May 12, 2010

Andrew Sullivan on Elena Kagan's "emotional orientation" — emotional orientation?

Apparently, there's a new euphemism. I hadn't seen this one before, and I haven't heard the argument for why it's a good one. Is it something like the way we started saying "gender" instead of "sex"? Maybe "sex" is something that people are supposed to keep quiet, and that makes it hard to insist that talking publicly about someone's sexual orientation is appropriate and important. But there are problems with the term "emotional orientation." It suggests that all of your emotions are centered around your sexual preference. Perhaps the term is intended to convey an argument that if you are gay and not open about it, your public persona is shallow and false.

Anyway, Sullivan says:
There are three possibilities, it seems to me, behind the kerfuffle over Elena Kagan's emotional orientation. The first is that her orientation is heterosexual and she is merely a dedicated career person who never had time for a date. The second is that she is lesbian, and she remains in a glass closet, and the Obamaites, revealing their usual tone-deafness on gay issues, never asked and blundered into this. The third is that she is a highly cautious political lesbian who has drawn a line around her real life in order to prevent her orientation being used against her - especially by the Christianist right.
He suspects it's the third and that Obama knows it and is going along with the cautious approach to forestall criticism from the right. Sullivan thinks that Obama doesn't mind "provok[ing] an outing from his 'left'" because then "senators [could] rally around the closet their generation cherishes and defend a person from 'charges' that invade her 'privacy.'"

Note the use of quotes— "left," "charges," "privacy." If it's not sexual orientation but emotional orientation, the revelation is not really an invasion of privacy? "Left" is in quotes, I think, because Sullivan is in the category of persons who are being provoked yet he still styles himself as a conservative.

If the left/"left" outs Kagan...
The president can say, appealing to the middle, that he respects privacy and has reluctantly allowed Kagan to come out under despicable pressure from people like me. 
Allowed Kagan to come out... Obama hasn't been keeping her in.
Then he dares the Christianist right to vote against her merely because she is a discreet lesbian. And so his jujitsu becomes a triumph for gay rights, and his nominee, who I suspect is far more left-liberal than anyone now believes, helps shape the court for a generation.
I'm not sure what he means to conclude here. The post is titled "The Kagan Rope-A-Dope?" and ends, after the part quoted just above with "Where's that rope again?" If you perceive that someone is playing Rope-A-Dope with you, you should choose not to take a shot at them when they are in that position. (The image is of a boxer leaning against the ropes looking easy to hit but in fact tricking his opponent to wear himself out taking harmless shots.) So why what does "Where's that rope again?" mean?

Is Sullivan saying he sees why he shouldn't try to out Kagan, because he doesn't want her — he thinks she's a big lefty! — on the Court? Or is he saying he should try to out her, because it would be "a triumph for gay rights"? If it's the latter, then he doesn't understand the term Rope-A-Dope and he's not even trying to maintain his conservative credentials.

He's looking for the rope — Where's that rope again? — but what is he planning to do with it? Maybe he intends to be the one playing Rope-A-Dope, and he's inviting people to take energy-expending shots at him. I'm not sure how that would work.

80 comments:

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Actually, "sex" and "gender" are different things, sociologically speaking. Sex refers to your biological category, but gender to your social/emotional/etc. category- what do you act/think/feel like in terms of society's sex roles.

Yes, I think that's stupid, too.

I suspect most people just say gender because sex feels like a borderline dirty word.

- Lyssa

Paul Zrimsek said...

"Rope-a-dope" is a phrase Excitable Andy also used during his early infatuation with Bush to describe (what less besotted people recognized as) that politician's mistakes. The only change is, now it's Obama who is too wonderful to pull a butch, and who therefore must be pretending to do so as part of some subtle strategery.

jayne_cobb said...

Sullivan really is desperate to get the word "Christianist" into the political lexicon isn't he?

MrBuddwing said...

What does Sullivan want? For President Obama to loudly proclaim that Kagan is gay, and in the next breath, loudly proclaim that it doesn't matter?

FWIW, Kagan's friends have come forward to say that she's not gay:

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0510/37114.html

Not that it's anyone's bloody business, anyway.

