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Maureen Dowd on Elena Kagan and Being Single Past 50

By May 20, 2010

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Notice how the conversation about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan has shifted from 'qualifications' to what Facebook would term 'relationship status'? Why should we care whether or not she's single, dating, divorced, married, a lesbian, a cat lady, a cougar, or a workaholic who focuses on her career?

Maureen Dowd weighs in on this very topic in this week's column, "All the Single Ladies":

Men, generally more favored by nature as they age, can be single at all ages. But often, for women, once you're 40 or 50, or simply beyond childbearing age, you're no longer single. You're unmarried -- meaning it isn't your choice to be alone. There are post-50 exceptions. Consider celebrity examples: Samantha in "Sex and the City," Dana Delany, Susan Sarandon and Madonna are seen as sexily single.

But if you have a bit of a weight problem, a bad haircut, a schlumpy wardrobe, the assumption is that you're undesirable, unwanted -- and unmarried.

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.

Dowd, who has never been known to cut anyone any slack just because they're female, has taken a notoriously 'mean girl' tone in her criticism of Hillary Clinton. Even with Kagan, notice how she gets those digs in there about "a weight problem, a bad haircut, a schlumpy wardrobe'?

Yet Dowd feels Kagan's pain because she herself is a single lady and knows all too well how society judges a woman past 50 who's not wedding-banded to a mate. She's either a shrew, a bitch, an old maid, a lesbian, too particular for her own good and unwilling to 'settle,' or a ball-breaker.

Dowd has the good fortune to be sleek, sexy, red-headed and smart-mouthed. Kagan is simply smart, and that doesn't seem to be enough for her to fly under the radar of criticism.

Imagine if Elena Kagan looked like Sarah Palin, and vice versa. Would the world be treating them any differently? I think if that were the case, we'd be asking each other, "Sarah who?" and she'd still be Governor of Alaska...nothing more.


Comments

May 22, 2010 at 1:58 am
(1) Carri Bugbee says:

Linda, did you read Maureen Dowd’s book “Are Men Necessary?” It was depressing, illuminating, and affirming — all at once. I don’t think it was reviewed well, but I enjoyed the first two-thirds immensely.

Whatever the reason for Elena Kagan’s single-dom, it’s utterly ridiculous that it would even be a topic of discussion with regards to her confirmation. And I agree with you, if she was “hot” like Sarah, instead of a brainiac, the substance of the conversation would be entirely different.

@CarriBugbee
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May 22, 2010 at 1:56 pm
(2) whiteknyght says:

Why in the world does the opinion persists that that plastic, aging ex-beauty pageant also ran is “hot?”

May 25, 2010 at 10:06 am
(3) Lynn says:

So true. As another single lady in her 50s, I too well understand the stereotypes. After someone posted a nasty comment about me on a news story in which I was featured last year, I founded a retail site called OldMaidCatLady.com that sells products for cats and people who love cats! Why not turn lemons into lemonade?

In Kagan’s case, I think the focus on her appearance and now, on her single status, is being used to divert attention away from the real issue, which is her body of papers that divulge whether she would sit on the Supreme Court as someone who upholds the Constitution or chooses to legislate from the bench. These are all we have to go by, since she has no actual judicial experience. And as long as the media are fixated on her appearance, marital status and sexual orientation, people aren’t asking questions about that. Let’s hope someone’s paying attention!

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