Kinsley's Days at the LA Times
ARE THE GREAT WOMEN THINKERS?" the headline of
last week's Los Angeles Times opinion section asked.
"Thinking so much about women has shrunk their minds."
The year is 2005. It is not easy to get me angry on a Sunday
morning. As it turned out, I wasn't the only one.
has always been my theory that women in America have enormous
power, if only we would use it. But it's hard: You have
to be willing to stand up, find allies, take the arrows
and have people (men) call you names. Usually, it takes
an insult -- a tough one -- to provoke us. But when provoked,
watch out. Just ask Harvard President Larry Summers. His
days are numbered. The opinion editor of the Los Angeles
Times would do well to consult with his fellow Harvard
man on the topics of women and the cost of arrogance. His
I have spent the last year trying to convince
the three men who run the opinion section of my local paper
that there are, in fact, many great women thinkers in the
community where I live, but they choose to publish none
The only one to appear regularly on their
pages does so in large part because I ran a campaign a few
years ago to protect her column when management was trying
to downgrade it. The new men, led by my law school classmate
Michael Kinsley, make no apologies for not returning e-mails,
not following up on suggestions, canceling dinners with
community leaders and never rescheduling, and not even bothering
to live in the community.
And then we get this garbage about how women
have shrunk their minds thinking about equality. Spare me.
If they were doing their job, we could think of something
Of course, everyone has a right to his or
her opinion, including a silly one on a silly topic. I'm
sure some people consider my opinions silly. That's what
diversity of views is about.
But when the only opinions by women are
these, there is something wrong. When a newspaper goes out
looking for opinions on Iraq and only asks men; when it
goes three days in a row and runs 24 men and only one woman
-- that is a problem. When the only articles in the Sunday
section by women are about "gender studies," and
every other article about a "serious topic" is
by a man, something is very wrong.
So I did what I have always taught my students
to do. Don't whine, organize. I wrote a letter to the editor
and circulated it. I collected the who's who of signatures.
I made the calls to say that the letter was coming, temperate
in tone, with positive suggestions for the future.
I tried, as I always do -- being a nice
girl at heart -- to be nice. I said: Please publish the
letter. Don't hire me, hire others, left or right, women
who know this community and are going to write about more
important things -- things like education and health care
and crime and community -- than the silliness of shrunken
minds. Please publish this, I said, or I'll have to send
it to Matt Drudge, use my mimeograph machine, make an even
bigger federal case.
And I was accused of blackmail. Blackmail.
So here it is. The Web site is www.latimesbias.org.
If this is blackmail, I will teach the next generation how
to do it. They will need to know.
For the sad truth is that it isn't just
the Los Angeles Times. Time after time, when I
ask my syndicate "how I'm doing," it explains
the facts of life to me: Most newspapers will only "take"
one liberal woman. If they take Molly Ivins or Ellen Goodman,
they won't take me.
I love those two women, but we're nothing
alike. I'm a lawyer, a law professor, a Californian, a mother
of teenagers, a crime victim. On a weekly basis, my columns
are totally different than theirs. Can you imagine someone
saying that they can't take Bob Novak because they take
George Will; can't take Bill O'Reilly because they take
Bill Safire? Silly. Everybody does that with women. One
Nor is it simply the media. One is enough
for most corporate boards, if that. Only a minority of corporations
has more than one woman on its board, even though it takes
more than one for a woman to have an impact. Fewer still
have women in top jobs -- 95 percent of the top earners
in corporate America are still men.
But that is the dark side. The other side
is what happens when men say out loud what they think, or
let women do their dirty work. It was a little-known Washington
blogger, Charlotte Allen, who expressed the opinion that
feminists had shrunken their minds, but given the record
of the paper in not publishing women, it's hard to believe
that, at some level, as in the case of the president of
Harvard, what was said was not simply meant to provoke.
And once the words are uttered, they plainly cannot be defended.
Once women hear them, even one woman standing
up -- with her friends around her and a couple of Rolaids
at the ready -- can make them eat those words. That is what
I want to teach my daughter.
Given the state of women today, it is the
most important lesson I can offer her, even if my stomach
is killing me right now.
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