No one has a take quite like Maureen Dowd's in the furor over the question of Elena Kagan's sexuality. There are those on the left who find speculation about the Supreme Court nominee's sexuality absurd. Then there are those who find the White House's response to the Kagan speculation absurd, if not cowardly.
Dowd, however, has picked up on something that few others seem to have noticed. She argues that the administration, in scrambling to deny that Kagan is gay by portraying her as a "spinster," may have belittled not only gays, but career women as well. She says it brings to light some troubling assumptions. Why, she asks, is Elena Kagan is called "unmarried" instead of "single"? Why are women subjected to this humiliating distinction? And why, she asks, should Kagan's singleness be shameful when contrasted with Mark Souder's hypocrisy and cheating?
Here's the breakdown:
ON THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN 'SINGLE' AND '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.
ON THE DOUBLE STANDARD
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.
ON THE DOUBLE STANDARD FOR SUCCESSFUL WOMEN IN PARTICULAR
It's a disturbing echo of those Harvard Business School students who said on "60 Minutes" a few years ago that they had hid the fact that they went to Harvard from guys they met because it was the kiss of death with men who were threatened by more successful women. "The H-bomb," they called it.
HOW THE WHITE HOUSE HAS PLAYED ALONG
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.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.