect something other
than sexism. It might reflect the fact, Summers hypothesized, that the
male population has a higher percentage of mathematical geniuses (and
mathematical dolts) than the female population, in which mathematical
reasoning skills may be more evenly distributed.
A feminist gadfly in the audience, MIT biology professor Nancy
Hopkins, infamously reported that she avoided fainting or vomiting at
Summers's remarks only by running from the room. And with that
remarkable expression of science-phobia, a great feminist vendetta was
launched. It has reduced Summers to a toadying appeaser who has
promised to atone for his sins with ever more unforgiving diversity
initiatives (read: gender quotas) in the sciences. But the damage will
not be limited to Harvard. Summers's scourging means that, from now
on, no one in power will stray from official propaganda to explain why
women are not proportionally represented in every profession.
The Harvard rationality rout was a mere warm-up, however, to the
spectacle unfolding in Los Angeles, brought to light by the upstart
newspaper, the D.C. Examiner. USC law professor, Fox News
commentator, and former Dukakis presidential campaign chairman Susan
Estrich has come out as a snarling bitch in response to L.A.
Times's editor Michael Kinsley's unwillingness to be blackmailed.
Estrich had demanded that Kinsley run a manifesto signed by
several dozen women preposterously accusing him of refusing to publish
females. When Kinsley declined, while offering Estrich the opportunity
to write a critique of the Times in a few weeks, Estrich sunk to the
lowest rung imaginable: playing Kinsley's struggle with Parkinson's
disease against him. Said Estrich: Your refusal to bend to my demands
"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."
It is curious how feminists, when crossed, turn into shrill,
hysterical harpies--or, in the case of MIT's Nancy Hopkins, delicate
flowers who collapse at the slightest provocation--precisely the
images of women that they claim patriarchal sexists have fabricated to
keep them down. Actually, Estrich's hissy fit is more histrionic than
anything the most bitter misogynist could come up with on his own.
Witness her faux remorse at engaging in blackmail: "I really do hate
to be doing this. I counted e-mail after e-mail that I sent and was
totally ignored. I can't tell you how much I wanted to help quietly.
If this is what it takes, so be it." Witness too her self-pitying
amour propre: "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." Add to that her petty insults: "if you
prefer me to conduct this discussion outside your pages . . . that
makes you look even more afraid and more foolish." And finally, mix in
shameless self-promotion: "I hope [this current crusade is] a lesson
in how you can make change happen if you're willing to stand up to
people who call you names, and reach out to other women, and not get
scared and back down. If you recall, I wrote a book about that, called
Sex and Power. It's what I have spent my whole life doing."
Selective quotation cannot do justice to Estrich's rants. But their
underlying substance is as irrational as their tone. Estrich lodges
the standard charge in all fake discrimination charges: the absence of
proportional representation in any field is conclusive proof of bias.
Determining the supply of qualified candidates is wholly unnecessary.
For the last three years, Estrich's female law students at USC have
been counting the number of female writers on the Los Angeles Times
op-ed pages (and she complains that there aren't more female policy
writers? Suggestion to Estrich: how about having your students master
a subject rather than count beans.). She provides only selective
tallies of the results: "TWENTY FOUR MEN AND ONE WOMAN IN A THREE DAY
PERIOD [caps in original]" (she does not explain how she chose that
three-day period or whether it was representative); "THIRTEEN MEN AND
NO WOMEN" as authors of pieces on Iraq.
Several questions present themselves: how many pieces by women that
met the Times's standards were offered during these periods? What is
the ratio of men to women among experts on Iraq? Estrich never bothers
to ask these questions, because for the radical feminist, being a
woman is qualification enough for any topic. Any female is qualified
to write on Iraq, for example, because in so doing, she is providing
THE FEMALE PERSPECTIVE. (This belief in the essential difference
between male and female "voices," of course, utterly contradicts the
premise of the anti-Larry Summers crusade.) Thus, to buttress her
claim that Kinsley "refuses" to publish women, Estrich merely provides
a few examples of women whose offerings have been rejected: "Carla
Sanger . . . tells me she can't get a piece in; I have women writing
to me who have submitted four piece [sic] and not gotten the courtesy
of a call--and they teach gender studies at UCLA. . . ." It goes
without saying, without further examination, that each of those
writers deserved to be published--especially, for heaven's sakes, the
gender studies professors!
Self-centered? Thin-skinned? Takes things personally? Misogynist
tropes that sum up Estrich to a T. It is the fate of probably 98
percent of all op-ed hopefuls to have their work silently rejected,
without the "courtesy of a call." But when a woman experiences the
silent treatment, it's because of sexism. Similarly, it is the fate of
most e-mail correspondence to editors to be ignored. But when
Estrich's e-mails are ignored ("I sent e-mails to my old friends at
the Times. Neither time did they even bother to respond."), it's
because the editor is a chauvinist pig.
The assumption that being female obviates the need for any further
examination into one's qualifications allows Estrich to sidestep the
most fundamental question raised by her crusade: Why should anyone
care what the proportion of female writers is on an op-ed page? If an
analysis is strong, it should make no difference what its author's sex
is. But for Estrich, it is an article of faith that female
representation matters: "What could be more important--or easier for
that matter--than ensuring that women's voices are heard in public
discourse in our community?" Her embedded question--"or easier for
that matter?"-- is quickly answered. She is right: Nothing is easier
than ensuring that "women's voices" are heard; simply set up a quota
and publish whatever comes across your desk. But as for why it is of
paramount importance to get the "women's" perspective on farm
subsidies or OPEC price manipulations, Estrich does not say.
She provides a clue to her thinking, however. For Estrich, apparently,
having a "woman's voice" means being left-wing. She blasts the Times
for publishing an article by Charlotte Allen on the decline of female
public intellectuals such as Susan Sontag. Allen had argued that too
many women writers today specialize in being female, rather than
addressing the broader range of issues covered by their male
counterparts. For Estrich, this argument performs a magical sex change
on Allen, turning her into a male. After sneering at Allen's article
and her affiliation with the "Independent Women's Forum which is a
group of right-wing women who exist to get on TV," Estrich concludes:
"the voices of women . . . are [not] found within a thousand miles" of
the Los Angeles Times.
In other words, Allen's is not a "voice of a woman" because she
criticizes radical feminism. Estrich does not disclose if she
conducted this sex change operation on all conservative women when
compiling her phony statistics on the proportion of female writers on
the op-ed page.
"Women's liberation," for the radical feminists, means liberation to
think like a robot, mindlessly following the dictates of the
victimologists. But if all bona fide women think alike, then
publishing one female writer every year or so should suffice, since we
know in advance what she will say.
Depressingly, Estrich's crusade, no matter how bogus, will undoubtedly
bear fruit. Anyone in a position of power today, facing accusations of
bias and the knowledge that people are using crude numerical measures
to prove his bias, will inevitably start counting beans himself,
whether consciously or not. Michael Kinsley could reassure every
female writer out there that Estrich has not cowed him by publishing
only men for the next six months. It would be an impressive rebuff to
Estrich's blackmail. I'll happily forgo the opportunity to appear in
the Times for a while in order to get my pride back.
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