Monday, July 13, 2009

Suburban Mom's Political Fix: Palin's Meta-Working Mom Tale & Women on the Supreme Court

Palin's Meta-Working Mom Tale

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's shocking resignation continues to generate comment, analysis and interest. An image of Palin signing a toddler's dress takes up a third+ of the top half of the front page of the New York Times, 10 days after her ambiguous July 4 Eve press conference. The Times story paints a woman who's feeling so besieged and stressed out that her hair has thinned and her friends worry that she's become underweight.

I joined the fray of analysts and deconstructed Palin's resignation in my Pop Culture column this week by saying that what you think about her and her decision to quit mid-way through her term, depends largely upon your political perspective and your life's experiences. For me, I view her story through a working mom prism.

Women on the Supreme Court

The only female jurist currently sitting on the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsberg gave a fascinating interview to the New York Times Sunday Magazine in which she talked at length about her experience on the Court and how being female has affected her experience. Among the questions she fielded was about how having only one or two women on the Supreme Court affects deliberation.

When asked why it matters to have women on the Court, Ginsberg invoked the Sotomayor confirmation hearings saying, "It matters for women to be there at the conference table to be doing everything that the court does. I hope that these hearings for Sonia [Sotomayor] will be as civil as mine were and [Justice] Steve Breyer's were. Ours were unusual in that respect."

The exchange below I found particularly intriguing:

New York Times: Did you think that all the attention to the criticism of Sotomayor as being "bullying" or not as smart is sex-inflected? Does that have to do with the rarity of a woman in her position, and the particular challenges?

Ginsberg: I can't say that it was just that she was a woman. There are some people in Congress who would criticize severely anyone President Obama nominated. They'll seize on any handle. One is that she's a woman, another is that she made the remark about Latina women. [In 2001 Sotomayor said: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."] And I thought it was ridiculous for them to make a big deal out of that. Think of how many times you've said something that you didn't get out quite right, and you would edit your statement if you could. I'm sure she meant no more than what I mean when I say: Yes, women bring a different life experience to the table. All our differences make the conference better. That I'm a woman, that's part of it, that I'm Jewish, that's part of it, that I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and I went to summer camp in the Adirondacks, all these things are part of me.

Once Justice [Sandra Day] O'Connor was questioning counsel at oral argument. I thought she was done, so I asked a question, and Sandra said: Just a minute, I'm not finished. So I apologized to her and she said: It's okay, Ruth. The guys do it to each other all the time, they step on each other's questions. And then there appeared an item in USA Today, and the headline was something like "Rude Ruth Interrupts Sandra."

Ginsberg is likely to be joined soon by Sotomayor, who's going through the Senate confirmation process where she'll be asked to defend/explain some of her more controversial statements, particularly the Latina woman quip. One thing's for sure, the Court needs women. I cannot imagine what men would say or feel if the highest court in the land didn't have anyone representing the male half of the citizenry.

Image credit: Ruven Afanador/NYT.

No comments: