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Sotomayor, Sexism, and the Supreme Court

When I was in sixth grade, a classmate told me that his dad told him that a woman could never be president because she'd "get all PMSy and probably ‘push the button' in one of her mood swings." This was in 1983, so that button she'd push was the "nuclear-war starting" button we all imagined on the big red phone next to the president's bed. I ended up hearing this argument more than one time in the course of my coming of age.

This was one of several comments I heard growing up that at once sickened and angered me - and definitely shaped the way I felt about women in leadership. Thanks to the truths my parents fed me, even at a young age, I recognized these comments to be sexist and ridiculous - and totally out of whack with how God equipped women and who God made women to be.

So throughout my life, I've cheered any time a glass ceiling has been shattered. Any time a woman has made it to where no woman made it before. When this happened in the political realm, I've cheered on and celebrated women on both sides of the aisle. Though I DO have a definite political preference and do not vote simply on gender, I still find myself rejoicing under the glass shards.

So I was ready to celebrate once again when I heard President Obama's nomination of Hon. Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court justice. While she wouldn't be the first woman on the court, as the mother of a Latina, I'm always thrilled for new role models for my daughter (and sons) who share part of their Latin heritage.

However, my celebration was halted by one of her widely reported statements. Unless you spent yesterday in a coma or a cave, you've heard or read this too. In a lecture on law and cultural diversity at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law in 2001, Hon. Sotomajor said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

This comment did not sit well with me. In fact, it fired up those the same angry and sick feeling from 1983. I searched in vain for "context" that would make this "okay." Maybe she was joking? Quoting someone else….? But no, she said it: that race and gender alone (or with varied experience) allow one person to reach better conclusions in the courtroom than someone of a different race and gender.

May27, 2009 at 12:33 PM

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