Column

Trump’s Female SCOTUS Nominee Will Be Bad for Women

Nominating a female Supreme Court Justice helps the president, not women

Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Donald Trump announced at a North Carolina rally this week that his appointee to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be a woman — “a very talented, very brilliant woman.”

The president’s promise has nothing to do with upholding Ginsburg’s legacy as a feminist stalwart, of course, or even caring about women’s representation in positions of power. Nominating a woman to the Supreme Court is just a cynical attempt to inoculate Trump against further accusations of misogyny as the election draws closer, and to preemptively paint any Democrats who oppose Trump’s pick as hypocrites who only uphold feminist values when it suits them.

It’s the same move John McCain’s presidential campaign tried to pull in 2008 when it brought on Sarah Palin as a running mate — Republicans thought they would be able to appeal to moderate women who were disappointed that they couldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton (a strategy that ultimately backfired). Conservatives called any feminist who wasn’t excited about Palin’s ascension a hypocrite.

But benefitting from feminism is not the same thing as being a feminist, and there are no guarantees that having a woman in a position of power will be good for other women.

One of the women on Trump’s short list, for example, is Amy Coney Barrett — a member of People of Praise, a Christian religious group that believes husbands should make decisions for their households. Members of the People of Praise also swear a lifetime loyalty oath to each other and are given personal advisers who, for women, used to be called “handmaids” — the inspiration for Margaret Atwood’s famous book, The Handmaid’s Tale. Barrett has also called herself “a different kind of lawyer” and has said a “legal career is but a means to an end… and that end is building the Kingdom of God.” None of this bodes well for Roe v. Wade — the Supreme Court decision that most American women will have on their mind as a new justice is appointed.

Another woman rumored to be on Trump’s short list is Barbara Lagoa, a Florida-based judge who has come under fire for taking extremist positions against voting rights. Lagoa’s name being floated is also a political strategy — the Trump administration believes that nominating Lagoa, who is Cuban-American, might help curry favor with Hispanics in the swing state. Once again, this has little to do with the goal of advancing women at the highest levels of power — and everything to do with protecting Trump and winning him a second term.

Trump’s vow to fill Ginsburg’s seat with another woman came just a few days after former model Amy Dorris accused the president of sexually assaulting her in 1997 — joining over two dozen other women who say Trump groped, raped, or forcibly kissed them. Dorris’ accusation, like many of the earlier ones, has gone largely unremarked on. But citing women’s representation within Trumpworld has always been his family’s go-to when called out on his verbal and sexual abuse of women.

In a 2015 interview with Ivanka Trump, for example, the then-candidate’s daughter said her father couldn’t possibly be sexist because of the women he hires. “I don’t think that he’s gender targeted at all… I wouldn’t be a high-level executive within his organization if he felt that way.” She also pointed to his “40 years of history of employing women.”

But not discriminating against women in the workplace is simply following the law — not some special skill or kindness to be applauded. Especially when someone only uses their elevation of women to positions of power as a shield against their explicit and serial misogyny.

Trump nominating a woman to the court means very little for women as a whole — it’s a decision designed to only benefit Trump himself. Representation is incredibly important, but American women don’t need another female justice as much as we do someone in Ginsburg’s seat who won’t hurt women or roll back their rights. But no matter the gender of Trump’s appointee, that’s too tall an order.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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