When I need to work up my nerve to write a tough column, I try to think of myself as Emma Peel in a black leather catsuit, giving a kung fu kick to any diabolical mastermind who merits it.
I think of you that way often, Mo, when I need to work something up!
There's an intense debate going on now about why newspapers have so few female columnists. Out of what will soon be eight Times Op-Ed columnists - nine, counting the public editor - I'm the only woman.
While a man writing a column taking on the powerful may be seen as authoritative, a woman doing the same thing may be seen as castrating. If a man writes a scathing piece about men in power, it's seen as his job; a woman can be cast as an emasculating man-hater. I'm often asked how I can be so "mean" - a question that Tom Friedman, who writes plenty of tough columns, doesn't get.
Even the metaphors used to describe my column play into the castration theme: my scalpel, my cutting barbs, razor-sharp hatchet, Clinton-skewering and Bush-whacking. "Does she," The L.A. Times's Patt Morrison wondered, "write on a computer or a Ronco Slicer and Dicer?"
Some men are extra sensitive about that shit since Lorena Bobbett "acted out" men's worst fear, Mo. Some men either have no visible reason to fear castration, or should really be concerned about it. Either way, they should take a long, hard look at themselves.
This job has not come easily to me. But I have no doubt there are plenty of brilliant women who would bring grace and guts to our nation's op-ed pages, just as, Lawrence Summers notwithstanding, there are plenty of brilliant women out there who are great at math and science. We just need to find and nurture them.
My favorite topic-specific columnists are men, like Friedman and Krugman, but my favorite general-purpose columnists are women. I like to read female bloggers, too. There's certainly no dearth of brains and opinionatedness on the distaff side, or "the better half" as us married men have learned to call it.