[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."
    Peggy Noonan

    First it was Harvard vs. Summers--and now Estrich vs. Kinsley.

    Gee thanks, Susan. Political pundit Susan Estrich has launched a
    venomous campaign (links [11]here and [12]here and [13]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 [14]D.C. Examiner. USC law professor, Fox News
    commentator, and former Dukakis presidential campaign chairman Susan
    Estrich has come out as a [15]snarling bitch in response to L.A.
    Times's editor Michael Kinsley's unwillingness to be [16]blackmailed.
    Estrich had [17]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.


   11. http://www.dcexaminer.com/articles/2005/02/16//OPINION/OP-ED/01aaaafestrichoped.txt
   12. http://www.dcexaminer.com/articles/2005/02/16/opinion/op-ed/01aaaagkinsleyoped.txt
   13. http://www.dcexaminer.com/articles/2005/02/18/opinion/op-ed/01aaoped19estrich.txt
   14. http://www.dcexaminer.com/
   15. http://www.dcexaminer.com/articles/2005/02/18/opinion/op-ed/01aaoped19estrich.txt
   16. http://www.dcexaminer.com/articles/2005/02/16/opinion/op-ed/01aaaagkinsleyoped.txt
   17. http://www.dcexaminer.com/articles/2005/02/16//OPINION/OP-ED/01aaaafestrichoped.txt

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