Elena Kagan: Plessy vs. <i>Seventeen Magazine</i>

There is a story in thethat is so horrendous I almost don't know want to mention it. It criticizes Elena Kagan's fashion choices.
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There is a story in the Washington Post that is so horrendous I almost don't know want to mention it. It criticizes Elena Kagan's fashion choices. It's written by a woman. It so perpetuates things that have not furthered either Elena's or my own life (and she's done well) that I almost can't bear to repeat (promote) it, but I also cannot bear to turn away.

Talk about prejudice -- bigotry if you want. Perhaps this is a final frontier. We no longer use skin color to judge the content of a person's character, but we still judge women by their skirt lengths, and often harshly.

It's 2010. I thought we were further than this. But this woman -- whose name I will not mention -- her story was in the Washington Post. As in Kay Graham, Washington Post? Really. So I don't want to give her any further acclaim. But if there's anything I know about Elena Kagan -- and I don't know her from Adam -- if there's one thing about her journey I just might understand, it comes from the fact that she and I are both Jewish American women of exactly that same certain height and age, doppelgangers (except for the Harvard Oxford Supreme Court nominee thing), and... some might say, and here in America, that's not always so easy.

So criticizing Elena is criticizing me. Trust me, I rarely see anyone who looks a bit like me on the national stage, let alone the cover of Jewish American Princess Magazine (sold only at our "Take Over the Media" Seminars)!

That's why I'll defend her against this scurrilous story. I'll refute her attack, bullet point by bullet point, using the same sentences she and I learned to diagram back in the first grade (1966). I know she did, because we were both smart girls. Indeed, like I said, looking at her is kind of like looking at my doppelganger, except that I'm me and -- remember? SHE is A Freaking SUPREME COURT NOMINEE.

Never mind. It doesn't matter. It certainly didn't deter people from calling her a lesbian (short hair)? Unmarried?? Me, too...

I will share the slings that were aimed at poor Elena. And please don't think I am being disrespectful by referring to the Inspector General by her first name. Like I said, I won't use the name of the (female) writer of the Post's article. No, like the victims of criminals, if you don't name people, they can't get power over you.

Now, there might be some who think I am overstating my point. But unless you've had this kind of ambush done on you -- from a fashion magazine to your friend to the local coffee hangout -- you can't really imagine the cross this poor (Jewish) Elena has had to bear.

I mean, this faux 'Fashion Policewoman' was talking about her attire! If there's another thing about Elena that I know, it's that she was busy looking at her law school library books, not gazing into the Harvard bathroom mirror. I know! I know, because in 1978 -- the year we were both freshmen -- I was myself curled up at UCLA's URL Library, which we nick-named 'earl', as in, "I have a date with Earl." I can imagine that Harvard's bathroom -- though pricy -- had very terrible lighting. I had MY hair criticized, too! Elena, can you hear me?

I do need to remember, that not everyone is Elena and me. In fact, it's a great big world out there, and half men, so why don't we all pretend, just for a moment, just so this makes SENSE to those of you who are used to a 24/7 news cycle that squeezes the most complex of issues down to their most simplistic beat -- why don't we pretend that every time Elena Kagan crammed for a law final or wrote a rough draft of a law paper, let's pretend she got a BREAST IMPLANT, instead. I know it's rough, but bear with me. Pre-tend!! Because if I'm going to be like anyone in the story, and believe me, I'm no one -- I'm just me -- but I would tend to be more like Elena K (K-Brain). I have sat in libraries far more than have gone under any knife. In fact, if you would ask me how many library cards I currently have, I'd play demure. (6, hot)?

Now, just to be fair, if someone has given our 'Unnamed Hen' a fashion column in a prominent Washington DC paper, then she had a right to write it. And in all fairness, she does start out mentioning Justice Samuel Alito's nomination outfit as "a forgettable blur of Washington's standard dark suit, red tie, white shirt." "Perhaps their unremarkable appearance was reassuring," she tells us. "After all, the position they aspired to is freighted with so much serious responsibility." Well. She's right. It is serious, this being a Supreme Court Justice. Maybe I should cut her a little slack. I mean, here in America, don't we have room for everyone's opinion? Indeed, isn't that our nation's very point?? But why, oh why, did this 'Write-tress' follow it up with this?

"Elena Kagan took the anti-style offensive several steps further," she writes. "She put on rouge and lipstick for the formal White House announcement of her nomination, but mostly she embraced dowdy as a mark of brainpower." Well! As someone who has brainpower, medium-length hair -- and don't forget those six library cards -- I'm a bit floored. I had surely hoped in these NEXT decades of our lives, Elena -- that we'd come further than this. Didn't AARP Magazine just call us the 'new hot fifty'?? Valerie Bertinelli was on the cover! But someone who loves me recently said, "You know, maybe at fifty, it's time to lose your backpack... and your convertible, as well." Well, okay. Maybe that's simply life AND Judaism, that we all have to put up with a critical comment from time to time. But, let's see what this woman followed yours up with. An apology, maybe??? Let's see...

"Elena Kagan walked with authority and stood up straight during her visits to the Hill, but once seated and settled during audiences with Senators, she didn't bother maintaining an image of poised perfection. She sat hunched over. She sat with her legs ajar."

I see maybe I should have put you on 'ignore', you WashPo Tigress. For after explaining exactly what Elena WAS wearing at the nomination -- "emerald-green jacket, black underpinnings, sheer black hosiery, sturdy black pumps, a strand of pearls and matching earrings" -- "We connect brains with bad clothes," she concludes sadly.

Oh, dear. What a dimwit! You'd be so much easier to 'ignore' if you weren't in the Washington Post!

