The Thinking 
Page 1 of 11

Anti-Woman Women

July 15, 2009


The idea that women in power are more sympathetic to women is false. This notion has been used countless times to justify the choice of women over men as lawyers, judges, and politicians. In fact, women in power are often actively anti-woman, despising the very things most women cherish.

Here is a good example. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg talks with dripping disdain of women who regret having had abortions. Emily Bazelon is the interviewer:

Q: Since we are talking about abortion, I want to ask you about Gonzales v. Carhart, the case in which the court upheld a law banning so-called partial-birth abortion. Justice Kennedy in his opinion for the majority characterized women as regretting the choice to have an abortion, and then talked about how they need to be shielded from knowing the specifics of what they’d done. You wrote, “This way of thinking reflects ancient notions about women’s place in the family and under the Constitution.” I wondered if this was an example of the court not quite making the turn to seeing women as fully autonomous.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: The poor little woman, to regret the choice that she made. Unfortunately there is something of that in Roe. It’s not about the women alone. It’s the women in consultation with her doctor. So the view you get is the tall doctor and the little woman who needs him. [emphasis added]

Ginsburg goes on to speak contemptuously of housework, seemingly unaware that a major reason why women do more housework than men is because they want to do it. She laments the fact that the legislature has not acted more aggressively to overturn this state of affairs and require men to make the beds and do the laundry. Too bad the highest court has no jurisdiction here:

Q: In the 1980s, you wrote about how while the sphere for women has widened to include more work, men haven’t taken on as much domestic responsibility. Do you think that things are beginning to change?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: That’s going to take time, changing that kind of culture. But looking at my own family, my daughter Jane teaches at Columbia, she travels all over the world, and she has the most outstanding supportive husband who certainly carries his fair share of the load. Although their division of labor is different than mine and my husband’s, because my daughter is a super cook.

Q: Can courts play a role in changing that culture?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: The Legislature can make the change, can facilitate the change, as laws like the Family Medical Leave Act do. But it’s not something a court can decree. A court can’t tell the man, You’ve got to do more than carry out the garbage.

Bader would like to see the legislature “facilitate” the arrangement of household duties. What does she envision? A Family Chores Bill? Her daughter is a “super cook” and travels all over the world at the same time. Poppycock. This reminds me of a Wall Street Journal interview last year with women chief executives. One of the women claimed that she spent 90 percent of her time out of the country and yet also cooked a hot breakfast for her young son every day. Feminists lie about their home lives.


Sonia and Sarah

July 15, 2009


It is interesting to contrast and compare two of the most prominent women in American politics this summer. They are dramatically different figures.  Let’s leave aside their sharply differing political views for a moment. It’s interesting to look at these women simply as models for women.

What do they have to say to the young women of America about their hopes and dreams? Sonia Sotomayor is far less dangerous in this respect than Sarah Palin.

Sotomayor has justified her radically feminist speeches on the ground that they were purely inspirational. She was trying to motivate young women and Hispanics to succeed in the tough realm of law. This is a poor defense for her remarks and no disavowal of the content of the speeches. But, the question here is this. Is she truly inspirational?

Sotomayor is the sort of woman whose life speaks honestly to women who wish to reach the pinnacles of law. It shows what sacrifices are involved. Sotomayor is divorced and has said publicly that her work contributed to the break-up of her marriage. She has no children. She is manly in manner and appearance. Young women look at Sonia and realize that they must make real choices. In other words, she is inspirational, but only to those willing to pay the inevitable costs.

Sarah, however, offers an image that is an illusory bargain. She has five children, a handsome husband, a pretty face, and a feminine style. Young women look at Sarah and think, “Ambition carries no price. I can have it all.”  Sarah, for all her populist charm, is removed from real life. Many women who try to emulate her will find themselves with haphazard homes, few children and divorce. It’s a bargain they cannot replicate.

Sarah lives the feminist dream. Sonia lives the life of the female exception.


Sonia Sotomayor at her eighth grade graduation


Women’s Vote: the Silent Debate

July 15, 2009


The women’s franchise seems to be the deadest of dead issues. To express the opinion that it has been damaging to the country at large is to relegate oneself to the marshy backwaters of political discourse. Unless, of course, you’re a billionaire, such as Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal, who expressed in a recent article that the women’s vote has ruined chances for libertarian-style democracy. He is so despondent about the nation’s future, he is putting his hopes in seasteading and outer space communities.


Read More »


The Symbolism of Sarah

July 15, 2009


Sarah Palin is not simply a personality. She is an idea. From the moment she stepped through the gates of national politics, she presented herself as a normal all-American mom. People went gaga. The hockey mom routine was a sensation. They roared with approval, not just at the convention but all across the country in the aftermath of her speech. It struck a chord because of what it said about women. They can be aggressive and maternal with no inherent contradiction between the two. Things are not as bad as they seem! People who reject her for reasons other than, or in addition to, her political inexperience know this is a dangerous illusion.

Page 1 of 11