Although she is exemplified by the Republican Party as a preferable form of feminism, Amy Coney Barrett isn’t exactly a third wave feminist icon. Contemporary feminism recognizes that diverse choices — including domesticity — should be equally available to all women, but it’s no secret that Barrett’s technique of judicial activism is very anti-woman. The replacement of “Notorious RBG” with “Glorious ACB” reveals very conflicting societal ideals about women’s identity. But, as all women in political spaces do, Barrett is braving insidious sexism from both parties.
On one hand, Democrats digging into every semi-questionable action from her past, criticizing her physical appearance and composure at hearings and attacking every possibility of incompetence, is reminiscent of the misogyny that has subsumed politics for generations. When questioned on her personal views on political policies, Barrett gave fitting responses, claiming that it would be inappropriate and unprofessional of her to bring her personal opinions into issues of jurisprudence. Nonetheless, Democrats attacked her for being evasive or ignorant of the underlying strategy of the questioning.
On the other hand, Republicans are lacking appeal to a political demographic of women like Barrett, women who are professionally ambitious and balancing the importance of their careers with the importance of motherhood. Barrett offers a conservative model of feminism where women can champion impressive careers, lead and raise large families and dedicate themselves to their faith and to their conservatism. Many Republicans seemed to argue that her unique combination of domesticity and professional success makes her stand out as a candidate for the Supreme Court.
Senator Mike Lee claimed that “long before you had your own seven children, you were also the de facto mother to many others,” presenting her as a mother figure to dozens. The salivating and fetishized obsession Republicans have with the number of children Barrett has raised reveals how exactly they look at women as professional colleagues. The value of a woman in their workplace is not determined by the amount of their life they have dedicated to domesticity, or by the number of children they have reared.
Republicans are desperately trying to convince American women that they have a place in the GOP. They claim their own model of feminism, one that promotes prolific motherhood for some and stigmatizes it for others; one that forces women into unwanted childbirth; one that forgets the privilege that allows some women to thrive while sidelining others to silently struggle; one that points to Amy Coney Bafrett as evidence that gender discrimination doesn’t exist in conservatism.
They also seem to be trying to rewrite the history of the Republican party, as if the party isn’t the main agent of restricting women’s opportunities — reducing funding for childcare and parental leave, restricting access to abortion and birth control, elevating proud sexual abusers to positions of power, publicly humiliating survivors of sexual violence and ridiculing any woman who dares to criticize them.
If anything, these confirmation hearings confirm that when a woman manages to make professional strides in spite of the socioeconomic and political barriers in her way, she is considered more valuable; yet, women in all workplaces, particularly political ones, are seen as undeserving of public policy changes aimed at breaking down those barriers.