Word verification: pukst.

Scott M said...

Dear Andrew's orientation should be facing down the long axis a shark. He jumps them enough. He should be intimately familiar with them.

Chris said...

"I'm not sure what he means to conclude here."

Truly, Sullivan has a dizzying intellect.

William said...

Gays and homophobes have this in common: they both think that Kagan's emotional orientation will have some bearing on her understanding of the interstate commerce clause.

GMay said...

Nice to see Sullivan crawling out of Palin's uterus long enough to write his next braindead piece.

Chip Ahoy said...

The cynicism seen here in the comments and rejection of the premises of the article referenced cheer me vastly.

Hagar said...

And maybe she is just not that interested, one way or another. We do not know, which is as it should be, and I would very much hope it stays that way.

garage mahal said...

Some beltway kewl kids Sullivan had dinner with told him Kagan is gay. That would be the same beltway insider gossip he lectures us about that is so awful and destructive to our democracy.

shoutingthomas said...

Uh... why does any of this matter?

Got anything else to write about?

edutcher said...

I think the rope is Trig Palin's umbilicus.

former law student said...

has anyone said "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" yet?

I first heard gender substituted for M/F sex because sex was something you had after you met someone in a bar, while gender was something you were.

paul a'barge said...

Isn't "hysterical, whining, sissy drama-queen" an emotional orientation?

Just asking.

Scott said...

Andrew Sullivan has jumped the shark. What he says isn't even coherent anymore.

Scott M said...

Andrew Sullivan has jumped the shark. What he says isn't even coherent anymore.

That was uncanny.

Roger J. said...

Why in the world is what Mr Sullivan writes of import? Ms Kagan's sexuality is of no importance--I think she will be an adequate justice, but frankly that sets the bar for SCOTUS pretty low.

She's the equivalent of David Souter (Bush 41 IIRC)-- no paper trail and probably confirmable without a really nasty fight going into the fall mid terms.--She's replacing Justice Stevens so she cant be any more to the left.

Conservatives should harrass a bit during hearings, but now fall on their swords over this pick.

Kirby Olson said...

Is it fair to say that she is ugly? Most of the men on the court are normal looking men. Obama's nominees have been fairly ugly women.

Is it fair to say that?

Do we want ugly people on the top court? Can ugly people understand fairness?

She's not an elephant woman, and isn't violently ugly, but she's ugly. On top of it, the roots of her teeth show from all the smoking.

She's not quite Medusa, but she's moving in that general direction.

Maybe this is a woman that no one has ever wanted, because she is so ugly. Will she use the court to lash out at an America that didn't like the way she looked?

Maybe she just needs to go on that show where they do makeovers.

Her hair is really awful. Her teeth are bad. She's overweight. She looks stupid, even if she's smart, supposedly.

At any rate, I doubt if she could get any dates even with a Martian.

I would bet that even the Alien would give her a pass.

Is it too mean to note this kind of thing?

Kirstin said...

I've never heard of "emotional orientation," but I think there's such a thing a emotional adultery (Scarlett and Ashley, Vince and Amy).

"Christianist"??

AllenS said...

She smokes? Cigars? That could explain a lot about her sexuality. Or lack thereof. She has a humidor.

Jeremy said...

Kirby Olson said..."Is it fair to say that she is ugly?"

Just as fair as it is to say that you're a Cretin jerkoff.

Roger J. said...

Allen S--damn, I smoke cigars and my granddad was one of the original tampa cigar manufacturers--I didnt know that was a function of my sexuality; please advise before I fire up another one!

Roger J. said...

Jman returns, hilarity ensues

Scott M said...

Just as fair as it is to say that you're a Cretin jerkoff.

Why capitalize "cretin"?

EDH said...

Andrew, I think your car is running.

bagoh20 said...

I think it should be "Where's those ropes again?" when using the Rope-A-Dope, you are on the ropes, not the rope.

rocketeer67 said...

Pet peeve: "gender" being used when "sex" is the correct term.

"Gender" refers to language, "sex" to biology. Using "gender" to distinguish between male and female creatures is almost exclusively a mark of being undereducated or the overcredentialed (which in my experience often overlaps).

c3 said...

highly cautious political lesbian

Huh?!?

