• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    Beata on Weighing the Benefits and Cost…
    Seagrl on Weighing the Benefits and Cost…
    Seagrl on Weighing the Benefits and Cost…
    Propertius on Weighing the Benefits and Cost…
    Propertius on Weighing the Benefits and Cost…
    Propertius on Weighing the Benefits and Cost…
    William on Weighing the Benefits and Cost…
    jmac on Weighing the Benefits and Cost…
    William on Weighing the Benefits and Cost…
    Beata on Weighing the Benefits and Cost…
    Beata on Weighing the Benefits and Cost…
    Beata on Weighing the Benefits and Cost…
    William on Weighing the Benefits and Cost…
    Seagrl on Weighing the Benefits and Cost…
    Beata on Weighing the Benefits and Cost…
  • Categories


  • Tags

    abortion Add new tag Afghanistan Al Franken Anglachel Atrios bankers Barack Obama Bernie Sanders big pharma Bill Clinton cocktails Conflucians Say Dailykos Democratic Party Democrats Digby DNC Donald Trump Donna Brazile Economy Elizabeth Warren feminism Florida Fox News General Glenn Beck Glenn Greenwald Goldman Sachs health care Health Care Reform Hillary Clinton Howard Dean John Edwards John McCain Jon Corzine Karl Rove Matt Taibbi Media medicare Michelle Obama Michigan misogyny Mitt Romney Morning Edition Morning News Links Nancy Pelosi New Jersey news NO WE WON'T Obama Obamacare OccupyWallStreet occupy wall street Open thread Paul Krugman Politics Presidential Election 2008 PUMA racism Republicans research Sarah Palin sexism Single Payer snark Social Security Supreme Court Terry Gross Texas Tim Geithner unemployment Wall Street WikiLeaks women
  • Archives

  • History

    December 2022
    S M T W T F S
     123
    45678910
    11121314151617
    18192021222324
    25262728293031
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • Open Thread
      Use to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.
  • Top Posts

Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, Red Tent Feminists and PF Flyers

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader-Ginsburg knows what it’s like to be the only woman in the room and she tells us all about it in a piece in the NYTimes today on The Place of Women on the Court.   I’d advise reading the whole thing in the July 12 edition of the New York Times Magazine.  The link above seems to be a shortened version of the post I read this afternoon and you may not get the full flavor of Ginsburg’s feminism.  Ginsburg may come off as soft spoken but she wields a big stick.  She knows herself in the best Greek tradition and she wants you to know it too.  She is a person who expects to be recognized as such.

She has some interesting and counterintuitive thoughts on feminism as well.  This Q&A was particularly revealing:

Q: What do you think about Judge Sotomayor’s frank remarks that she is a product of affirmative action?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: So am I. I was the first tenured woman at Columbia. That was 1972, every law school was looking for its woman. Why? Because Stan Pottinger, who was then head of the office for civil rights of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, was enforcing the Nixon government contract program. Every university had a contract, and Stan Pottinger would go around and ask, How are you doing on your affirmative-action plan? William McGill, who was then the president of Columbia, was asked by a reporter: How is Columbia doing with its affirmative action? He said, It’s no mistake that the two most recent appointments to the law school are a woman and an African-American man.

Q: And was that you?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: I was the woman. I never would have gotten that invitation from Columbia without the push from the Nixon administration. I understand that there is a thought that people will point to the affirmative-action baby and say she couldn’t have made it if she were judged solely on the merits. But when I got to Columbia I was well regarded by my colleagues even though they certainly disagreed with many of the positions that I was taking. They backed me up: If that’s what I thought, I should be able to speak my mind.

Q: Is that another example of how you’ve worked with men over the years?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: I always thought that there was nothing an antifeminist would want more than to have women only in women’s organizations, in their own little corner empathizing with each other and not touching a man’s world. If you’re going to change things, you have to be with the people who hold the levers.

Ohh, Ruth.  You are my kind of feminist.

Now, I am going to probably offend some people I hold dear and I sure as heck don’t want to dismiss their observations but the idea that men somehow envy women because of some unique quality that we possess is just dead wrong.  Maybe it was true 5000 years ago when men didn’t know the specifics of reproduction but it hasn’t been that way in a long, long time.  The history of women and their religions and the long lost matriarchy may be a very interesting subject but what motivates most people, both men and women, is power.  And since time immemorial, men have had more of it.

I attribute it to upper body strength.  Women are easily overpowered by men physically unless they are trained in self defense.  We can still see the results of the physical subjugation of women in countries like Sudan and Afghanistan where rape is used as a weapon of mass destruction.  But even in more developed societies, the physical strength advantage translates into anachronistic customs, transmitted through scripture and years of cultural indoctrination.  Men are worth more.  They get more attention in school, more opportunities to excel.  They are more believable.  They get better projects, more praise, bigger promotions.  As a result, they earn more and have more authority.  It’s just the way it is.

Some women have looked upon the patriarchy and decided it’s too big.  It’s pervasive, oppressive, demoralizing.  So, they retreat.  They look back upon the golden age when women were mysterious fertile creatures who mystified men and held their own meetings in the red tent.  A community of women, for women, about women.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s the kind of thing you want to do in your own free time.  But retreating to the company of women and insisting that it be called equal is, as Ginsburg says, antifeminist in the same way that segregation was racist.  Separate can never be equal.  (Prophylactic:  I realize that many women do not see themselves as retreating.  But there are quite a few who back off when it comes to full equality and seem to suggest that women can co-exist in some separate legally protected sphere.  Nah-gah-happen.)

