This past weekend, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away. Justice Scalia was nominated in 1986 to serve on the Supreme Court by President Reagan, and his death marks a vacancy on the Court.
Before people even really had time to digest the news, there was already talk about who his replacement would be and whether Obama would be the one nominating the newcomer. When I remarked to a friend that I hope his replacement is a woman, I was met with a response that struck me the wrong way.
“But haven't there been four?”
How I took it: But haven't there been four, already? At least it's not 1981 and we're anticipating the first appointment of a woman to the Supreme Court. It's not groundbreaking anymore. It's not a big deal anymore. There have already been four women -- should we really make a big deal out of another one?
And ... I'm calling bullshit. Why? Because he was right. There have been four female Supreme Court justices. Since 1789, there have been four female Supreme Court justices. Not even all at the same time. For some reason, I should be satisfied that there have been four women. I should be grateful. And I am. I'm so grateful for the leadership the women on the Court have shown. But that gratitude only extends so far. Because after I've had time to sit and think about the incredible women who have graced the highest court in the land, I get pissed. Why do I get pissed?
Because there have only been four women to sit on the highest bench in the United States. FOUR.
As young women, we're too often told we should be grateful for the benchmarks we have passed, and when we question the ones we haven't, we're told not to “make it about the woman thing."
*Cue eye roll emoji*
I think I will make it about the woman thing. Because the woman thing is important. Because about one-quarter of state legislatures are made up of women, despite us being half of the population. Because I look at Congress and think, She would make a great Supreme Court justice -- but can we really lose a woman senator? Because it's not enough for me to just say, “Oh, there are men who believe in women's rights and that's good enough.” It's not good enough. Experiences matter. And the women who share those experiences should be able to represent themselves instead of having to convince the men who make the decisions that our feelings on the topic are valid.
And if the roles were reversed? If men made up a fraction of public office, had never been elected as head of state, and had only had four male representatives sit on the Supreme Court in a 227-year period, meninists would actually have something to complain about. And they would feel completely justified in doing so.
I will not apologize for wanting to see another woman on the Supreme Court. I will not apologize every time I support a female candidate for office. And I sure as heck will not apologize any time I call out the sexist attitudes that are still so deeply ingrained in our culture when we talk about these topics. Apologizing for considering the “woman thing” means apologizing for wanting to be represented within the institutions that directly impact my life.
Every inch forward is a victory within itself, but we can't get complacent in striving for equal representation -- especially when the women we do have serving often represent similar backgrounds. We don't just need women. We need women of color, women of different social classes and cultures and religions and ages. We can't settle for good enough. We have to demand better -- for ourselves, our sisters, our daughters. As women, we stand on the shoulders of everyone who fought for our very right to vote. And, almost 100 years later, I can't decide if those same women would be proud of how far we've come, or disappointed because they expected more.
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