Sexism in the Amy Coney Barrett Hearing

As they continue to lose support among female voters nationwide, the Republican party has tried to use the confirmation hearing of Amy Coney Barrett as an opportunity to appeal to female conservatives. Even if we put aside the fact that having Roe V. Wade in such a precarious position is terrifying for women, the Republican appeals to female voters were ultimately hollow and sexist. Throughout the hearing, Republican senators stressed Barrett’s identity as a mother of 9, constantly complimenting her for being a working mom and claiming that this will make her a better judge. Though it is of course hard to be a professional mother, this fixation on motherhood imposes a clear double standard. A male nominee would not have his actual professional experience and qualifications intertwined with his identity as a father. The fact that her personal life was so clearly displayed simply would not be the case with a male nominee. A specifically shocking incident was when Senator Kennedy jokingly asked Barrett about who does the laundry in her house. Barrett laughed off the question, despite its obviously insulting nature. This incident, combined with the general focus on Barrett’s family, shows that nominating a woman does not erase Republican sexism.

The Republican desire to paint Barrett as representative of all hard-working moms also connects to the fact that many women are afraid of her nomination. By nominating a female justice in the stead of RBG, a feminist icon, and claiming that she is a representation of a professional woman, Republicans try to seem like they are aligning themselves with women’s rights. They want to appeal to professional, ambitious, conservative women. But, every woman is not a feminist. Aligning the two justices, a strategy Trump and the Republican party have used, does not seem like an empowering move. Instead, it is totally reductive. It reduces both the individual women and their different identities and stories; it also dismisses legitimate female concern with the current nomination.

It does not matter if Amy Coney Barrett is a mother. It does not matter that she is a woman. What matters is the policies she plans to enact. It is not only insulting to her, but to American women as a whole, that Republicans focus so strongly on her personal life.