February 23, 2005

Kinsely-Estrich Brouhaha

The Kinsley - Estrich fracas: A couple of weeks ago, the LA Times op-ed page, now edited by Michael Kinsley, published an essay by Charlotte Allen of the Independent Women's Forum making the excellent point that there are fewer heavyweight women intellectuals around today than before feminism, with Camille Paglia being probably the only woman worthy of being on the short list of top thinkers of the day. Allen writes:

My point was that we don't have many women public intellectuals these days - the likes of Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Gertrude Stein or the recently deceased Susan Sontag - because most credentialed women nowadays would rather be feminist ideologues than tackle larger issues.

In response, Susan Estrich, who is best known for her dismal management of Michael Dukakis's campaign against George H.W. Bush in 1988, had a good old fashioned hissy fit, accusing Kinsley of sexism.

The new Washington Examiner has the subsequent exchange of emails between Estrich and Kinsley:

Run my letter or else
From: Susan Estrich
To: Kinsley, Michael
Subject: RE: my letter to the editor

I am sending over my letter this morning. It is very, very temperate. It is signed by approximately 50 women, among them some of the most powerful women in town, from Nancy Daly Riordan to Lynne Wasserman to Katherine Spillar to Carol Biondi to Dolores Robinson etc. etc. etc. ... [Personally, I've never ever heard of a single one of the 49 women on her list -- Steve.] Everyone is assuming it will be published on Sunday. I honestly think it will be a bigger deal if you don't publish it, and Drudge and Newsmax and the rest do, than if you simply publish it, and start adding more women from Southern California to your mix (today's tally, 3 men, 1 Washington woman late of Time, no women from Southern California...)

I really do hate to be doing this. I counted e-mail after e-mail that I sent and was totally ignored. I can't tell you how much I wanted to help quietly. If this is what it takes, so be it. My friend Barbara Howar told me she got a call yesterday from Bob Sipchen about writing for the Sunday section and I was delighted. How easy can it be ... That's all. You want thoughtful conservatives ... I have a great conservative former Harvard student who tells me she's been desperate to get a piece published and she gets consistently turned away. She lives in Pasadena ... I've got so many names for you of good women who live right here, care about this community; Carla Sanger, who created LA's BEST, tells me she can't get a piece in; I have women writing to me who have submitted four piece and not gotten the courtesy of a call - and they teach gender studies at UCLA ...

Anyway, the piece runs 500 words, and the signatures another 100. Since I have my own mimeograph machine, I can do a column today... but as I have every day, I would like nothing better than to work with you to declare victory. Otherwise we'll have a new website, www.latimesbias.org up by tomorrow
[As of Sunday, it's still "under construction]...

Sincerely, Susan

Don't try to push me around girlie
From: Kinsley, Michael
To: Susan Estrich

Susan - We don't run letters from 50 people, and we don't succumb to blackmail. So we won't be publishing your letter. I would actually like to run an essay by you in our Outside the Tent column (the one Mickey kicked off a few weeks ago), but even that would look like blackmail if we did it now. So that's out too, for the moment.

I don't want a fight any more than you say you do - and we are both pissed off today. So I suggest we wait a few weeks (say, three) and then let's talk about an Outside the Tent. (It would be subject to the usual editing, of course - but not to dull your point, since the whole purpose of this column is criticism of the Times.) Or if you'd rather write a letter to the editor in two or three weeks, please write it and sign it yourself. You can say in the text that it is endorsed by whatever number of others.

How dare you accuse me of blackmail
From: Susan Estrich
To: Kinsley, Michael

You owe me an apology. NO one tried harder to educate you about Los Angeles, introduce you to key players in the city, bring to your attention, quietly, the issues of gender inequality than I did - and you have the arrogance and audacity to say that you couldn't be bothered reading my emails, spending time in the city where all of us are raising our families ... and then we should stop our efforts because you're "pissed off."

I am not engaged in blackmail, and I find that Suggestion to be highly offensive and insulting, and I am certain the many prominent women who have signed the letter would also agree. Far from being "pissed off," I believe I have conducted myself with admirable restraint because of our past relationship and my honest concerns for your health. I am not aware of any policy against jointly signed letters, nor has one been pointed out to me. You were quite aware of what I was doing, and to spring the policy this morning is bad faith, short and simple.

I was told that in order to have a letter published Sunday, it had to be submitted by today. My suggestion that your publishing it would be better (for you too) than my having to go outside somehow constitutes me blackmailing you is so outlandish that it underscores the question I've been asked repeatedly in recent days, and that does worry me, and should worry you: people are beginning to think that your illness may have affected your brain, your judgment, and your ability to do this job. The fact that you were not in Los Angeles all week hardly helps matters, nor does the fact that you don't return phone calls. You are making things worse for yourself.

My point wasn't blackmail, Michael, it was that if you prefer me to conduct this discussion outside your pages, and make it into an even bigger fight, that makes you look even more afraid and more foolish, and angers every woman who signed a temperate letter that you are now refusing to publish. So be it. I now have powerful businesswomen and community leaders, professors and developers and talent agents and managers and journalists, students at the high school, college and law school level, and teachers involved in this effort. For the young women, I hope it's a lesson in how you can make change happen if you're willing to stand up to people who call you names, and reach out to other women, and not get scared and back down. If you recall, I wrote a book about that, called Sex and Power. It's what I have spent my whole life doing. The older I get, the clearer I am about all of our obligations to make a contribution during the brief time we have on this earth. Add that to the commitment those of us who have signed this letter share towards the community that is our home, where we are raising our children, living our lives, trying to deal with the real problems this city faces (not shrunken female minds), and the idea that I would somehow say STOP now because Michael is pissed off and has offered me some onetime column down the road when he's not mad anymore is just absurd; it would make a mockery of everything I stand for.

Do the right thing for your sake ...

That's it I am taking my ball and going home<]b>
From: Kinsley, Michael
To: Susan Estrich

Susan - Your mischaracterizations of what I wrote to you are farcical, as anyone can plainly see from reading the whole string. But your references to "concern for [my] health" are disgusting. Consider my invitation to write for the Times when things calm down rescinded. John Carroll
[the LAT's editor] agrees.

Larry Summers should hire Kinsley to respond to his feminist critics for him. All of Summers' groveling and apologizing have just made them scent fear and pile on further. At least Kinsley's having fun, although I'm sure he'll give in and set up a hidden gender quota eventually.

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