What If Women Ruled the World?
March 14, 2005
Susan Estrich is right that there are not enough women on the op-ed pages, even if her attacks on Michael Kinsley are a trifle harsh--as Howard Kurtz reported in his media column in the Washington Post last week (www.washingtonpost.com/ wp-dyn/articles/A13103-2005Mar7.html).
Maureen Dowd weighed in on the spat between the Democratic consultant and the LA Times op-ed page editor, with Dowd agreeing with Estrich, but saying she's just pressuring Kinsley to run her "humdrum syndicated column". Ouch. How to liven up a gray news day: have a female columnist cat fight!
Dowd, who began her Sunday column inviting readers to imagine her in a cat suit, sits on top of the pundit heap, of course, with her "I am woman, hear me purr" style. Surely there's room for other female voices. Both Dowd and Kurtz quote Gail Collins, the Times's op-ed page editor, opining that the reason there are so few female editorialists is that we, as a gender, are less comfortable "hearing the news and just batting something out." Chutzpah, bravado, a don't-confuse-me-with-the-facts kind of self-confidence is what we lack. There's probably something to that generalization.
I remember a seminar I took in college on just war theory, in which the young, male instructor began the first class by asking the (mostly male) students, "Who would have dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima? Let's have a quick show of hands." That's the kind of thinking that got us where we are today--rushing into ill-considered military adventures, wasting real people's lives while playing made-up chess games. Our whole country could use a dose of humility and considered thought. Maybe more female columnists would help. My favorite female political writers are less inclined to bloviate than to make sharp observations. Best of all, they tend to eschew pomposity for humor. Barbara Ehrenreich, Molly Ivins, and the Nation's Katha Pollitt are wry, sharp, fun to read. Anna Quindlen, late of the Times, now of Newsweek, has a great, warm, human sensibility.
What newspaper reader wouldn't prefer a bit more of that kind of thinking to balance the Robert Novaks of the world?
But maybe I'm going too far. There are also the rightwing female pundits, who are neither funny nor humane. Phyllis Schlafly, Bay Buchanan, Mona Charen--to name a few. It's tempting, when people start talking about gender differences, to flatter yourself and pick up the "women are better" argument. But then along comes the bad example. Condoleezza Rice announced on Sunday's Meet The Press that she will not run for President. Now there is a woman who has no problem conjuring up justifications for bombings, as well as passing the buck when the justifications evaporate after the bombs have dropped. (http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=536&ncid=536&e=5&u=/ap/20050314/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/rice_politics)
So maybe, given the chance, women will produce just as many pompous bloviators as the male pundit ranks. But it's worth hearing more female voices, if only to broaden the debate.