My name is Fred and I am a gay conservative living in Ottawa. This blog supports limited government, the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security, and tries to expose the threat to us all from cultural relativism, post-modernism, and radical Islam. I am also the founder of the Free Thinking Film Society in Ottawa (

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Does Bush really have to name a woman to the Supreme Court...

Heather Mac Donald says no.
Two reasons are usually given for taking gender into account in judgeships: Women think differently than men, and women need role models. Neither of these withstand scrutiny.

Last summer, legal commentator Dahlia Lithwick provided a classic example of the "women think differently" argument in the New York Times. A female judge, she wrote, shows "empathy" to victims — above all, to female victims. A properly sensitive female justice, confronting a constitutional challenge to, say, the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (which made "gender-motivated violence" a federal offense), would uphold the act because it sought to protect female victims of violence.

The fact that the law was patently unconstitutional — exceeding as it did Congress' powers under the commerce clause — would not stand in the way of the female justice's mission of helping the weak and oppressed. But empathy for victims, while a wonderful trait in ordinary human affairs, should not influence constitutional decision making. Judging requires the separation of emotions from logical thought.

A serious constitutional analyst does not ask: Is this a sympathetic victim? Rather, he (or she) asks: Is there a constitutional basis for this governmental assertion of power? One may have empathy for a plaintiff and still be compelled to rule against him. Any other approach contains disturbing implications. If female judges are really more likely than men to be influenced by their emotional sympathies, then the outcome of a case may hinge on whether a female or a male judge is hearing it — an unacceptable proposition in a country that believes in the rule of law.

If tribal loyalties — to one's gender or race — determine legal outcomes, then there is no point in having a Constitution in the first place, which is premised on the idea that neutral rules can constrain political will.

And the idea that women are best-suited to understand the "female" perspective on legal issues will come back to haunt its proponents. If women are so expert in matters affecting women (or minorities in matters affecting minorities), then the corollary must be true: Women are less qualified to rule on matters affecting men (or minorities on matters affecting whites), which should be left to white males. Of course, every proponent of identity politics insists on having it both ways: The identity politician simultaneously asserts a special expertise regarding identity issues while claiming that she is equally qualified to take on issues outside her identity.

The second argument for taking gender or race into account in judicial appointments is that women and minorities need role models. But this assertion is not only demeaning to its alleged beneficiaries, it is illogical. It assumes that women and minorities can only be followers, not pioneers. If a woman can only follow where other women have already tread, that means that all-male fields must forever remain all male. Breaking into a traditionally male occupation, however, requires someone to go first. A suggestion: If a woman insists that she needs a role model to aspire to the highest challenges, let's encourage her to take gender out of the equation. Want to be a pioneer in nuclear physics, for example? There are plenty of nuclear physicists to model yourself on. Women shouldn't limit themselves to emulating other women.


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