Tuesday round-up: bossy broads beware edition

cowgirlropeknotsWell, dude-ettes and dudes, it’s been quite a week–and it’s only Tuesday!  Here are a few tidbits to get your heart racing this morning while I’m writing the next chapter in my sure-to-be prizewinning second book.  (Have the AHA or OAH instituted a prize for the best book in Marxist feminist history yet?  No?)  Anyhoo–while I’m working a few knots out of this chapter (once I’ve worked the knots out of this here rope), here’s a roundup of some recent news and views that caught my eye this morning: 

  • For the first time in American history, a Latina is being seriously discussed as a top candidate to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court!  And here’s what Jeffrey Rosen at “even the liberal” New Republic had to say about Sonia Sotomayor (h/t TalkLeft):  “The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was ‘not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench,’ as one former Second Circuit clerk for another judge put it. ‘She has an inflated opinion of herself, and is domineering during oral arguments, but her questions aren’t penetrating and don’t get to the heart of the issue.’ (During one argument, an elderly judicial colleague is said to have leaned over and said, ‘Will you please stop talking and let them talk?‘)”  Uhhh–Jeffy:  what about her actual opinions?  jeffy“I haven’t read enough of Sotomayor’s opinions to have a confident sense of them.”  Oh–okay.  It makes sense to quote one random clerk and one random former colleague (who weren’t man enough to be quoted by name) and give their completely unbiased and totally apolitical opinions of Sotomayor a national platform because it’s so much more fun than doing, you know, your homework.  (According to Big Tent Democrat at TalkLeft, Jeffy was a supporter of both Samuel Alito and John Roberts for the Supreme Court.  Excellent judgment, Jeffy!  I guess you never got around to reading their opinions either?)
  • Hey, all of you academic broads out there:  raise your hands if you’ve ever been told (as was Sotomayor) essentially to shut the frak up by an older male “colleague” because you were, you know, doing your job by talking in a department meeting or participating in a discussion at a conference?  I’m happy to report that this hasn’t happened to me in at least 4 years now.  It’s a record!
  • Nobody said that being in public life was easy.  Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice got grilled by a fourth grader about torture yesterday.  (Originally, the child’s question was much tougher:  “If you would work for Obama’s administration, would you push for torture?” was softened to “What did [you] think about the things President Obama’s administration was saying about the methods the Bush administration had used to get information from detainees?”)  Boy, that really puts into perspective all of the panic a decade ago about “ZOMG what will we tell the children????” about Bill Clinton’s sex life.
  • Arvada cowboy ticketed for drunk riding.  Seriously!
  • Here’s a profound thought:  Echidne sez, “[N]o other social justice movement is EVER criticized for not being funny enough or sexy enough. No other social justice movement is EVER expected to sell itself in the way feminism is expected. It’s as if feminism is a new pair of shoes or something; an item women can easily do without, an item they might not be able to afford (because the societal costs of being a feminist can be considerable).”  But Echidne–that’s because girls have to reassure everyone that we were just kidding about all of that equality stuff!  We’re really not angry at all–not one bit!  Hand me a bucket and I’ll get those stairs scrubbed up real good.

Finally, it’s a loveley day in May.  “I’m in heaven–with my boyfriend, my lucky boyfriend:”

0 thoughts on “Tuesday round-up: bossy broads beware edition

  1. Oh, and Scalia is not a bully from the bench? Hello? If her questions don’t get to the heart of the issue, then maybe it means they don’t get where the former clerk wanted it to go. To be fair, I’ve never been told to shut up, though I’m sure some people wished I would!


  2. Lucky you, Susan! I’ve been told to shut up in faculty meetings, about bullying at work, and I’ve also been told to sit down and shut up at academic conferences. (It hasn’t worked yet.)


  3. A clerk said this?!? I guess it must be so then. Note to Senate: We need to start confirming (or rejecting) clerks. A former t.a. of mine once called me out for completely missing the point on the Gadsden Purchase. Probably true, too, and in any case the most famous thing associated with that particular class until I saw a former student run back a kickoff for a 101-yard touchdown in a losing effort in Super Bowl XYZlll. Sotomayor should have just slapped a contempt citation on her tipsy colleague. (Can you do that on the appellate bench?) Probably would have been voided at the next level, but what a fun footnote that would be for generations of future law students.

    How was I supposed to know that Christopher Gadsden (“The Signer”) wasn’t the same guy as Gadsden (“The Buyer,”) who carved another little slice out of Mexico?


  4. I haven’t so much been told to shut up explicitly so much as I’ve been told how I should speak. My favorite instance of this was at a discussion group at a Joyce conference – in a room filled with men going on and on about a female character. At a certain point, I couldn’t help but say something – to point out something I thought was always obvious in the text. The other women in the room (none of whom spoke a word) all nodded in agreement and came up to me after to thank me for saying something. Eminent Joycean made a point of criticizing me for sitting in the wrong place in the room if I wanted to actually speak. He made a point of interrupting a conversation I was having with a female colleague in order to put me in my place – literally. Most classic about this was that he clearly didn’t remember having hit on me when I was a grad student about 6 years before.


