Monday, June 15, 2009

Sotomayor: Not a Meanie

The world is still afraid of powerful women.

SCOTUS nominee Sonia Sotomayor (ahem, Princeton '76!) is a "civil rights advocate...[with] nearly two decades on the federal bench," a judge with a "complete package of experience" in numerous levels of public service, and a "sharp and fearless jurist who does not let powerful interests bully her into departing from the rule of law." If confirmed, according to a press release from the White House, she'd have more federal judicial experience than any judge on the Court in the past century.

But her strong qualifications are met with accusations of a perhaps "too strong" personality. An article from NPR notes that her style has been called "blunt, even bullying," and unnamed attornies have described her as "'a terror on the bench,' 'nasty,' [and] 'overly aggressive.'"

This unflattering portrayal, however, may be symptomatic of America's lingering typecasting of women. A female, no matter how successful, is supposed to be more docile and passive than her male colleagues and counterparts; if she's opinionated and fearless, she's a bitch. The NPR article goes on to describe how Judge Guido Calabresi, former dean of Yale Law School, began keeping track of Sotomayor's questions (in court) and comparing them to male judges', only to state that he found "no difference at all" in style and content.

And when NPR listened to "two tape-recorded oral arguments in important cases" comparing her with her colleagues, they came to similar conclusions: "if Sotomayor sometimes dominates oral arguments at her court — if she is feisty, even pushy — then she would fit right in at the U.S. Supreme Court."

Feministing summarizes the issue well: she's "not meaner, just femaler."

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