Lone woman among eight men

Lone woman among eight men

An article from Saturday’s New York Times features a lengthy interview with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the United States Supreme court, and currently the only female to hold a position in the highest and most powerful legislative institution in the US. Ginsburg offers several insights to what it like to be the only woman in an overly male dominated space.

On the difference between male and female dynamics:

Once Justice O’Connor (The only other woman to have sat on the Supreme Court, now retired) was questioning counsel at oral argument. I thought she was done, so I asked a question, and Sandra said: Just a minute, I’m not finished. So I apologized to her and she said, It’s O.K., Ruth. The guys do it to each other all the time, they step on each other’s questions. And then there appeared an item in USA Today, and the headline was something like“Rude Ruth Interrupts Sandra.”

On Judge Sotomayor’s frank remarks that she is a product of affirmative action:

So am I. I was the first tenured woman at Columbia. That was 1972, every law school was looking for its woman. Why? Because (of the enforcement of) the Nixon government contract program. Every university had a contract, and Stan Pottinger, head of the office for civil rights of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, would go around and ask, How are you doing on your affirmative-action plan? William McGill, who was then the president of Columbia, was asked by a reporter: How is Columbia doing with its affirmative action? He said, It’s no mistake that the two most recent appointments to the law school are a woman and an African-American man.

On how to change things:

I always thought that there was nothing an antifeminist would want more than to have women only in women’s organizations, in their own little corner empathizing with each other and not touching a man’s world. If you’re going to change things, you have to be with the people who hold the levers.

Mette Mikkelsen


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