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Jewish World Review March 10, 2005/ 29 Adar I, 5765

Suzanne Fields

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Hissy fits and real progress | A new page has been written in the war between the sexes and it's mean and nasty. Unlike a war between the states, it's a tempest parading as a tsunami.

Michael Kinsley edits the op-ed pages of the Los Angeles Times. Susan Estrich is a professor at the University of Southern California and lusts fiercely to write an essay for the Kinsley pages.

When he rejected one of her essays, as editors are entitled to do, Miss Estrich threw what we used to call a hissy fit. She accused him of suffering a "Larry Summers problem," recalling the president of Harvard who questioned whether there may be innate qualitative differences in male and female talents for math. The "Summers problem" is the newest diagnosis for any man who doesn't agree with absolutist beliefs of certain feminists.

The professor counted the number of op-ed essays by women in the Los Angeles Times and discovered — horrors! — men outnumber the women on the pages. No beans are too small to count for the masters (and mistresses) of the computer keyboard. Had Estrich wanted to make a profitable critique of the Los Angeles Times op-ed pages, she might have examined the ratio of liberals to conservatives, but affirmative action only counts when you employ it in behalf of yourself.

Estrich, who ran the Dukakis presidential campaign into the ground nearly two decades ago, became so irrational (dare I say hysterical?) and mean and nasty that she even told Michael Kinsley that his affliction with Parkinson's disease "may have affected your brain." Kinsley obviously resisted the temptation to indulge in medical diagnosis and did not accuse her of suffering menopausal hot flashes.

Estrich grossly distorts women's gains in the newspaper punditry. When I began writing a column 21 years ago, there were only a handful of women writing on anyone's op-ed pages. Today nearly all major newspapers publish a variety of women on their op-ed pages. Four women write regularly on the op-ed pages of The Washington Times, my own newspaper.

Counting beans is more fun than actually examining the merits of political argumentation, or the quality of the writing, but the success of women in the media mirrors the successes of women in other fields. This is what raises the Estrich-Kinsley contretemps above the level of newsroom gossip.

Susan Estrich is playing a dog-eared victim card and in doing so reveals herself as well behind her curves. Three-fourths of American women between 25 to 34 are in the workforce, up from half in 1975. A report by the World Future Society finds that Generation Xers and their younger counterparts in the millennial generation toil in a workplace that is all but "gender-blind." Fully 57 percent of American college students are women.

The old-boy school of the entrepreneurial world has given way to the "new girl" school, with women more and more starting their own shops and companies. Life insurance companies sell more policies to women than to men. As women continue to draw on experience and education, they're accelerating their numbers in upper management, too. Top salaries for women are not yet as high as those for men, but women's salaries have been rising faster in America for 30 years. Trends suggest that the average woman's income may exceed that of the average man within a generation.

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The power of women is spreading globally, too. Rarely is George W. Bush described as a hero of women's liberation, but he's a hero of women in Iraq and Afghanistan. New ministers for women's affairs in Iraq and Afghanistan reminded a press conference last week just how far women have come in that backward part of the world. Massouda Jalal, a presidential candidate in Afghanistan's first free election, reminded everyone that under Taliban rule women "couldn't live like full human beings."

Now they can. Forty percent of the registered voters in Afghanistan are women and they're beginning to move into the private sector. Namin Othman recalled how the Baathist regime in Iraq sold young girls to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, executed prostitutes without a trial, and identified women who protested against the government as prostitutes so they could be executed. In the old Iraq, women had rights only in theory. More than half of the voters in the January election were women, exercising their rights for real.

Both women asked the men and women of the Western media to tell the whole story, particularly the advances of women. "We really need the help of the media," Namin Othman told the New York Sun. "We need a real media — an honest, truthful media . . . showing the negative and the positive, not all the negative."

That's more important than the beans at any newspaper.

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© 2005, Suzanne Fields. TMS