Professor, please stop reading Mr. Sullivan.

With all of his pseudo-intellectual machinations I wonder if this is a daily occurrence for Mr. Sullivan

george said...

Yes, but what does all of this have to do with Palin's womb?

Aridog said...

Why is that Sullivan weasel still in the US of A?

He had a drug charge, right? Oh, wait, it was Cape Cod and the charge was dismissed.

Slow Joe said...

"Christianist"

LOL

Because it's sooooo bad for gays in Christianist ruled lands, such as Bush's America.

It's pretty insulting to the victims of Islamists to pretend what we're dealing with here from the kooky fundies is anything similar.

But then, Sullivan never really thinks it through, does he? He needs attention, and he's really good at getting it, but his commentary on Kagan is just incomprehensible. I agree that she's a far leftist, and I think a lot of people are aware of it. Obama has lost nearly 20 percentage points on his approval since Sotomayor, so I expect to see some major fighting over Kagan. She will almost certainly make it onto the Court, but it will be a rocky ride. This gambit to use sex to distract will just make the Sullivan liberals look unprincipled again.

We can see the right not really pay mind to this aspect, and the left continuously bring it up, promising how it's really all about how the right is freaking out. No, Andi, you're the bigot again.

Lem said...

Sullivan is just jealous Chaz got a court to side with her while he cant get anybody to take his "conservatism" seriously.

bagoh20 said...

I don't get why anyone cares about this stuff. Unless, you fantasize about lesbians in black robes or something.

shoutingthomas said...

Here's an observation:

The number of unemployed in the U.S. is just about equal to the number of illegal immigrants.

Of course, I'm just a racist for noticing.

Wonder how this happened?

Somehow, this interests me more than whether some bureaucrat is a lezzie.

Why, I might add, is our intellectual class so obsessed with gays and lezzies?

Certain, gays and lezzies should occupy all our attention, but it's hard for this homophobe to understand why.

Please, please... I'm calling on my intellectual and cultural superiors to explain this all to me.

former law student said...

Listening to Lawrence Lessig debate Kagan's nomination with Glenn Greenwald on Democracy Now! right now, I thought I heard Lessig say that Kagan had not wasted time blogging her thoughts on legal matters.

Perhaps non-bloggers have an edge for Supreme Court nominations.

jayne_cobb said...

Given Sullivan's insanity on this subject, and most others as of late, I think it's about time that lefties and righties all come together and just agree that he is crazy.

Alex said...

I'll take Andrew Sullivan in a foxhole with me over that dirty Sarah Palin any day!

Alex said...

Sarah Palin's womb is the highest national security emergency. Quick, launch the nukes.

Fred4Pres said...

Elena is straight. She is into two guys, Ben & Jerry.

madawaskan said...

Hey-at least Andrew has a new obsession, Kagan is the new....dare I say it?

Vacuum?

madawaskan said...

Black hole?

Sofa King said...

Are we sure it was Sullivan and not one of his henchmen?

former law student said...

Extra Extra, Read All About It!

Elena Kagan outed as straight by law school roommate, as well as by college chum Elliot Spitzer.

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0510/37114.html

MayBee said...

It has become very important in the gay left community to enforce the idea that homosexuality is not about sex (not about the act of sex or to whom you are merely sexually attracted).
Thus the need to use the term "emotional orientation".

madawaskan said...

fls-

From the article you linked:

Another friend, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, a member of Kagan’s social circle at Princeton University, wanted to make the same point as Walzer. “I did not go out with her, but other guys did,” he said in an email Tuesday night.

Thanks Eliot!! for navigating that minefield...


Six Degrees of Not Gay....

Palladian said...

Of course Spitzer didn't go out with her— she doesn't charge.

GMay said...

If this doesn't make a good case for removing Andy from your blogroll, I'm not sure what will.

Richard said...

EVERYTHING is about sex with Sullivan. What a twisted man.

AJ Lynch said...

Too bad Kagan is not a Christianist as well. That would make Sullivan's fat empty head explode!

former law student said...

