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Friday, January 23, 2015

Abe Lincoln in a skirt; Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a beard

Michelle D. Schwartz
Director of Justice Programs

As I read Mike Sacks’s piece in the National Law Journal yesterday on Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, I was struck with a bout of déjà vu.
It hit me when I saw this gem from Gun Owners of America president Larry Pratt:
“She’s kind of like Eric Holder in a skirt.”
Where have I heard that before?
Ah, yes. In November 2013, Ed Whelan of National Review Online had this to say about then-D.C. Circuit nominee (now D.C. Circuit Judge, thanks to Senate rules reform) Nina Pillard:
“[F]olks who know Pillard well have described her to me as ‘[Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen] Reinhardt in a skirt but less moderate.’”
It’s a safe bet that neither Pratt nor Whelan meant these comparisons as compliments. Pratt’s group calls Holder “a committed anti-gun radical” and Whelan calls Reinhardt an “arch-activist.” Nor can I recall a time when I’ve seen the “in a skirt” construction used with a name the speaker revered. “That talented female debater is like Abe Lincoln in a skirt,” said nobody ever.
But even if you do like Eric Holder and Stephen Reinhardt (and I do), these statements are insulting, not only to Lynch and Pillard, but to all women. They demean women by implying that they do not have thoughts, ideas, or accomplishments of their own, but are merely dressed up versions of men. They focus on women’s appearance and dress rather than their experiences and intellect. In short, they seek to put women in their place.
For those who think I’m being overly sensitive, I challenge you to come up with a single example where a man has similarly been compared to a woman (“Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a beard”?). Until then, please stop skirting the issues and start judging women on their own merits.

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