AMY Coney Barrett, perhaps the most controversial Supreme Court nominee America has seen in years, has divided the nation – and not just in terms of opinion and policy, but on feminism.
Over the weekend, two duelling demonstrations took to the streets of the capital, both with the nominee at their centre.
Thousands descended onto Washington D.C. and other cities across America for Saturday’s women’s march to protest Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick and pay tribute to the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Meanwhile, a smaller counter-protest staged by the Independent Women’s Forum gathered outside the Supreme Court to express their support for the confirmation.
The demonstration wasn’t the first protest against Barrett’s nomination. Earlier in the week protestors gathered on Capitol Hill in the red robes and white bonnets of characters from The Handmaid’s Tale.
The demonstrators donned the handmaid outfits to protest the judge’s conservative stance towards women’s and reproductive rights.
The robes were particularly significant in relation to the fact that Barrett has been affiliated with the People of Praise religious community in which she was herself called a “handmaid”, the term previously used for high-ranking female leaders in the organisation.
The message of the marchers is clear – they fear Barrett’s confirmation will undo all the progress Ginsburg achieved in her fight for equal justice, and in doing so mar her legacy.
Ginsburg was a trailblazer. She lead a battle for women’s rights, voting rights, LGBTQIA rights with her intelligence, compassion and spirit, pried open the doors to countless opportunities for women and earned her title as the “’Notorious RBG’.
Barrett will slam shut the very same doors Ginsburg opened.
Where Ginsburg upheld Roe v. Wade, Barrett will likely seek to overturn it.
Where Ginsburg voted in favour of equal rights for the LGBTQIA community, notably in the landmark same-sex marriage case Obergefell v. Hodges, Barrett defended dissenters on the case.
Kamala Harris summed it up during last Monday’s confirmation hearings: “By replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with someone who will undo her legacy, President Trump is attempting to roll back Americans’ rights for decades to come.
“Every American must understand that with this nomination, equal justice under law is at stake.”
Furthermore, some Americans claim that Trump’s nomination of a female is actually a symbol of honouring Ginsburg’s legacy. However, it is in fact a sexist move. It simply demonstrates that the President sees women as unidimensional figures who are interchangeable with one another and disregardable as independent thinkers.
People need to realise a Judge’s legacy has nothing to do with their demographic, but rather their political ideology. Although she is a woman, Barrett’s nomination does not honour Ginsburg’s legacy, it diminishes it.
Replacing one woman with another isn’t progressive. It isn’t feminist. And it certainly isn’t respectful. It’s tokenism. Placing another female judge in the place of another doesn’t guarantee representation for the entirety of the female population of America. A fact Trump is seemingly blind to.
It’s doubtful that Ginsburg would find it an honour to be replaced with a judge who opposes her ideologies, female or not.
The first women’s march came the day after Trump’s inauguration. If women feared for their rights then, they must surely now.
The grief and despair of these female protestors over her loss is truly justified, especially when President Trump has specifically chosen a candidate that will assault the exact rights Ginsburg fought for.
Not only is their grief justified, but it should also be used to defend and honour her legacy.
However, they must be considerate of how they do so.
In an op-ed for the Detroit News, Jennifer Braceras claimed that “feminist attacks” on Barrett actually dishonour Ginsburg’s legacy. And while it’s tough to agree with the entirety of the article, it raised an interesting point.
Many of the criticism or arguments against Barrett since her nomination have been personal, not political.
As a mother of seven, including two adopted children from Haiti, she has come under fire for her role in both the domestic and professional spheres.
Journalist Vanessa Grigoriadis came under fire after questioning Barrett’s ability to be a “loving, present mom” to her seven children whilst a Supreme Court Judge. A question a male nominee certainly wouldn’t face.
By attacking her personal life, we are no better than the men who use our gender and femininity to oppress us.
We are not a demographic block. We are individuals with the right to hold our own individual opinions, and we expect to be treated as so. Therefore, we shouldn’t attack another woman on a personal level if she doesn’t conform to the same general political beliefs as ours. Rather, we should use the platforms we have to voice our own opinions, stand-up for our rights and politically debate those we disagree with.
Ginsburg was the trailblazer for understanding gender quality and sex-based discrimination in the eyes of the law and profession. She wanted women to be treated as freethinking individuals and respected, regardless of whether they would agree with her own ideologies. By using Barrett’s personal life to tear her down, they are also dishonouring Ginsburg’s legacy.
The women of America have every right to protest and demonstrate Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination. But they should do it on a political basis, not through an attack on her family and her motherhood.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg never let a man silence her. And in the wake of her death, American women should refuse to let the most powerful man in America silence them.
However, they should fight her nomination as they would the nomination of a man, through the debate of policy. It should be a political fight, not a personal attack.
Yes, the President and the Republicans are threatening their rights through this nomination, but as another feminist icon Michelle Obama said: “When they go low, we go high.”
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