By: Shellsea Lomeli
Watching Brett Kavanaugh be confirmed to the highest court in the land in 2018, despite the sexual assault allegations against him, crushed me. I am sure it crushed a lot of people, especially sexual assault survivors who had finally started to see the significant impact of sharing their stories and holding aggressors accountable through the Me Too Movement. In a TedTalk given a month after Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Tarana Burke, the founder of the Me Too Movement, described this feeling of numbness in the face of defeat. “Numbness,” she said, “is not always the absence of feeling. Sometimes it’s an accumulation of feelings.” I felt this numbness when Kavanaugh took his seat next to Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a feminist trailblazer, and I felt it again when Amy Coney Barrett replaced her.
Kavanaugh becoming a Supreme Court justice was not just a slap in the face for survivors. It was an example of how men in power step on the necks of women everywhere and society just lets them. When Congress confirmed Kavanaugh’s nomination, they also confirmed to women everywhere that their voices do not matter. What women think, say, and feel is not as important as what a man does. And it made me numb as a feminist — as a woman.
It took me a while to build myself back up to the “raging” feminist that I was before my country’s government allowed a rapist to decide what I get to do with my body. But I did. Because a woman’s fight is never over, especially when facing setbacks like this one.
It was easy for me to see Kavanaugh as a villain and to understand his abuse of privilege as a straight, white, affluent man. But it is also easy to make the mistake of believing that men are more likely to be against you but women will always be on your side. This error in thought is probably why this year’s Supreme Court confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, just a month after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, brought me back to that feeling of numbness.
In theory, the confirmation of another woman to the Supreme Court is a huge step for feminists. All but four Justices have been men with Barrett being only the fifth woman to serve at the highest court. However, this is absolutely not the case when the woman confirmed goes against everything that feminists stand for and have worked tirelessly to accomplish.
First off, Amy Coney Barrett is pro-life. While she may not have openly stated her stance on the controversial subject in such clear wording, her recurring comments on the topic align with the ideology of those who are against a woman’s right to choose. During a discussion in 2013, Barrett stated that “supporting poor, single mothers would be the best way to reduce the number of abortions in the U.S.” Supporting mothers as an alternative to allowing women to choose whether they want to be a mother is a common strategy that the pro-life community takes. During her confirmation hearing, Barrett would not comment on Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that granted women the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, but she has previously said that “Republicans are heavily invested in getting judges who will overturn Roe [v. Wade].” As a Justice nominated by a Republican administration, it is not a far stretch to assume that she will try to strip women of the right to choose what happens to their bodies.
Barrett’s stance on Roe v. Wade is not the only component of her confirmation that poses a threat to women and the feminist movement. There is also the fact that anti-feminist people everywhere are idolizing Barrett’s accomplishment as an accomplishment for all women. Another woman has been appointed to the Supreme Court which must mean that the divide between men and women in American society is not as dramatic as the feminist movement claims it is. But we, as a collective, must understand that Amy Coney Barrett is not all women. She belongs to the percentage of women who are privileged in incredible ways. She is a white, heterosexual woman who was born into a well-off family. She went to private school. She has access to childcare. The list goes on. Of course, I am not saying there is anything wrong with being privileged. What is wrong, however, is allowing the continuation of the false narrative that Barrett represents all women.
The truth of the matter is this. Not all women with only three years of experience as a judge would have been confirmed to the Supreme Court. They probably would not have even gotten a nomination.
In the past few weeks, I have seen a recurring post on social media. The wording is different each time but the message remains the same: Amy Coney Barrett is a perfect example of an under-qualified white woman getting the job before a person of color has a chance. We cannot ignore that.
Overall, Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court poses a threat, both directly and indirectly to the past and future accomplishments of the feminist movement. There is a lot to be wary of in the coming years as she serves as a Justice. But, just as we persevered through the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, we will persevere once more.