“I Remember When” – Op-Ed: Ms. Sotiropoulos

Our very own Ms. Sotiropoulos, chair of the History department, weighs in on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett…

This is what I DON’T Remember:

I don’t remember reading want ads that said, “Male Lawyer Wanted.”

I don’t remember when husbands needed to cosign on their wives’ credit card applications.

I don’t remember when it was legal and accepted practice to pay women less than men for doing the same job.

I don’t remember when college had “quotas” for the number of women accepted or whether they accepted women at all.

This is what I DO Remember:

When travelling with my college lacrosse team, receiving $7.00 for lunch when players on the men’s team each received $12.00 for lunch.

When our leaders in Congress asked, on the record, if we should ever elect a woman president, because you know how unpredictable and irritable they got once a month.

When men on the Sunday morning talk shows said that of course, women couldn’t go on the space shuttle because, really, how would you design a toilet for them?

When sexual harassment in the workplace was simply “the price one paid” for being a professional woman and what was the big deal anyway? Your colleague calls you “honey” because he thinks you’re cute.

When defense attorneys asked women on the stand, “What were you wearing the night you were assaulted?”

When there were NO women on the Supreme Court.

And this is what I know now:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a hand in changing all of this, both before and after she was a Supreme Court Justice (confirmed by a bipartisan Senate vote 96-, by the by).  No, she wasn’t alone, and no, she wasn’t directly involved in every advancement women made in America – it took a lot of hard work by women and men over the decades to move this country in the right direction with respect to gender equality. I think it is good to take note here that this hard work was not made any easier by conservative voters or conservative elected officials. Those are simply facts.

So, what are we to make of this new nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett? Who graduated from Rhodes College in 1994 magna cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa? Who was accepted to Notre Dame Law School on a full scholarship? Who was an executive editor of the Notre Dame and graduated first in her class in 1997 summa cum laude?

That is a great question. And not an easy one.  I am happy that no one thinks twice that she is a woman being nominated to be a Supreme Court Justice. I am happy that, should she be confirmed, the Court will still have three female justices, (though still far from the nine that RBG said she would have liked to see).

But, as a conservative judge, nominated by a conservative president, and likely confirmed by a conservative Senate, how should women and men who had fought against conservative views of women for decades see Judge Barrett? Is it sexist to assume that all women justices of any worth should be liberal justices?  Can one be conservative and still be a feminist?  Would liberals have rather had a liberal male nominee than a conservative female one?  And, if so, is this a progressive view – that gender no longer matters in the same way it once did? On the flip side, it is interesting to note that conservatives, it would seem, would rather have a conservative woman than a liberal man on the bench.  (My how things have changed since they wondered about women as astronauts!)  And what does all this say about our politics, our culture, and who we are as a country?  These questions and observations can go on and on.

Of course, I have my answers for all of these questions. And they might not be your answers. And that is okay.

I think that one thing we can ALL agree on is that without Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg working tirelessly on behalf of ALL American women, there likely might not have been a Judge Amy Comey Barrett to begin with.

Rest in Power, RBG.


Background: On September 26, President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to replace former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, just over a week after her death. Amy Coney Barrett, a devout Catholic and mother-of-seven, would bring the scale to a 6-3 ratio between conservative and liberal judges. Based on her stances on gun rights and immigration policies, Barrett appears to be an equally reliable conservative vote as Ginsburg was a liberal vote. According to Jonathan Turley, law professor at George Washington University, “[Barrett] is not a work-in-progress like some nominees. She is the ultimate ‘deliverable’ for conservative votes.” Nevertheless, she has stated on many occasions that her faith “would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.” A colleague of hers, Notre Dame professor Paolo Carozza, believes this line of questioning is valid. “But she has answered those questions forcefully… I fear she is now being reduced to an ideological caricature, and that pains me, knowing what a rich and thoughtful person she is.” Yet, just last Saturday on October 4th, more than1500 alums from Rhodes College, her alma mater, signed a letter “firmly and passionately opposed” to the prospect of admitting Barrett into the Supreme Court.





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