If you want equality, you must stand in the middle of the room of men and demand that they treat you with respect and then hold them accountable if they do not.  Every time they screw up, they must be smacked on the nose with a rolled up newspaper until they are trained to not pee on your shoes.  They aren’t interested in your feminine mystique.  They could care less if El had an Asherah.  All they’re interested is whether they get more of the pie.  If you want your equal share, you have to demand it and act like a person first, woman later.

What Ginsburg didn’t discuss is the role of the post-feminist women who gave their support to Obama over Clinton in last year’s election.  They were equally anti-feminist because they failed to evaluate the candidates on their leadership qualities.  Their ability to turn their back on Clinton and not evaluate her fairly was supposed to somehow prove that they had transcended gender and race.  Instead, they were clobbered by race.  I found this comment by Unree at ReclusiveLeftist that sums it up:

Looking at white people over the last couple of decades, I’ve observed an increasing fraction of them eager to declare their opposition to racism. Especially white women but white men too. Commendable, I thought (and still think).

For white Americans in this demographic, Barack Obama offers a lot. He has carefully kept civil rights in general, and race in particular, away from his voting record and campaigns. He demands nothing from his white supporters. He causes no discomfort.

His greatest gift of all, of course, is fending off feminism. Obama is a boon to fauxgressive dudes and the women who want their favors. White supporters get to keep whatever privilege they now have–economic, gender-based, you name it–along with their self-label of progressive. For the cohort I’m thinking of, anti-racism is the best banner to cover up their misogynous resistance to gender justice. Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin had to pay the price.

I don’t think there is any doubt that women have taken a beating in the past 10 years, first from Republicans, then from the Democrats.  The PF Flyers who have their minds so wide open their brains have fallen out have set us back even farther.  As Ginsburg suggests throughout her interview, the struggle is not over yet and we have to continue to push forward, challenging cultural strereotypes and championing the personhood of women.

Ginsburg holds out hope.  I think she’s right that in the next generation, we are going to see the culture undergo a rapid change, discarding the stereotypes of the past.  There are more women in the workplace, with more education and with greater access to constantly evolving technological innovations.  Our presence and growing expertise will have a profound effect on the way we are perceived but only if believe that we are entitled to it.  Let’s hope that the new leadership of NOW will once again be a visible and vocal presence, demanding accountability for the gross sexism and misogyny of the past several years.   In the meantime, get out there, ladies, and be bold.  Make them take you seriously and whack them on the nose until they get the message.


Digg!!! Tweet!!! Share!!!

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Furl | Newsvine

Ricci don’t use that number

New Haven Fire Department

Yesterday’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Ricci v. DeStefano predictably resulted in lots of bloviating by gasbags who didn’t let complete ignorance of the court’s holding get in the way of releasing tons of heated air into the atmosphere.  Having actually read the 93 page decision I am happy to inform you that it is neither the end of Affirmative Action nor a repudiation of Sonia Sotomayor.

First of all a little background:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U. S. C.§2000e et seq., as amended, prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Title VII prohibits both intentional discrimination (known as “disparate treatment”) as well as, in some cases, practices that are not intended to discriminate but in fact have a disproportionately adverse effect on minorities (known as “disparate impact”).

When originally enacted Title VII only prohibited intentional discrimination in employment. A subsequent SCOTUS decision and later an amendment added employment practices that while neutral on their face had the effect of discrimination. An example of this would be a requirement that police officers be at least 5 ft 10 inches in height, because such a requirement would tend to discriminate against women and Asians because most of them could not meet that requirement.

An employer can still use “disparate impact” practices if the practice has “a manifest relationship to the employment in question” and there was no “legitimate alternative that would have resulted in less discrimination.”  Understanding Title VII is key to understanding the decision.  (The court spends a couple pages discussing what I just condensed into two paragraphs.)


The Facts:

The city of New Haven, Connecticut has been sued over racial discrimination before:

In the early 1970’s, African-Americans and Hispanics composed 30 percent of New Haven’s population, but only 3.6 per-cent of the City’s 502 firefighters. The racial disparity in the officer ranks was even more pronounced: “[O]f the 107officers in the Department only one was black, and he heldthe lowest rank above private.” Firebird Soc. of New Haven, Inc. v. New Haven Bd. of Fire Comm’rs, 66 F. R. D. 457, 460 (Conn. 1975).
Following a lawsuit and settlement agreement, see ibid., the City initiated efforts to increase minority representation in the New Haven Fire Department (Department). Those litigation-induced efforts produced some positive change. New Haven’s population includes a greater proportion of minorities today than it did in the 1970’s: Nearly 40 percent of the City’s residents are African-American and more than 20 percent are Hispanic. Among entry-level firefighters, minorities are still underrepresented, but not starkly so. As of 2003, African-Americans and Hispanics constituted 30 percent and 16 percent of the City’s firefighters, respectively. In supervisory positions, however, significant disparities remain. Overall, the senior officer ranks (captain and higher) are nine percent African-American and nine percent Hispanic. Only one of the Department’s 21 fire captains is African-American.

So New Haven tried to do the right thing:

Continue reading