Knowing how to stand at the plate is a GOOD thing

So the other day I saw this WSJ front page, and the thought I had immediately was, “Well, she certainly knows how to stand at the plate.” And I almost posted that, but then my threat receiver went off. I could see me getting it from the feminists on the one hand — “You mean, … for a girl’…” And yeah, I guess that’s what I did mean, so that was only going to lead to more trouble.

Then I’d get hit from another direction because somebody would say I was suggesting Ms. Kagan was a lesbian. Which would lead to a lot of “no I’m not, but what if I was; are you saying that would be bad” yadda yadda and I just didn’t want to go there. So, as happens with nine out of 10 ideas for blog posts, it got dropped.

Now, I see that the WSJ has gotten into hot water over the picture for that very reason (and yeah, I’m behind on this “news;” I just saw an old Drudge Tweet about it while looking for something about her views on the Bill of Rights, silly me):

A spokeswoman for the Wall Street Journal said today its cover art was not intended as innuendo about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s sexual orientation after the paper’s front-page use of an image of Kagan playing softball provoked a mixture of irritation and amusement from gay and lesbian advocates.

“It clearly is an allusion to her being gay. It’s just too easy a punch line,” said Cathy Renna, a former spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation who is now a consultant. “The question from a journalistic perspective is whether it’s a descriptive representation of who she might be as a judge. Have you ever seen a picture of Clarence Thomas bowling?”

The vintage of the image, released by the University of Chicago, was a particular source of questions in the context of persistent, public chatter about the nominee’s sexual orientation. This isn’t exactly a whispering campaign, as the question — no longer particularly scandalous — has made it to the Washington Post and widely-read websites. White House officials have denied, on background, that Kagan is a lesbian.

“I think it’s strange that you’d go back 17 years to dig up a photo of someone who’s one of the most photographed women in the world today,” said Jenna Lowenstein, communications director for the National Stonewall Democrats.

“Personally I think the newspaper, which happens to have the largest circulation of any in the U.S., might as well have gone with a headline that said, ‘Lesbian or switch-hitter?'” grumbled the Dallas Voice’s John Wright.

The Wall Street Journal’s sister papers in the News Corp. empire are famous for cheeky cover photographs and thinly-veiled innuendo, and the Journal appeared to cross into the same territory earlier this year when it inserted a picture of New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger into a photo array accompanying an article on feminine-looking men.

But Journal officials ridiculed a question about the image, which also appeared among other photographs in the Times’s coverage of Kagan.

“If you turn the photo upside down, reverse the pixilation and simultaneously listen to Abbey Road backwards, while reading Roland Barthes, you will indeed find a very subtle hidden message,” said Journal spokeswoman Ashley Huston.

“I think your question is absurd,” said Journal Deputy Managing Editor Alan Murray in a separate email.

Oh, boy. All we need. Then I saw this from today, also brought to my attention by Drudge (who seems obsessed with the nominee’s sexuality):

By Howard Kurtz

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 16, 2010 The White House ripped CBS News on Thursday for publishing an online column by a blogger who made assertions about the sexual orientation of Solicitor General Elena Kagan, widely viewed as a leading candidate for the Supreme Court.

Ben Domenech, a former Bush administration aide and Republican Senate staffer, wrote that President Obama would “please” much of his base by picking the “first openly gay justice.” An administration official, who asked not to be identified discussing personal matters, said Kagan is not a lesbian.

CBS initially refused to pull the posting, prompting Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director who is working with the administration on the high court vacancy, to say: “The fact that they’ve chosen to become enablers of people posting lies on their site tells us where the journalistic standards of CBS are in 2010.” She said the network was giving a platform to a blogger “with a history of plagiarism” who was “applying old stereotypes to single women with successful careers.”


Back to the photograph: Personally, I thought it was a flattering picture that put her in a positive light. Hey, not enough people know how to address the plate properly nowadays, including a lot of guys. So put this in the nominee’s plus column, far as I’m concerned. I’d pick her for my team.

