The Thinking 
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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


Graham, the Feminist

July 14, 2009


America’s women were unfairly and unnecessarily denied entry to the legal profession, Sen. Lindsay Graham said today during senate confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor. For years, women were asked only, “Can you type?” when considered for legal jobs. “Count me in,” Graham said, referring to hopes for many more women as lawyers and judges.

Given that almost half of all law students are women today, it’s uncertain why the South Carolina senator is anxious about their plight. He also said Iraq would be a better place if women were judges. In other words, the supposedly conservative Republican concurs with Sotomayor that male judges because of their sex cannot be trusted to protect the legitimate interests of both men and women. Graham made a show of criticizing Sotomayor’s famous remark about being a “wise Latina,” but he stunningly agreed with her point. Justice cannot be administered by predominantly male courts.

There seems to be no connection in Graham’s mind between abortion, which he passionately opposes, and the careerism of women. There seems to be no connection in his view between the deterioration in society and the already significant presence of women in many professions. In fact, he feels this trend has not gone far enough.

When the abortion issue is viewed in a vacuum, it leads to this sort of blind cheerleading for the very things that have led to a world with more abortion.  Who but a conservative can articulate the benefits to women of previous customary discrimination against them? Who but a conservative would take this public opportunity to explain to a world steeped in feminist history why so few women were lawyers and judges? Women did not seek to become lawyers and judges in large numbers for most of history. And, they were granted only limited entry for good reason: to protect the interests of children, women and society a large.

Sotomayor was likable. She defended her radically feminist speeches with aplomb. She clearly believes, despite her claims otherwise, that society will be better with many more women in the judiciary. “Life experiences enrich the legal system,” she said.


Legal Feminism

June 2, 2009


On my recent ballot for Common Pleas Court judges in Pennsylvania, eight out of the fourteen candidates were women. If the trend in law education continues, women could be a majority of lawyers in the coming years. About 47 percent of law school students are currently female, but women have been gaining steadily in undergraduate enrollment and graduation over men.

Of course, overall women lawyers do not accrue the same power and success as men. That’s for a funny reason. They just happen to be women, not neutered automatons. They just happen to bear and raise children and to enjoy caring for their husbands.

Still, feminist legal organizations remain at a fever pitch about the under-achievement of women lawyers. At an “unprecedented and historic summit” earlier this month in Texas, 150 top women legal leaders adopted the “Austin Manifesto,” calling for the elimination of “the barriers that have thwarted the advancement of women in the legal profession for the past several decades.”
They are demanding that 30 percent of equity law partners, tenured law professors and general counsel be women by 2015 and 10 percent of equity partners be minority women by 2020. They also intend to strong-arm the profession to “restructure the compensations systems to reward the full range of contributions by attorneys.” That’s code for over-compensating those who work less.

With more women in top positions, we are sure to get more of the sort of legal crusading typified by Sonia Sotomayor. Women like to bring the crusading spirit to almost everything they do. It’s downright scary in a judge.

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