Thanks Eliot!! for navigating that minefield...

The man is picky -- married to an attractive woman like Silda and still has to roam off the plantation. I could have seen it if he had married someone who looked like Kagan.

AJ Lynch said...

FLS said:

"Perhaps non-bloggers have an edge for Supreme Court nominations."

I agree and would add Trappist monks, mimes and Joe [just the facts Mam] Friday to your non-bloggers as most likely to pass Senate scrutiny.

Freeman Hunt said...

My emotional orientation toward Andrew Sullivan is annoyance.

Freeman Hunt said...

I would like to watch the coverage of a candidate for any position that included no reference to identity politics of any kind but only experience, competence, temperament for the position, and the like.

Enough of having to hear about people being black or white or whatever, male or female or whatever, gay or straight or whatever. Enough. The media is so lazy. I think they go with identity politics coverage because that's so much easier than actual, substantial coverage.

c3 said...

Well if she never went out with Eliot Spitzer that a plus in my book.

Of course, is go out really what Eliot Spitzer does?

ricpic said...

Kagan's emotional orientation in a nutshell? "How dare you disagree with me, how dare you! Put that hater up against the wall...no, I'll pull the trigger."

Slow Joe said...

"I think they go with identity politics coverage because that's so much easier than actual, substantial coverage. "

Indeed, Sullivan is often lazy in this way.

He hints that Kagan is much more liberal than people realize, as though he has some cunning insight. his reasoning would be fascinating to read, of course. That's what people really want to learn about... how would Justice Kagan rule on cases?

But he was just pretending to have insight. Mysterious speculation. He doesn't want to bother with such a shore as actual policy analysis, so he sticks to this ID politics game.

Christianists vs Gays! FIGHT!

He doesn't articulate anything these 'christanists' have even said about this case. He's just whoring for attention with minimal effort. It's no shock he has employees fill his blog with brainless posts. Who could tell the difference?

AJ Lynch said...

Freeman:

"The media is so lazy".

Bingo! They love to write about the election races, who has how much in their campaign coffers but God forbid they report the differences in the candidate's positions or ask 20 hard questions of each.

Ricardo said...

"The man is picky -- married to an attractive woman like Silda and still has to roam off the plantation."

Unfortunately, attractiveness doesn't guarantee anything in a relationship. As the song goes: "If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife."

GV said...

Gosh, I love reading the comments. Even when they disagree their points make more sense than Andrew.

He has become the spokesperson for the non sequitur.

I agree with the notion that "emotional orientation" is there simply to distract us away from "Christianist".

Jim O said...

Does Elana Kagan really think in terms like "christianist," or has AS deluded himself into the belief that everyone has adopted his own personal vocabulary?

Randy said...

Shorter Sullivan: Kagan is a woman. Women are unreliable.

(For someone who supposedly opposes outing others, muscleglutes is devoting an inordinate amount of effort keeping the speculation going while pretending he isn't doing exactly that.)

michael farris said...

"It has become very important in the gay left community to enforce the idea that homosexuality is not about sex (not about the act of sex or to whom you are merely sexually attracted).
Thus the need to use the term "emotional orientation"."

This sounds reasonable, I've always assumed that homosexuality is at least as much about emotional attachments as physical acts.

LonewackoDotCom said...

There's a way out of this whole issue, and I've already told Al Gore I'm not interested. Sorry.

Scott said...

"Just as fair as it is to say that you're a Cretin jerkoff."

Ah, that's Jeremy, an all around delightful, engaging, educated, personable, fun, funny, romantic, fit, and liberal human being.

Scott said...

(He wrote that about himself.)

Scott said...

(While jerking off.)

Methadras said...

Emotional orientation as in she 'feels' like a homosexual? Or is Little Miss Sullivan so want to have every homosexual come out of the closet that he can't stand it when they leave their sexual orientation open for interpretation. She is such a douche.

SukieTawdry said...

I was taught that "gender" is a function of grammar (feminine, masculine and neuter) while "sex" is either male or female and determined by whether or not you sport the "y" chromosome.

