Amidst all the silly fretting about how Elena Kagan has no husband and no children (she has served merely as Dean of Harvard Law School and is now nominated to the Supreme Court - poor thing!), the New York Times has published something with a very different tone. To my ear, it was a gently mocking story, in which the enlightened voices got the loudest and the last words.
Deborah Rhode of Stanford Law School, director of their Center on the Legal Profession, told the Times writer (Laura Holson) that a different reporter had called to ask her this: Does Kagan have what it takes to rule on workplace issues, considering she has no children of her own? Rhode was having none of it. In the course of her discussion with Holson, she said:
"I do think it is a step back if we start to penalize women for not making the conventional choice...I resist the notion that the only way to be happy in the world is you have to be married."
The director of Columbia's Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, Katherine Franke, noted that stereotypes of 40- and 50-something singles still persist. Her opinion?
"For those who remain single, the reason should not have to be explained."
Holson opened her article by noting the critics' claims that Kagan had "sacrificed [my emphasis] a home and a personal life in her quest for a brilliant legal career." Maybe with more stories like Holson's appearing in banner publications such as the New York Times, the hosts of the pity parties for successful single people will more often find themselves mocked than taken seriously.
The Times story also mentioned (and not approvingly) the fact that when Sonia Sotomayor was nominated, she "had to deflect suggestions that she treated colleagues and close friends like an extended family because she had no children of her own." I'll leave it to you, dear readers, to make fun of all the things that were wrong with that.