Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Harry, Sam, and the Incredible Vanishing Woman

Here's what I've been thinking lately. What are your thoughts about the Supreme Court nominations?

The cartoon got me thinking. The one with President Bush looking at a free-falling Harriet Miers and saying something like “Somebody had to take the fall, Harriet”, and Miers in mid-air smiling and saying something like “You’re still the very best president that ever was!”

Except for her legal career and the fact she never married, Miers is the very archetype of the 1950’s ideal woman: deferential to men yet cheerfully ready to do their bidding, self-effacing, focused on the minutiae rather than the big problems of the world, a little dowdy in her dress as appropriate for her age, churchgoing. She’s the perfect back-to-the future woman precisely because it can be said that she is professionally accomplished but still has those traditional hierarchical family values that the right-wing loves so much.

So then, why didn’t the right love Harriet Miers? Why was her nomination killed by her own while the Democrats played ‘let’s you and her fight” and watched, smiling, from the sidelines as she went down in flames and bobbed right back up ready to help with the nomination of the next nominee?

Was she just a stalking horse from the beginning, a set up for failure so she could be superseded by Bush’s appointment of a more reliably far(ther) right justice, such as Samuel Alito seems to be? Was she an example of the worst kind of affirmative action—in which a member of a disadvantaged group is appointed to a position for which he or she is eminently unqualified so that when the inevitable failure occurs those in power can say “See, I told you so.”, and proceed to appoint someone else of their own advantaged group? Or was it something even more difficult to define because it is more insidious—the story of the incredible disappearing woman? The story that has repeated itself over and over in history every time women have ascended in power and influence? Is the covert message in the right’s opposition to Miers rooted in the deep-seated misogyny that underpins the vicious backlash that has hamstrung the feminist movement?

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