Justice Scalia Isn't Charming. He's Just Mean.

What Women Really Think
Oct. 7 2013 11:38 AM

Justice Scalia Isn't Charming. He's Just Mean.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
Nope, still not cute.

Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images

New York magazine published an interview with Justice Antonin Scalia this weekend, and right off the top, we're reminded of the common Washington wisdom regarding the conservative judge: He's just so adorable. "He is smaller than his king-size persona suggests, and his manner more puckish than formal," writes Jennifer Senior, who goes on to say that Washingtonians know Scalia as "charming and disarming."

You often hear this about Scalia, that he's got charm, that he's "merry," "gregarious," and "funny." Many of the same people who loathe his views find him downright delightful. But I must confess: I don't see it. There is nothing cute or funny about a mean old man railing on, as he does in this interview, about how terrible it is that he can't go to a movie "without hearing the constant use of the F-word—including, you know, ladies using it." I don't hear a cavalier wit when he belligerently defends believing in the devil by saying, "I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels!" There's nothing amusing about his description of gays as "destructive." I just hear a mean old bigot who is resisting modernity with every ounce of his being, the polar opposite of the cosmopolitan open-mindedness that leads to true charm and wit. He defends his unwillingness to engage in anything but right-wing media by saying, "[W]hy should I get upset every morning?" and then turns around and derides the younger generations for creating a "narcissistic society." That's not charm. Charm requires more self-awareness than this hypocrite has. 

Advertisement

Part of the problem is that American culture positions the cantankerous old coot as a charming figure of fun, which is easier than admitting that he's a nasty tyrant. We laugh indulgently when Grandpa makes jokes about how kids these days need to pull up their pants and get a job. We giggle when our uncle tells us that if we don't drop this feminism stuff, we're never going to find a husband. You've seen Grumpy Old Men, right? The coots often do it with a twinkle and a chuckle, knowing that it's unlikely anyone will actually push back (because elders, respect, etc). "Oh, that's just Scalia being Scalia again. Isn't that cute?"

It isn't cute. It's not cute when the relatively harmless old man at the coffee shop is rambling on again about how the rappers are ruining music, and it's even more grotesque when the cranky old man in question has real political power, as Scalia does.

There's a third option beyond just writing men like this off as cute or actively trying to argue with them: Start practicing the disdain for them they are so good at showing the rest of the world. It might feel unnatural after living in a culture that teaches that the proper reaction to the gruff old fart is to find his shtick amusing, but with practice, you'll soon find it easy to respond to Scalia or your local grumpy grandpa with the immortal phrase, "Christ, what an asshole."

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?