19 thoughts on “Knowing how to stand at the plate is a GOOD thing

  1. Brad

    I mean, look at her face in that picture. She’s really digging playing the national pasttime — or a reasonable facsimile of the national pastime, the version for women and out-of-shape men like me.

    It makes me warm to her.

    Now if she were playing football, I’d only have harsh things to say. Y’all know how I feel about that.

  2. Brad

    Yeah, that’s it. Since I also know how to stand at the plate, it would never work.

    Another thing I like about that picture (which was perfectly apropos to the situation, by the way — it showed a nominee ready for whatever the process throws at her) is that she has pragmatically and humbly choked up on the bat. She’s hefted the bat, felt its weight and balance, and understood she needs to choke up a little. That shows real expertise, but it also shows an understanding of her limitations (lack of upper body strength, which is why us guys NEVER have to choke up on the bat). No machismo here, no matter what they say.

  3. Burl Burlingame

    Absolutely terrible when a photograph of a Supreme Court nominee makes the person look like a pleasant human being.
    As far as metaphor goes — she’s at bat right now. Duh.

  4. Michael P.

    Most guys know how to stand at the plate, which explains why she does it correctly.

  5. Brad

    This is a good example of the sort of dilemma I find myself in when enforcing my civility standard. Generally, when Michael (and Walter before him, assuming they’re different people) tosses out one of his gratuitous personal insults (a reference to someone’s looks, or weight, or whatever — as though they weren’t actually human beings he was talking about, in public, in writing), I decline to approve it.

    But in this case, he illustrates the problem that this post is about. It should be ridiculous that this picture should say things about the nominee’s private life — or if it did say anything, that it would be a fit subject for comment. But — as I intuited initially — there are people who would make snide remarks, and that goes into one’s thinking when it comes to running a certain photograph.

    If I don’t use Michael’s comment, then that factor is missing from the thread. He serves as an illustration.

    I still would have used the picture, though, for the reason Burt just cited. She’s the nominee currently at bat.

  6. Bart

    Like it or not, there is a high number of women who play softball at the high school and collegiate level who are gay. So what? It is a fact and what are any of us going to do about it?

    I have no problem with Kagan being gay, that is, if she is gay. According to her close friends, she is not.

    The important question is not whether she is gay or not but what is her background and experience and is it sufficient to warrant her being confirmed as a supreme court judge? Does she have a questionable record of being an activist who is bent on re-defining the constitution or will she try to enforce the law, not make it?

    These are the important questions and answers that must be sought, by BOTH sides. Gender, race, or orientation issues are passe’ as far as I am concerned. We have blacks and gays who are conservatives and vote Republican.

    So far, all I have read does give me pause to believe she will be an activist, but then, Bush I thought Souter was a conservative.

  7. Bart


    When I played softball, I knew many guys who didn’t know how to stand at the plate. And, they were heterosexuals to the max. What is your point other than being a jerk?

  8. Ralph Hightower

    As Scooby Doo would say, “Rut roh”. Kagan is definitely a lefty batting left-handed. But judging from the clues in the picture, I am guessing that she’s right-handed.

  9. Mark Stewart

    The photo is worth a thousand words by itself. It’s about someone having fun – and possessing some skill in a company pic-nic kind of way. But I can’t say that all the editorial hand-ringing that’s tried to freight the image with “importance” is worth as much as the simple recording of a moment in time.

    What if the photo was taken .5 seconds later and showed her wiffing a high-arcing softball pitch?

  10. Kathryn Fenner

    Yeah, Pat, me, too.

    Look, I think Mark Stewart has a good point, except that there are people out there who do speak in code. To some, it shows she “regular folks”—to others, she’s a short-haired butch lesbian.

    We see what we’re looking for, I guess. I also guess that I’d rather spend time in the company of folks who see things as Mark Stewart does and not those who see confirmation of her sexual orientation.

  11. Burl Burlingame

    Here’s what matters. If Kagen connected with that pitch, she got some outfield.

  12. Brad

    And she’s devilishly crafty. The angle of the photo may be misleading, but she seems to be LOOKING left field, but positioning her feet for center-right. How can we trust her?

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