So, if a female is emotionally oriented to men and sexually oriented to women, is she a lesbian or the average man? With the genderbabble that permeates the culture today, it's no wonder people are confused. When did the world get so complicated?

Scott M said...

When did the world get so complicated?

About a week after Dr. Spock (the psychologist, not the Vulcan) became a best-seller.

In all honesty, though, the world really isn't all that complicated. There is a very thin layer of "look at me, I'm important" stitched helter-skelter over reality that a simple helping of common sense usually rinses clean away.

The grime will continue to fog our societal gestalt until most of the Boomers have shuffled.

Quaestor said...

Oh, I do love this Christainist neologism. Sully has got me well and truly hooked.

Just think of all the new derivative words waiting to spring forth, such as Christianistism, christianistical (the lower case denoting the adjective), and the truly sublime christianisticality (as in "The christianisticality of the beastly Bushies leaves me breathless with indignation!")

wv: skefeg - an ancient Nordic omelet popular with viking gangers

Craig said...

Perhaps Sullivan is calling it an emotional orientation because, amongst gays, it's well-known that lesbians don't have sex. It's a generalization, I know, but I've been told it, first-hand, more than once.

Scott said...

@Quaestor: ROFLMGO!

Reminds me of a prof who was at the U of Minnesota and now at Harvard, Tom Conley, who would use the word Italianicity once in awhile. I also remember that he would wear these skin-tight knit shirts that would show off his his big butterfly gym pecs. Which at the time I wasn't much into, but hey.

wv:fednled ... a army travels on its stomach.

chr1 said...

Clearly, Sullivan has understood American Conservatism as well as America, and is not merely imposing his own 'emotional orientation' upon the rest of us with the shards of what once once a decent enunciation of conservative principles(however flawed).

Clearly his stable of sexually ambiguous, progressive content gathers and paymasters at the Atlantic still respect his opinion and his methods..

Please Ann, just ignore him (I know he still is slightly important) but just ignore him.

Slow Joe said...

"Please Ann, just ignore him (I know he still is slightly important) but just ignore him."

Sullivan is a huge traffic driver. People love to read criticism of Sullivan because he's just plain terrible.

el polacko said...

how often, when gay folks are the subject at hand, do comments go straight (if you'll pardon the expression) to scatological 'jokes' and/or horror over perceived sexual acts?
when i hear that someone is hetero,i don't immediately imagine what disgusting things might be happening in their bedrooms.. their lives are about more than that..but gay folks are not often given that same consideration. so i have no problem with the alternate term, emotional orientation, just to move the perception of gay people a little closer to being seen as whole people.
sully has, unquestionably, gone around the bend in recent years, but, stopped clock theory in full effect, he's spot on with this kagan thing. the great defenders of the political rights of gay people always head for the hills when confronted with a real live gay person. now, according to the dem/left it's some kind of horrible insult to suggest someone might be a lesbian ?!? her 'privacy' must be protected at all costs ?? funny how these privacy issues never come up for hetero candidates.

Earnest said...

Who is this Andy guy, and why is he so concerned about what's going on inside all these women's vaginas?

Gary Rosen said...

"Shorter Sullivan: Kagan is a woman. Women are unreliable."

As opposed to the rock-solid, imperturable Sullivan.

Omaha1 said...

So happy you blogged this. The Kagan nomination brings out the best in Andy - the misogyny, the bizarre theories, and of course the endless fawning over Obama's brilliance.

I like the "emotional orientation" angle but the thing I find most amusing about Sullivan's post is the thought of President Super-Genius hatching a tricksy scheme to use his "political jiu-jitsu" against those dastardly "Christianists". That really had me snickering.

Jeffery said...

Ann, I have always enjoyed your writing, but why are you giving Sullivan the time of day here? After his ferocious and very public tirades regarding Sarah Palin in the 08 campaign, he vaporized any intellectual crediblity he had left. Commenting on his writing gives the illusion that he is still able to conduct deep thought--he's not. Watch the video of any event the Cato Institute invites him to and watch how before the event ends, he engages in a shrill defensive diatribe against at least one other person he is on a panel with. Ann, my darling, just say "No" to Sullivan.