Dahlia Lithwick and Hanna Rosin have a great article up about the Supreme Court short-list — and notably the fact that it’s populated by “single” women. (Note: Kathleen Sullivan and Pamela Karlan are both in long-term relationships with same-sex partners). Sonia Sotomayor, Kathleen Sullivan, Pamela Karlan and Elena Kagan are all unmarried and child-free; Sullivan and Karlan are out lesbians, and Sotomayor and Kagan, like many other powerful unmarried women, are rumored to be (because why else would a woman be middle-aged and single?).
Lithwick and Rosin dive into the ridiculousness of the lesbian rumors and the focus on the nominees’ single status, as if not having children makes them pathetic. But the most interesting part of the article comes in the final paragraphs:
Another question raised by the predominance of unmarried women on the short list: What kind of woman does it take to get there? Several years ago, some conservative women economists set out to prove that the wage gap between men and women was a myth. Anita Hattiangadi, then of the Employment Policy Foundation, concluded that if you compare men and women of “comparable worth,” the wage gap virtually disappears. So what does “comparable worth” mean? It means the same education, experience, and life circumstances. Thus, Hattiangadi found that among full-time workers age 21 to 35 who live alone, the pay gap between men and women disappears. The only significant pay gap, she found, was between married men and married women.
Hattiangadi intended these findings to finally bust the “myth” of the pay gap, but, of course, they just clarified the real problem: Men and women are not very often in comparable circumstances. When they get married and have children, women’s pay shrinks. That means the only women who can keep up with men are the ones who work very hard, and they are often divorced or unmarried and childless. Thus, as we ponder a list of potential Supreme Court nominees, it’s hardly a surprise that the current short list is dominated by such women. And so the list is a Catch-22: The choices a woman may make to achieve stunning legal success are the same ones that may also someday preclude her from a Supreme Court confirmation.
Men actually see their income and job stability increase as they marry and have children; for women, it’s the opposite. The wage gap certainly exists, but it’s more of a “mommy gap” than anything else. In the United States, motherhood is culturally glorified, until it’s time to deal with actual mothers — and then they receive almost no state support, they’re underpaid, and they’re viewed as soft and less intelligent. And yet if a woman shirks her cultural responsibility to have babies by a certain age, she’s a spinster or a radical or a lesbian. And if she’s those things, well, she’s probably not fit for the Supreme Court.
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