  5. Dr. Crazy–that’s a shut-up moment, even if the a$$hat didn’t literally use the words “shut up.” That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. I would say that what happened to Clio Bluestocking last week (described in the last post here) were several shut-up moments.

    Few academics are as crude as to say “shut up” like that judge did. They lecture you on your “tone,” tell you that you used offensive language, they instruct you that you were sitting in the wrong part of the room, etc. They warn you that you shouldn’t point out other people’s bad behavior, because that’s a provocation. Any time your speech is policed or criticized for something other than your actual ideas is a shut-up moment. Someone who presumes to lecture you (or me, or Clio B.) about how we’re not expressing ourselves in a proper manner is not listening to our ideas–they’re trying to shut us up.


  6. Wow, KC–that takes guts! I could understand someone coming to your office to confer with you to make sure he understood what you said and perhaps talk about your opinion, if he cared that much, but really.

    How on earth did you respond to an e-mail like that?


  7. I’m sorry. Dr. C’s story led to the jaw dropping all the way to the floor. Then KC. I think I’ve worked with jerks, but really? I guess they were better than I thought!


  8. I have never had the words “shut up” used. The closest was when a plant manager would not let me finish explaining the background of a particular situation. I wouldn’t stop trying to make my point (me thinking that him understanding things would change his perspective — ha!), and after the third time I started “But I think it’s important to realize”, he banged the table and said he “didn’t want to hear any more from… [pause]… engineers.” (Ironically, I ended up in less trouble than my manager, who got a fifteen-minute lecture about “controlling” “his” “staff” — which he thankfully didn’t bother implementing.)

    One thing I have managed to grow out of is letting anything short of yelling or commands make me stop talking. I’ve certainly regretted saying things sometimes, but I far more often regret NOT saying something.


  9. KC’s story is as big a WTF moment as I have seen recorded on this blog in a while. There’s no excuse for Eminent Joycean acting the way he did, but I have gotten used to witnessing senior male scholars act is if the right to be sexist and racist is a prerogative of rank.

    But a junior male colleague acting this way? (I am assuming young means untenured here.) Even the most sexist a$$holes I know at my university and elsewhere take job security seriously enough that they try to keep some of their worst thoughts at least semi-private.

    And on Judge Sotomayor–Glenn Greenwald has a very pertinent column on this topic today on Salon.com: http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/05/05/tnr/index.html. Drawing on his personal experience in her courtroom, he describes her as “very assertive and aggressive.” He also makes the important point that white men who act this way from the bench are often described as “authoritative,” while women are “domineering” and bullies. He also raises good points about race and class–being Puerto Rican and working class seems to have undercut Sotomayor’s authority among these white brahmins as well.


  10. I have nothing of substance to add. I’m just shaking my head at how any dude thinks he can lecture any female, and how any misogynist statement gets accorded weight, even if it is a clerk criticizing a potential SCOTUS nominee. I just kept waiting for Jeffery Rosen to say, “it wasn’t WHAT she said, but HOW she said it.” Oh, and “she’s fat, too.” Because what we want in our attorneys and justices are demure supermodels, right?


  11. Yeah–the fat-shaming is the icing on the cake, ain’t it? Paul Campos has a great article up at The Daily Beast on how concern for their “health” and longevity only comes up in the evaluation of women in the federal judiciary. Who was it who stroked out last summer? The relatively fit and young John Roberts!

    John S., thanks for the link to Greenwald–I’ll have to check it out. Erica has probably dealt with more a-holery than most of us in the humanities. I mean, who would want to listen to an engineer about anything?

    Random thought: engineers are like the opposite of economists. The joke about economists is, “we know it works in fact, but will it work in theory?” Ignore the warnings of engineers at your own peril!


  12. I haven’t actually been told specifically to “shut up” in a professional context, but it has been made very VERY clear on occasion that my opinion is Not Welcome. Sometimes, that comes in the form of No Response Whatsoever, as though I didn’t actually say anything at all…. sometimes, I’m an angry, man-hating, breeder-hating feminazi lesbian… sometimes, it must be because I’m PMSing.

    Honestly, the one that makes me the most frustrated is the No Response Whatsoever. It’s like yelling into the wind.


  13. I haven’t been watching the news but can’t wait to hear people try to say Sotomayor.

    Hmm, that Rosen stuff sounds familiar. Women in positions of authority are “domineering” and “bullies” but the boys are leaders or some nonsense like that. Back in my newspaper days I heard someone refer to a Latina editor as a “b—” (for doing her job). It gets ugly with the “she’s not that smart” comment because this, in my experience, has racial connotations. I have heard it about colleagues at the u. — a completely ridiculous comment in the larger context of society — which implies that the person does not meet the standards of the good ‘ol boys.


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