There is a very interesting article up at Jack and Jill Politics. I am going to get you started and you can finish reading it over there.
Some folks are wondering why questions of sexuality are bring raised for Elena Kagan when they were not done for Sonia Sotomayor. In my mind, it boils down to something fairly basic:
Kagan is white and Sotomayor is not.*
Let me explain. For the type of people who are fond of profiling, Kagan fits the description: white, unmarried, intellectual, not terribly “attractive”. Black or Latina women that fall into that same line aren’t questioned on their sexuality because they don’t “seem” gay; they’re just cast as accomplished yet pitiable career women who have little hope of snaring a mate with whom to settle down.
In the American conscience, to be a lesbian of a certain age is really just shorthand for being a feminist; a card-carrying member of NOW and an acolyte of Betty Friedan. While I won’t go so far as to say the sexual aspect of the questions regarding Kagan’s sexuality are irrelevant, I will say I think these inquiries are more a petty and contemptuous probing of her feminism. (I strongly doubt the president would have the stones to nominate a possibly gay man for the bench since male sexuality whips people into a different kind of frenzy).
It’s the radical feminist menace that ruffled the old boys’ feather and the representatives of that menace were overwhelmingly–and often deliberately–white.
The feminist movements in the United States had parallel histories split between the predominantly white–and highly exclusionary–narrative and the one that included women of color in this struggle. The former was able to set the tone in many regards and became the face of “what a feminist is.”
For many, feminists are merely smartypants white women that hate men and don’t do as they’re told. Given this perception, the “oh, well she’s probably a lesbian” coup de grace wasn’t/isn’t exactly a leap. In many ways, it’s the white version of being called uppity.