Welcome to 2011. Whether you happen to be a member of roughly one-half the population or just a human being, you’re sure to find something below to make you think.
Or possibly scream.
First up, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who apparently believes that the 14th Amendment — that’s the one that talks about equal protection under the law — does not apply to women. That’s what he told UC Hastings College of the Law professor Calvin Massey in an interview published in the latest issue of California Lawyer. Here you go:
In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don’t think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation. So does that mean that we’ve gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both?
Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don’t need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box. You don’t like the death penalty anymore, that’s fine. You want a right to abortion? There’s nothing in the Constitution about that. But that doesn’t mean you cannot prohibit it. Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society.
Actually, the above is what we might expect from one of the right-most justices on the nation’s highest court. But look what we find over there at the considerably more enlightened New Yorker, courtesy of a caustic note from Anne Hayes, who fired off this letter to the editors of the elite periodical:
I am writing to express my alarm that this is now the second issue of the NYer in a row where only two (tiny) pieces out of your 76 page magazine are written by women. The January 3rd, 2011 issue features only a Shouts & Murmurs (Patricia Marx) and a poem (Kimberly Johnson). Every other major piece—the fiction, the profile, and all the main nonfiction pieces—is written by a man. Every single critic is a male writer.
We were already alarmed when we flipped through the Dec 20th & 27th double-issue to find that only one piece (Nancy Franklin) and one poem (Alicia Ostriker) were written by women.
She ended her letter by saying that she was enclosing the current issue of the magazine with her letter — and expected a refund. Love it.
And then there’s Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, who tearfully took the gavel Wednesday as the new Speaker of the House. Maybe you like him, maybe you don’t, but what his aides have said — and what the “Pledge to America” spells out as job one — is the repeal of the health care overhaul, which, incidentally, has been estimated to save $140 billion over the next ten years. (Um, remember who pays the price when health insurance isn’t a guarantee? More below.) The new Republican platform spells out its agenda thus: Cut the federal budget — without raising taxes or cutting military defense spending. You can probably guess where the cuts will come. This from the guy who cries at the plight of families.
Prepare to weep, because we also find out from ABC News that Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn), founder and chairwoman of the House Tea Party Caucus, is considering a run for the White House. Yep. We’ve yet to have a woman president — or even a woman make it past the primaries — and this is what we get? Another name to add to the list of women who call themselves women, politicians who, like Boehner, like everything about family values — unless of course you define those values in terms of the support, like the new health care plan, that enables them to survive. As we wrote back in November, when California distinguished itself by having two such women on the ballot, a skirt does not a woman make, nor does a skirt make a woman a friend of families:
Because who suffered most under our our health care system of old? Women. And when women suffer, it’s often the kids who pay the price. So much for those family values. But let’s recall a few things we may have forgotten about the old way of health care. Pregnancy: pre-existing condition. Women: statistically more likely to work part-time jobs (so they can care for their kids) that do not provide benefits. Sure, all is well and good for ladies who can depend on well-employed husbands for heath care benefits. But what if he loses his job? Hard to afford COBRA on a part time salary. Or no salary. Or even one salary, for that matter.
And what if she’s a single mother? Sorry, kids. No doc for you…
And finally, there’s that scandal over the raunchy navy videos. You know the ones: mocking women and gays as a boys-will-be-boys bonding exercise. Let’s go over to salon, where Tracy Clark-Flory (hey, where did Broadsheet go?) reports on her interview with anthropologist Lionel Tiger, author of “Men in Groups,” who says that this all this stuff is a way to build, you know, brotherhood. Especially when you’re stuck at sea:
There is an “intrinsic tension from living together in a relatively crowded environment for long periods of time,” and on a warship at sea, no less. That tension demands a release, and humor is a necessary outlet — but laughs aren’t the only motivator. Sexual stereotypes “reinforce the in-group feeling,” he says. Women, who were banned from serving on submarines until just last year, are “an easy out-group to pick on,” he says, and so are gays, who may soon be allowed to serve openly in the military. In both cases, it serves to prop up the heterosexual male norm, allowing for a touchy-feely-but-totally-not-gay “brotherhood.”
This Tiger person says that it’s important to know why this kind of stuff happens. Clark-Flory takes it a step further, pointing out that the real issue is why this kind of stuff is allowed to happen.
Oh wait, there’s one more thing more that kind of takes us back to Shannon’s last two posts, on likability and ambition. Ms Magazine’s January cover will feature Nancy Pelosi, who the magazine calls the “Most Effective Speaker Ever”, who passed more significant new public policy — from health care reform to the stimulus bill to the repeal of DADT — than any Speaker in the last 50 years. The magazine notes that even Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, says that Pelosi “ranks with the most consequential speakers, certainly in the last 75 years.” But Ms. also notes this:
If Pelosi’s efficacy is news to some, it’s because the media has often snubbed her. Neither Time nor Newsweek featured Pelosi on their covers in all the time she was Speaker (in contrast, Ms. put her on the cover immediately upon her inauguration). Both Time and Newsweek, however, have run covers featuring John Boehner—before he became Speaker.
That sound you hear is steam hissing from my ears. Back to the future? You be the judge.