Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Maureen Dowd Gets It Right

For once.

Taken from today's column on Elena Kagan:
When does a woman go from being single to unmarried?

Single carries a connotation of eligibility and possibility, while unmarried has that dreaded over-the-hill, out-of-luck, you-are-finished, no-chance implication. An aroma of mothballs and perpetual aunt.

White House officials were so eager to squash any speculation that Elena Kagan was gay that they have ended up in a pre-feminist fugue, going with sad unmarried rather than fun single, spinning that she’s a spinster.

You’d think that they could come up with a more inspiring narrative than old maid for a woman who may become the youngest Supreme Court justice on the bench.

Kagan has told a friend in the West Wing that she is not gay, just lonely. Even so, that doesn’t mean her sherpas in the White House, in their frantic drive to dismiss the gay rumors, should be spinning a narrative around that most hoary of stereotypes: a smart, ambitious woman who threw herself into her work, couldn’t find a guy, threw up her hands, and threw herself further into her work — and in the process went from single to unmarried.
I've heard this many times before. If you're single for too long, that's a problem. It must mean you are a lesbian. Of course!

Any way this narrative is spun, it is depressing and insulting. We haven't heard Kagan speak, but it's embarrassing that she'd have to address the rumors, because nothing will be acceptable; she'll be pitied, cast as pathetic in one way or another.

How do you address the questions? Is the truth (whatever that is) even good enough? Why is the dominant answer the same old stereotype—did nothing else make sense? Why did the Obama Administration feel they needed to weigh in on this topic, instead of just staying tight-lipped?

Dowd asks the same questions, offering her own spin:
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?
The sad thing is that Kagan practically has to answer these questions, to defend her choices in her private life, whatever they may be. They will come up at some point. But that seems to be true no matter how old you are—if you’re single, especially after a certain age, you have to explain it.

1 comment:

John said...

It does seem like Kagan can't catch a break, but at least being "unmarried" instead of single isn't quite as against God (dramatic musical sting) as tons of people seem to believe being a lesbian is. Here's hoping the decision is ultimately made based on her legal experience and judgment, rather than whether or not she shares a bed with someone (and with whom.)