I received an email the other day from one of my email friends—that is, someone I have never met but have become very friendly with—and he made an interesting observation. He said he was reading Gail Collins’ book When Everything Changed, about the amazing changes in women’s lives since the mid-1960s, and he realized something that he wanted to share with me. He said, your critics have a habit of psychologizing their criticism of you. That is, instead of engaging with the substance of what I write, they look for some deep motive. This is simply a form of condescension, in this case, a male reaction to a female with whom they disagree.

He quoted Arne Duncan, who said, “Diane is in deep denial.” He quoted another critic who said that I was “angry,” though the critic didn’t say why I was angry. It all sounded like a version of the old saw that a feminist was acting as she was because of her hormones or some hidden grievance. We can’t take the little woman too seriously because she….

Now the emails that flowed between the New York City Department of Education and lobbyists for charter schools have been released and they continue in the same vein. I am described in them as “deranged,” a “dangerous crackpot,” “dishonest and platitudinous,” and “slippery.”

At no point does it appear that anyone discusses or debates my serious concerns about privatization. None of these men attempts to challenge or refute what I wrote. No, all these guys can do is to demean, condescend, and insult.

My correspondent put all this into context. These men are reacting by psychologizing my motives. Is that what men do when they think no one is listening and that no one will see their emails?