When the Wall Street Journal (Rupert Murdoch’s right wing mouthpiece) published an article yesterday about Elena Kagan, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, they printed a picture of Kagan playing softball with the article. She is at bat. She is a righty. (Does this mean bad things for progressive causes?) She has a pretty good stance (It’s good to know what her stance is on something). Her grip is a little choked up (Does that mean she is a conservative hitter?). She is smiling toward the pitching mound (Is this evidence of her ability to bridge political differences with opponents?). MLB.com actually asked some baseball players to analyze her stance.
We could ponder the symbolism of the softball picture in this way, but really, the question is, did the WSJ intend to imply that Kagan is a lesbian by showing her playing softball? I could believe that they might. After all, the WSJ is Rupert Murdoch’s paper. They might buy into the old lesbian softball stereotype. They’d probably like to try to smear President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee any way possible. If the nominee had been a man, they might have tried to dig up an old photo of him cheerleading or figure skating. Plus, there are plenty of more recent photos out there of Elena Kagan that are more professional, judicial, if you will. They had to really do an historical search to dig up that old softball photo.
Let’s review the clues. Kagan has short hair. She is “single” or at least not married to a man. She has no children. She is a powerful woman who has risen to the top of her profession. OMG, now that I think of it, Candolezza Rice must be a lesbian too! She fits this description AND she is a huge football fan.
I haven’t see Kagan’s shoes in other photos, so I am not sure if they are comfortable or not. No data there. She, as far as I know, hasn’t shown up for her meetings with Congress people today in a flannel shirt. No one seems to know what her musical tastes are. Melissa Etheridge? kd lang? Who knows? And who cares, really? As long as we know she played softball one time at some point in the past, that pretty much nails it, don’t you think? She must be a card carrying member of Lesbian Nation. Now, isn’t this whole conversation ridiculous?
Whether or not the WSJ intentionally tried to imply that Kagan is a lesbian by associating her with softball, the BIGGER questions are: Why is this photo getting so much attention from all sides of the political spectrum including LGBT activists? Why does the lesbian softball player stereotype live on despite the best feminizing efforts of Jennie Finch and hundreds of other young softball players playing in make-up and brightly colored ribbons decorating their long blond ponytails? What’s the problem if we do have a lesbian softball player Supreme Court nominee? And most of all, what’s Elena’s Kagan’s love life got to do with it, as Tina Turner asked several years ago.
That said, would I be happy to have a lesbian Supreme Court Justice? Sure, but I’d rather have someone who could help stand up to the right-wing ideologues whose judicial activism have pushed the Court so far to the right that anyone left of Attila the Hun is viewed as a drooling crazy ass radical anarchist tool of Satan.
But, enough of that. Let’s get back to the lesbian softball question. I will be curious to see whether or not USA Softball seizes the opportunity to capitalize on the photo. “Look, Supreme Court nominees play softball. That’s great for our sport. Let’s get her to throw out the first pitch at our next exhibition game.” The problem, of course, might be that the possible lesbian insinuation that has been raised about the photo might trigger the latent homophobia of USA Softball. They prefer to promote the heterosexy players with make-up and ribbons, not the girls with short hair, no ribbons and naked faces.
Unfortunately, the lesbian label is still a powerful tool, in and out of women’s sports, wielded by anyone who wants to make a strong woman back down. Calling a woman a lesbian is like saying she isn’t a “real” woman (which, of course means heterosexual and attractive to men). Calling a woman a lesbian is an attempt to discount and trivialize everything else about her: her professional or athletic accomplishments, her personal character, her womanhood.
As for me, I like the idea of a woman with an athletic past becoming a Supreme Court justice whether she is a lesbian or not. When you look at that photo of Elena Kagan in the batter’s box ready to take a cut , her stance is pretty good. She looks solid. She looks like she is having fun. She looks like she could knock it out of the park. But does it mean she plays for my team (wink, wink), only if you buy those tired old stereotypes that strong women, women who play softball, women with social or political power just must be big old dykes… I wish.