Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

The Girls Who Went Away

Anna Quindlen, an extraordinary writer whom I met through her book, One True Thing, has a sad and eloquent editorial in Newsweek speculating on the likely social implications due to the loss of Sandra Day O’Connor from the Supreme Court.

Quindlen writes;

O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice, was never known as a feminist firebrand. But she had what I think of as transformative experience, something that can’t help but suffuse your life and your mind. She carried within her the memory of what it was like to be reflexively devalued despite being smart and capable. I think it’s probably a good thing for a judge to have faced down that sort of organized systemic injustice. One argument is that it’s not supposed to matter, that judges are simply there to consider the statute as written, as though the law were algebra and its subject numbers. But jurisprudence is not math, and judges are not automatons but people who have been undoubtedly and sometimes mysteriously marked by what they remember, or choose to forget.

The appointment of Alito makes me wonder what is wrong with our educational system such that we could not find even one qualified woman lawyer anywhere in this nation to replace Justice O’Connor?

Thanks, Dawn!


  1. #1 Tabor
    February 28, 2006

    Guess which movie got movie of the year on Moviefone?

  2. #2 anonymous
    February 28, 2006

    “we could not find even one qualified woman lawyer anywhere in this nation to replace Justice O’Connor?”

    This irony will be lost on most people who think the two justices who were appointed were the best qualified.

  3. #3 Wheatdogg
    February 28, 2006

    Well, WE could have found qualified female candidates. Bush did not look much further than the office across the hall, and still fouled up.

  4. #4 Jim
    February 28, 2006

    I find this quote interesting. Anna complains about people being turned away although they are more than qualified to do their work, and decries this as a classical form of discrimination.

    But isn’t this the exact same remedy she is prescribing for the current court? Should we dump highly qualified judges because they are men?

    The saying “Hatred conquers you” applies well here. Anna’s article exhudes hatred – hatred of the past, hatred of men, hatred of a structure, hatred of a memory.

    When will we be able to move on from all this? Are we trapped in the past? As Anna sees it, the Supreme Court is off ballance because MEN are sitting on it instead of WOMEN.

    This sort of thinking is right out of the past, a place that, yes, Anna and others are familiar with. But this is the 21st century, and we’re all grown up now. Let’s try to forget the evils visited on us many years ago by individuals who are now long gone, and live out or lives freed from the need to return sexism for sexism.

  5. #5 idlemind
    February 28, 2006

    I’m not sure how it is in your world, Jim, but in mine evils aren’t remedied by simply forgetting about them.

  6. #6 Jim
    March 1, 2006

    Idlemind, evils are not remedied by repeating them in the present. Sometimes we should forget for the sake of forgiving if we find ourselves committed to revenging the faults of others on still more people via the same actions sprung from the same kind of hatred and bigotry.

  7. #7 anonymous
    March 1, 2006

    Jim, in a way you’re right. The two recently confirmed justices were not appointed because they are men and specifically to exclude women. They were appointed because they oppose abortion. There, I’ve said it. But the point of the comlaint is that women are subjected today, to a lesser extent, to the same exclusions that applied to blacks in the past and still somewhat today. The excuse is something like this: “We looked for the best people and somehow we ended up with all white men on the (fill in the blank). What a coincidence.” Yes, yes, I know, there is a woman and a black on the SC. But women make up more than half the population of the US. I guess it really is a coincidence that there wasn’t one available. They must have been busy baking cookies.

  8. #8 John
    March 1, 2006

    The evils of sexism are not so far in the past as people like to think. The way to remedy the situation is not to forget about it and pretend it doesn’t exist but to take active steps to ensure equal treatment. Such steps do not constitute “reverse discrimination.” And wishing for more than one woman on the Supreme Court is certainly not discrimination.

  9. #9 GrrlScientist
    March 1, 2006

    The evils of sexism are alive and well, even today (for example, women still earn only 70 cents for every dollar that men earn FOR THE SAME JOB), which is why we must remain ever vigilant, lest the situation worsen on “our watch”.

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