Is Maureen Dowd Mocking Elena Kagan For Being Too Butch?

In an uber-ironic article New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote an e-mail as Vice President Joe Biden endorsing Supreme Court nominee Elana Kagan as “a girl’s girl… [who has] never been spotted at Home Depot or the Meow Mix bar.” Dowd’s definitely mocking the way that the administration has drawn additional attention to Kagan’s sexuality by repeatedly calling it unworthy of discussion and Dowd’s also mocking those who are obsessed with Kagan’s ambiguous sexuality. But has Dowd’s satire missed its targets and instead hit Kagan for being too butch?

Everyone’s speculating on Kagan’s sexuality not only because of her dyke-haircut and the fact that Americans are disproportionately obsessed with other people’s genitals, but because (in Maureen’s words) Kagan is “a garden-variety, sad, scary, single, childless career woman who can’t get a man because she’s too smart, works too much and refuses to settle.” In America if you’re 50-years-old without a man and kids you must be a lesbian—it’s called sexual typing and misogyny and it certainly didn’t go away with Hilary and Sarah running for office; if anything we never even discussed what their candidacy meant for American women the same way that Obama discussed the significance of American race, but I digress.

Dowd’s parody of Biden’s e-mail is especially interesting because Biden’s real e-mail about Kagan praised the candidate for her qualifications and made no mention of her sexuality. Of course, reducing Kagan to a purely sexual level, praising her for the diversity she would bring to the Supreme Court, and yet acting as if her sexuality is somehow inappropriate for discussion is all a farce that merely distracts from the larger questions about expanded presidential powers, First Amendment restrictions, immigration, and economic issues that will effect us all once she’s appointed.

Dowd knows this and she’s decided to give those pre-occupied with Kagan’s sexuality exactly what they want, a straight-forward answer. But even if Biden himself had vouched for Kagan’s straightness by swearing that she’s the girliest girl from Girlville, it still wouldn’t tell us anything more useful about her sexuality than that dumb photograph of her playing softball did.