July 23, 2005

The nominee's wife -- and conservative feminism.

The NYT looks at Jane Sullivan Roberts, the wife of the new Supreme Court nominee. Ms. Roberts is a lawyer who does pro bono work for a group called Feminists for Life. Interestingly, Senator Kennedy himself has said that the wife's activities "ought to be out of bounds" as a subject of inquiry. But, obviously, people are going to think about anything that might give insight into the fairly inscrutable Judge Roberts. And the concept of "Feminists for Life" is quite intriguing. The Times quotes their mission statement:
"Abortion is a reflection that our society has failed to meet the needs of women. Women deserve better than abortion."
Notice that you don't have to want Roe v. Wade overturned in order to say that. Doesn't that statement align fairly well with what many pro-choice Democrats -- such as Hillary Clinton -- say about abortion? Feminists for Life, do, however, want to see Roe overturned:
In previous years, the group weighed in on litigation seeking further restrictions on abortion, but [Feminists for Life president Serrin] Foster said that was before Mrs. Roberts joined the board.

"We're not a litigious institution now," Ms. Foster said. "We decided we were not a legal group; we were going to go after parenting resources and pregnancy resources, and Jane was part of that redefinition. She came on at that time."

Sensing the highly charged atmosphere around the issue, longtime friends and colleagues of Mrs. Roberts declined to speak this week about her views on abortion. But they characterized her political and social views much as her husband's friends have portrayed his in recent days: expressly conservative, but not dogmatic.

"Jane has very strong personal convictions, politically and with regard to her faith," said Christine Kearns, a friend and colleague who has worked with Mrs. Roberts for 18 years at a law firm now called Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. "But as long as I've known her, I've never known her to impose them on others or to be unwilling to listen to other people's points of view."
I hope that strong liberal feminists see the value of feminism within conservative thinking. Partisan Democrats sometimes think they own the allegiance of feminists, even to the point where they think their offenses against feminism won't matter. I lost my allegiance to the Democratic Party over one of those offenses. I put feminism above partisan politics, and I look for connections among those who are concerned about women's issues. Maybe you'll consider doing that too.

Bonus info: Ms. Roberts used to drive a VW Beetle, and now she drives a PT Cruiser. Analyze that.


Troy said...

Stop it! You're making her sound disgustingly... normal. Kim Gandy can't stand normal mainstream sober folks.

Of course Ted Kennedy says spouses and chippies are hands off -- how else would he have been elected and reelected all these many laborious decades?

Wave Maker said...

I almost hope Senate Democrats are dumb (or desperate) enough to drag Mrs. Roberts into their futile opposition, but I don't think it will happen. Here's (perhaps) a singular instance in which Ted Kennedy will not act hypocritically.

jar said...

More needs to be made of your statement "I hope that strong liberal feminists see the value of feminism within conservative thinking". I watch/listen to a lot of tv/radio/news/commentary. Most of it (and this is on BOTH sides) is full of ranting, raving and very little information. I want information. If you want to sell me on your views either way, then tell me calmly and clearly why I should support your viewpoint and the viewpoints of your guests. If you are a guest, then again calmly state your position. Also listen to each other. Have a real conversation (not one of those I'll interrupt you and yell ones). Also, if I want to listen to someone being made fun of I will listen to late night comedy or read the editorial section of the paper. I truly want to know why you feel the way you do and if you tell me calmly then I will listen and learn something. That is one way that many people will learn that some conservatives can be feminists also.
I found your post informative and will be watching the Roberts nomination process with interest.

Gerry said...


If I were going to strike up a conversation with you today, I think it would be over feminism.

I consider myself to be one.

I know you are one.

I suspect there is a lot of overlap in our definitions, but I also suspect there are significant differences. That's just a guess though. I would be interested in getting a perspective of what feminism entails to you.

Gerry said...

ps- Ann, one thing really struck me in your link back to the post regarding where they lost you...

... there were no comments.

One of the best things you do is you facilitate interesting discussions, while attracting diverse but capable debators.

I am very glad you added comments to your site.

knoxgirl said...

In the 90s, when my fellow liberal friends--whom I had always taken to be dedicated feminists, de facto--stubbornly refused to take an interest in what I perceived as Clinton's serial problems with women, it triggered a slow but steady period of political disillusionment for me. One of the consequences is that I, too, no longer assume that a leftist feminist perspective is the only legitimate one.

jar said...


By saying "more needs to be made of your statement" I meant by conservatives in general. We have good people on both sides and we need to highlight them.

But then again controversy is always more newsworthy!!