July 2, 2005

Crushing "liberal dreams" of "some heightened feminine compassion."

Dahlia Lithwick has this piece delving into the "mystery" of Justice O'Connor. People expected a female to bring extra "heart," "compassion," and "empathy" -- Litwick uses all three words -- to the Court:
Suffice it to say, Justice O'Connor is a huge mystery to most women of my generation. How could someone who blew open doors for generations of women after her show so little empathy to female victims of violence in the 2000 case of United States v. Morrison, for instance, where she joined with the court's conservatives to invalidate the Violence Against Women Act, or to teenagers facing the death penalty in Roper v. Simmons last fall?
On that last question, let me offer this passage from O'Connor's dissenting opinion:
Christopher Simmons’ murder of Shirley Crook was premeditated, wanton, and cruel in the extreme. Well before he committed this crime, Simmons declared that he wanted to kill someone. On several occasions, he discussed with two friends (ages 15 and 16) his plan to burglarize a house and to murder the victim by tying the victim up and pushing him from a bridge. Simmons said they could "'get away with it'" because they were minors. In accord with this plan, Simmons and his 15-year-old accomplice broke into Mrs. Crook’s home in the middle of the night, forced her from her bed, bound her, and drove her to a state park. There, they walked her to a railroad trestle spanning a river, “hog-tied” her with electrical cable, bound her face completely with duct tape, and pushed her, still alive, from the trestle. She drowned in the water below. One can scarcely imagine the terror that this woman must have suffered throughout the ordeal leading to her death.
I read plenty of empathy there. Simmons was 17 when he did these things, and the jury that condemned him to death was allowed to take his youth into account as one of the factors. It just wasn't enough in his case. [ADDED: And shouldn't this count as "empathy to female victims of violence," even though it's not in the official "Violence Against Women" case?]

But why are we demanding extra empathy from women in the first place? Is this supposed to be a feminist critique of O'Connor? I have a feminist critique for anyone who wants to see a special women's version of the law. Lithwick grudgingly and mushily offers some good words for O'Connor in the end -- even as she identifies Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the better woman. But Lithwick's overall message is clear:

Women are supposed to be liberals.

21 comments:

vnjagvet said...

Not only liberals, but the kind of liberals with which Dahlia identifies and of which she "approves".

Allah said...

Quite right, but that's the party line on all minority groups. How many "Uncle Tom" slurs has Clarence Thomas endured?

Mark said...

I remember reading an essay by Laura Ingalls Wilder (long after it was published) on how conventional wisdom said that women's sufferage would significantly turn American politics toward compassion, empathy, and all of those other female attributes.

I don't know if Democrats considered themselves the torch bearers for women back then, but a Republican won the next (1920) presidential election in a landslide.

vnjagvet said...

Mark:

You mean in 1920 Harding wasn't the candidate of "compassion, empathy and all those other female attributes"? I am shocked.

Joe said...

Homerun by AA. Lithwick's subtext (maybe not so sub) seems to show surprise that SDO'C did not shed her Republican cloak and become a true, glorious, lib-woman. Apparently, Lithwick believes SDO'C owed this, among other debts.

peter hoh said...

Lithwick's attitude is sexist. Wait, women can't be sexist. My bad. Will slap myself a few times and promise never to make that mistake again.

Meade said...

"I have a feminist critique for anyone who wants to see a special women's version of the law."

Okay, but be nice wouldja? It wouldn't be ladylike not to show plenty of "feminine compassion."

Susan said...

This is just the kind of thing that makes many liberals crazy. They want to be empathetic to women victims and to youthful offenders. But then they run up against youthful offenders that attack women. These are the same people who defend women’s rights and multiculturalism and then turn themselves into pretzels when they find cultures that denigrate women.

Joseph Angier said...

The worst part of Litwick's argument is that old saw about women being naturally more 'touchy-feely.'

Mark said...

Dahlia writes, "Suffice it to say, Justice O'Connor is a huge mystery to most women of my generation."

How does she know this?

Ann Althouse said...

Mark: Don't you realize that half the human population is simply an incredibly big political faction and that Lithwick has a read on it? Either that or "women of my generation" means "the women who went to Stanford Law School when I did."

vnjagvet said...

Of the many female law partners I have had since 1980, more had the interesting, varied viewpoints of AA than the more homogenized views of Ms. Lithwick.

While I find DL's writing colorful at times, I think she limits herself spouting the pedestrian allegedly feminist line.

Some of the more "go for the throat" lawyers I have worked against and with have been female.

Touchy, feely? Sorry, not in my experience.

chuck_b said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alcibiades said...

The NYTimes believes everyone should be liberal, not just women. And they regularly exclude you from their conversation in all kinds of ways if you are not. This is just one endless variation in their litany, no more no less. The subtext is permanent which renders the conclusion thoroughly unsurprising.

Lars said...

Bloggers for SC: Althouse and Reynolds.

Ann Althouse said...

Lars (and others): You're failing to take into account that I lack judicial demeanor. I have bloggerial demeanor -- it's not the same thing, even if Judge Posner thinks it can be.

Ron said...

But Ann...isn't SCOTUS merely the blog of the Living Constitution? Why not AA for Chief Blogger?

Nigel Kearney said...

Completely off topic, but I will never get used to the word 'burglarize'.

Although I grew up with British English, I'm pretty relaxed about spelling - but that word always gets me. Most Americanisms have the virtue or being shorter or more succint.

So what is wrong with 'burgle'? Does it sound too much like 'burger' or 'bungle'?

Ann Althouse said...

Nigel: Interesting. It's like saying murdererize murder. The tendency to make words longer is annoying. (No one takes medicine anymore. It's always "medication.") Maybe in the case of "burgle," it just sound silly or confusing to people.

Bruce Hayden said...

In order to stir the pot a bit - this last election, there was apparently a big gap between married and unmarried women as to whom they voted - unmarried preferred Kerry, married Bush.

There has been a gender gap at times in the past - with more women voting for Clinton, and men for Bush (41). Is this because Clinton was more sexually appealing to the women? Or that women are more likely to vote based on touchy feeley?

Indeed, up until this last election, I was somewhat regretting giving women the vote - we, as conservatives, would have an easier time winning if we didn't have to overcome the slight liberal bias of the largest voting demographic in this electorate - women.

Kathleen B. said...

Bruce I have suspected for a while what a tool you were, but you have now confirmed it.