What a brutal week Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan has had. In a Washington Post op-ed Berkeley Dean Christopher Edley uses her to front an incoherent apologia on behalf of academic “elites.” Dean Edley’s essay, a gloating reminder of just how much power certain admissions officers wield, does nothing to enhance Miss Kagan’s chances for confirmation.
Then New York Times spinster Maureen Dowd weighs in with a column superficially taking critics to task for their curiosity about Miss Kagan’s marital status. Miss Dowd’s column is in reality a thinly veiled screed of self-loathing unmarried women everywhere would do well to avoid.
With friends like these, Miss Kagan must be thinking, who needs Republicans?
“With friends like these” is something single women everywhere wonder about all the time.
The thesis of Miss Dowd’s column is that women of a certain age undergo a transition from “single” (juicy and available) to “unmarried,” (still available, but juiceless) and Elena Kagan, at age 50, has made such a transition. If this sounds suspiciously like the “change of life” to you, then you are on to Miss Dowd’s hideously ageist indictment of her own gender, which renders an entire sex useless after its menses cease. Miss Dowd is not simply characterizing some unknown troglodyte’s perception of single women, she is describing her own.
“For some reason, Kagan’s depressing narrative,” Miss Dowd opines, “is even more depressing because it’s cast in the past tense, as if, at 50, Kagan has resigned herself to a cloistered, asexual existence ruling in cases that touch on the private lives of all Americans.” Who, besides Maureen Dowd, has decided that the accomplished Elena Kagan’s narrative is “depressing”?
Lest any reader doubt that Miss Dowd is completely in agreement with the bigoted view of single women she purports to decry, take another look at her final paragraph:
Why is there this underlying assumption that Kagan has missed the boat? Why couldn’t she be eager to come to Washington to check out the Obama-era geek-chic bachelors, maybe get set up on a date by Michelle Obama, maybe host some single ladies fiestas with Sonia Sotomayor, maybe even sign up for JDate with a new and improved job status?
In other words, Miss Dowd’s cure for the “unmarried” woman: find a man, anyone will do. We’ve come long way, haven’t we baby?
Even the most enlightened among us think that spinsterhood is condition that requires a cure. I ran across this gem in today’s Inside Higher Education. Here are the opening lines from the “Mama PhD” blog, a regular feature of IHE:
Once, years ago, I found myself at a party talking about what it would mean to divide by zero. (No wonder I was terminally single at the time!)
Fantastically, the post goes on to congratulate several about-to-be alumnae, all seniors at Ursuline College, a Catholic institution for women. The author of the blog, Rosemarie Emanuele, is a faculty member at Ursuline, and she delivers the predictable pre-Commencement palaver about the wonderful new lives these women are about to discover. Ursuline is an interesting place. Its educational philosophy, in part, commends the college to help “students achieve their educational and career goals by emphasizing the whole person.” Too bad Professor Emanuele believes the only “whole” people are the married ones, in that the unattached have a “terminal”—her word, not mine—condition and presumably won’t be around long enough to achieve their goals.
I hope I’m around long enough to see the end of this socially acceptable bigotry, the glorious day when women are judged not by what’s on the third finger of their left hand, but by…well…just about anything else would be an improvement.