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Opening Arguments

Lonely nobodies

A lot of feminist claptrap is being written about recent remarks by Justices Ginsburg and O'Connor. In fact, the subtitle of this article is "The female justices begin to reflect on feminism":

It's not news that the Supreme Court justices are speaking to the press openly and often. But what's become truly fascinating this week is what the women there have to say: First we heard sitting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently telling USA Today's Joan Biskupic that she's "lonely" on the court without Sandra Day O'Connor. Then this week, former Justice O'Connor told Newsweek that she chose to retire rather than resign because had she lost her office at the High Court and her judicial duties, "maybe then she would be a nobody. 'I'd be on my own,'." as she put it.

These sound like simple human concerns to me, not ammunition for a feminist manifesto. As the only woman on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg naturally feels lonely, the same way the lone black in a white office would, or the only gay at the family reunion, or the sole conservative in a liberal newsroom. When she complained that her male colleagues "lacked certain sensitivities," that was a personal lament, not a political statement.

And I think many of us can related to O'Connor's fears of becoming a "nobody." In the job I have, I get a certain amount of respect. Everybody from the mayor to the governor returns my phone calls. But that's because of what I do, not who I am. The minute that job is over, the call returns will stop. Whatever the power struggles on the court and despite Rehnquist's apparent high-handedness, she left the bench to care for someone who valued her for who she was, and whom she presumably valued for the same reason. That may seem so very 1957, but it's the best we can hope for in this life.