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.