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.