Ms. 'Post-It' then goes on to mention the different fashion rules Washington DC has -- different rules for a different culture, she reminds us -- then uses those famous Senators From the State of Cosmetic Surgery, Kim Cattrell and Sharon Stone as our over-50 barometers. Now, you might wonder -- just here between us -- "...if maybe Sharon Stone's had just a little bit of plastic surgery?"

You know what? It's a great big rainbow world I thought we all lived in. And I am also denigrating my fellow cougars when I mock poor Sharon Stone, as well. Still, aren't you sick and tired of people being used as barometers? (And this was written by a woman)!

But I might have been able to have just left this all alone, ladies and gentlemen, except now Ms. 27/38 Levi's had the temerity to state this, and things became personal: "In the photographs of Elena Kagan sitting and chatting in various Capitol Hill offices, she doesn't appear to ever cross her legs. Her posture stands out because for so many women, when they sit, they cross. People tend to mimic each other's body language during a conversation, especially if they're trying to connect with one another. But Kagan keeps both feet planted firmly on the ground. Her body language will not be bullied into conformity."

Hmm, dear woman who will remain unnamed. Do you not know anything about any one person who is not your Self? Please read the Huffington Post article on "Are you Highly Empathic?" For you are not.

"She does not cross her legs at the ankles either, the way so many older women do," she adds, breathlessly. "Kagan sits in her sensible skirts, with her legs slightly apart, hands draped in her lap. The woman and her attire seem utterly at odds." I am giving you a moment to lean forward and swallow your coffee, friends. "Elena Kagan is intent on being comfortable," she writes. "No matter what the clothes demand. No matter the camera angle."

Not like, Sharon Stone, who I've never met, but let's just say. (Elena, you are one kooky brainiac gal)!!

Here's one observation.

I hope you are as thrilled as I to hear this devastating intuit that Elena Kagan's sole purpose in life, at least while sitting in a high chair, might be to be comfortable. As someone who wanted to award an Oscar to my friend when she described her sweatsuit as "something you can sleep in AND go to the store," -- which was what HER 50 happened to be all about -- if there's one thing MOI might be able to guess about Elena Kagan's seeming-to-enrage push away from her plush leather chair's rear, it could be that her legs are too short to box with God OR reach the floor. In fact, yes, as someone who has been laughed and honked at, countless times at parking ticket booths (do y'ALL have jungle gym arms)?, trust me on this one.

I'm still not sure why this was written. It adds nothing to a discourse that is already overflowing, filled with unpleasantries.

And yet, she has even one more bone left to pick off Elena. Yes, the Supreme Court nominees are well-aware of the photo-op nature of this event, this sister-chick assures us. "Elena Kagen knows the cameras are there," Ms. WashPo accuses her. "She just doesn't care!"

I'll lay off poor Sharon Stone, for just a beat. I'm reminded suddenly of Paris Hilton. That crazy-assed perp walk she did in vertical stripes. She's more what this crazy woman would have in mind. Except for, she's unmarried, too. Does that mean she's a lesbian?

Because wouldn't you know, that's where this woman with a column, but not you or I (discuss that amongst yourselves) now lands. It seems that for Elena Kagan, that means folks are using fashion as a limited tool for making sense of her sexual orientation (Well, she's 50, a bit plain and never married!) and then going on to the larger question of whether being gay or not matters on the high court. (Doesn't everything matter -- including whether one has a small-town background or an inner-city one -- in how one interprets the world)?

So, she doesn't exactly call her a lesbian. But she does mention the commentary, which is the next best thing to being there.

I heard the lesbian word way before I heard she was Jewish, btw. But these certainly are Lilliputian steps forward. (Hey, look at me, showing off my wares). Yes, Elena, you and I, both, front and center on the line at every single spelling bee. We didn't get picked for gym, not once, or rushed into a nightclub, but I could turn a head or two (my teachers', of course) with my spelling prowess.

And now, they have computer dictionaries online. Not that either one of us approves of it, entirely, this computer age. Better for us, the real-life search for information.

It was our Winter Sport, if you will.

I have looked much more like Elena Kagan than Paris Hilton, for all of my life. Just to say. At 50 -- I've never seen anyone ONCE resembling myself on a magazine cover ever. I'm talking the Washington Post and society -- magazines -- and in general.

Here in America, in a great big melting pot we call home, the idea that we would be judged by our value and not our looks -- Reverend King to Barack Obama aside (who is a very handsome man, which isn't talked about) -- still has not taken hold for women.

I mean, are guys talking about how hot she is? No? And if not, that's an interesting discussion -- then why not?

She was flirty with Sen. Leahy. "That's an arcane law, Senator," she said, batting her eyes underneath her downswept Madison Ave. 'do. "A thought just came to me." Isn't she playing coy with Sen. Leahy?? Why isn't that considered hot??? I am reminded of a scene in Broadcast News; wouldn't it be great if needy were a turn-on?

As she quite lovingly recounts Thurgood Marshall's opposition to de-segregation, I am reminded of Elena Kagan's own short-falls, in a still-bigoted society.

Women are held to a physical standard that is so high, no one could pass it. No one does. As someone who possesses six library cards and has lain on more library floors than one can count, I hope this could carry more currency than my skirt length. It does not, by the way. Where's Plessy vs. Seventeen Magazine? (Elena)??

Why doesn't she cross her legs? Maybe because she's too busy thinking deep thoughts. Maybe because she's not on a runway. Maybe because she's a 50-year-old orphan whose parents did not live to see their beloved daughter get on the -- Supreme Court, darling!! -- and she's alone and sad.


At a time when unemployment and the oil spill in the gulf could have threatened to use up the ink on the Washington Post's printed pages, it's good to see we're worried about the more important things.

I'm actually afraid to check the archives to see how much she liked Sarah Palin. But I betcha...