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Gloria Steinem: I Call BS

I never thought I'd have to choose between my race and my sex in a Democratic primary. I guess I should feel blessed for my choices. But somehow, I don't. And Gloria Steinem didn't help with her January 8 New York Times op-ed entitled, "Women Are Never Front Runners."

Ms. Steinem describes Barack Obama's career trajectory in a hypothetical, changing his sex to female:

The woman in question became a lawyer after some years as a community organizer, married a corporate lawyer and is the mother of two little girls, age 9 and 6. Herself the daughter of a white American mother and a black African father -- in this race-conscious country, she is considered black -- she served as a state legislator for eight years, and became an inspirational voice for national unity.

Be honest: Do you think this is the biography of someone who could be elected to the United States Senate? After less than one term there, do you believe she could be a viable candidate to head the most powerful nation on earth?

If you answered no to either question, you're not alone. Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House.

N.Y. Times, January 8, 2008

As they say on the housing bubble blogs, Gloria Steinem, I call BS.

First, Gloria Steinem has not had the "pleasure" of living in America as a woman of color. She will never know the double bind of race (other than white) and gender. From where I'm sitting, she's got no valid point of comparison, IMHO.

Second, let's for a moment consider the qualifications of someone most jurists would have agreed did not have the "biography" to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court: Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Unlike her predecessor in the glass ceiling shattering department, Justice Thurgood Marshall, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor didn't have the federal appellate court experience now considered required to even dream about sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court. (Note: I think the last law professor appointed to the court was Justice Felix Frankfurter, and I can't think of the last Justice appointed from a state supreme court). Not only that, she had spent the majority of her career as a jurist in an elected judge position -- four years with the Maricopa County Court -- followed by a two-year stint on the Arizona Court of Appeals. Not the Arizona Supreme Court, mind you; the Arizona Court of Appeals, Arizona's intermediate appellate court.

In short, President Reagan had to look long and hard to find a Republican woman like O'Connor. And he obviously had to overlook her lack of generally expected experience. Sure, Justice Marshall preceded her on the court, and well he should have: He had served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and as Solicitor General, not to mention his numerous arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the NAACP, including Brown v. Board of Education. I would suspect that he knew more about constitutional law when he took the bench than O'Connor did when she took the bench.

In fact, one might argue that -- dare I say it? -- O'Connor might have been less qualified than Justice Clarence Thomas.

Yet and still, despite her "biography," Justice O'Connor staked out and held the center of the court during the Burger and Rehnquist years. When I was in law school, my law school advisor, Professor Martha Minow, described the process of writing a brief for the U.S. Supreme Court back then: For the most part, you were only really writing to persuade O'Connor because you already knew how the rest of the Court would vote.

Yes, I'm aware that being nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court is different than running for and winning the Presidency, but to say that women are never the front-runners? I call BS. White women most certainly are the front-runners. Unlike Geraldine Ferraro, you didn't see Jesse Jackson ever seriously considered for the VP spot on the Democratic ticket. What the Democratic front runners back then wanted to know was, "What Does Jesse Want?," as if he were an annoying child to be dealt with and dispatched to round up black votes for the eventual "real" nominee.

Gloria Steinem continued: If the lawyer described above had been just as charismatic but named, say, Achola Obama instead of Barack Obama, her goose would have been cooked long ago.

Perhaps, but not because of her sex -- because of her race and sex. And this is an experience Gloria Steinem will never, ever know. And since she will never, ever know -- and isn't this the never-ending problem with the mostly white female "feminist" movement? -- perhaps she needs to talk to those of us who do know before lobbing such a half-baked op-ed piece to the N.Y. Times.

Now, if the "lawyer described above" had been just as charismatic but named Sandra Day O'Connor, she might have had an excellent shot at being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And who knows? Perhaps President Obama will appoint Hillary to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nah. She doesn't have any experience sitting on a federal appellate court.

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