Why Kagan's Bald Ambition Is Good for Women

What Women Really Think
May 10 2010 9:57 AM

Why Kagan's Bald Ambition Is Good for Women


According to a New York Times profile of potential future Suprme Court justice Elena Kagan, the former Harvard Law School dean was openly aiming for the Court even in high school: She posed for her yearbook with a gavel and a judge's robe and included a quotation from Justice Felix Frankfurter. I'll bet that really stood out amidst the Fog Hat lyrics and big hair of her fellow Hunter High School grads in the '70s. But seriously: Kagan is described in this article as "cocky," "strategic," "extremely aggressive," and almost "calculated." A high school chum told the Times , "[The Supreme Court] was a goal from the very beginning. She did talk about it then."


That Kagan was so comfortable with her ambition from an early age is a great thing. Too often, women looking to advance in the political sphere try to mask their drive because it is seen as unfeminine-see the incredibly ambitious Sarah Palin, who said that she "never really set out to be involved in public affairs, much less to run for this office," after her nomination for VP. Democratic women shy from their ambitions as well: As Alexandra Starr pointed out in a DoubleX article from last year (about the openly striving Kirsten Gillibrand) , Nancy Pelosi "says she only ran after her then-dying predecessor, Sala Burton, begged her to." Kagan never pretended that her goal was anything but the Supreme Court, and rather than being punished for her youthful, unvarnished drive, it's paying off.

Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.



The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

The GOP Senate Candidate in Iowa Doesn’t Want Voters to Know Just How Conservative She Really Is

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The Supreme Court, Throughout Its History, Has Been a Massive Disappointment

Why Indians in America Are Mad for India’s New Prime Minister

Damned Spot

Now Stare. Don’t Stop.

The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
Sept. 30 2014 12:04 PM John Hodgman on Why He Wore a Blue Dress to Impersonate Ayn Rand
  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 2:36 PM This Court Erred The Supreme Court has almost always sided with the wealthy, the privileged, and the powerful.
Building a Better Workplace
Sept. 30 2014 1:16 PM You Deserve a Pre-cation The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.
Sept. 30 2014 1:48 PM Thrashed Florida State’s new president is underqualified and mistrusted. But here’s how he can turn it around.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 3:59 PM The Trailer for Taken 3 Is Here, and Guess Who’s on His Phone Again
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 2:38 PM Scientists Use Electrical Impulses to Help Paralyzed Rats Walk Again
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.