The XX Factor

A New Kind of Feminist Justice?

Sam, I had the exact opposite reaction to Sotomayor’s claims of ordinariness yesterday. My thought was, “How refreshing. Instead of making multiple earnest claims about her vast personal humility, here we finally have a nominee who actually is humble.” Or at least appreciates that she didn’t make it this far on her own steam.

I’m not sure whether Sotomayor’s choice to hide her light under a bushel yesterday was a calculated response to all the blather about how “aggressive” she is, although who would blame her if she decided to go a little fuzzy? As Emily has observed, the double standard about judicial bullying is insane.

One of the qualities that most impresses me in Judge Sotomayor is that she is incredibly honest about how hard it is to be a woman who has succeeded in a man’s world. Whether it’s her frank admission that she was too scared to speak during her first year at Princeton , or the way she has openly wondered about whether women judges are different and why, Sotomayor represents a newer kind of feminist; quite distinct from what we saw in Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Beyond telling tales of being unemployable post-law school both Ginsburg and O’Connor said very little in public about how their gender shaped their thinking. Ginsburg has been more open about this in recent months than she was for decades. I think I like that Sotomayor has dropped the It Was Easy mask and let us see her grappling with who she is and how she got to be that way.