There are two things you should probably know about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s suggestion that America should have an all-female Supreme Court.
- It’s never, ever going to happen.
- She was probably joking. Probably.
A little common sense would tell you there’s not much reason to freak out over Ginsburg’s comments, in other words—particularly since they apparently came at a conference held two months ago—yet the right was in full meltdown mode on Tuesday. The justice’s little joke headlined the Drudge Report and produced a torrent of outrage on conservative websites.
“Imagine the outrage if (Antonin) Scalia or (Anthony) Kennedy said we need to go back to an all-male bench,” huffed one typical commenter.
Well, maybe. But it’s important to remember the context of Ginsburg’s comments: In the 223-year history of the Supreme Court, there have been 112 justices. Just four of those justices have been women. Ginsburg was the second—and for a few years at the end of the Bush Administration, she was the only woman among nine justices.
All of our major governing institutions have been phallocentric, in other words, but the Supreme Court? A real sausage-fest. Until, that is, President Obama came along and nominated two more women to the court.
“It was the wrong perception for people to see just a little woman and eight larger men,” Ginsburg said. “But now if you come to the court, we (women) are all over the bench.”
“Now the perception is, yes, women are here to stay,” Ginsburg she added. “And when I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough and I say when there are nine, people are shocked.”
Again: It seems likely she was joking. (Watch the video: She smiles while making the comment; the audience laughs.) But the point she makes isn’t a bad one: When men made up 89 percent of the Supreme Court bench at the beginning of the Obama Administration—just four years ago—people weren’t howling about that.
But the prospect of an all-woman court? Outrageous!
“Would nine women really be preferable to nine men, as Justice Ginsburg asserted?” wrote Charmaine Yoest, who leads the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life. “What would rule-by-Amazon actually look like? Would our lives be better after a rise of the matriarchy?
“It’s not about the best qualified, it’s only about what’s under your skirt,” added the folks at Twitchy, a right-wing site dedicated to tracking Twitter dialogue. “Wow. You’ve sure come a long way, baby!”
“Just a note to the liberal female justices—a bench consisting exclusively of women serves the justice system no better than one with nine men,” added Leah Barkoukis. “Doesn’t “progress” point to gender diversity—not dominance?”
Consider this, though: If all six men now serving on the Supreme Court were replaced by women, it would still mean that in all of American history, just 10 of 118 justices would’ve been women—barely more than 8 percent of the total. There’s been plenty of gender dominance.
Liberals certainly won’t push that far in the other direction. Women won’t ever claim all nine seats on the Supreme Court. But one or two more certainly wouldn’t hurt—and giving women a 5-4 advantage on the court would make history: It would be the first time women controlled a major branch of American government. (Unless Hillary Clinton gets to the White House before our hypothetical justices ascend to the bench.) The right is terrified of an all-woman court, but maybe a better question is this: Can conservatives handle a female majority? We might actually find out.