Now, I don’t for a minute think the real Amy Coney Barrett was abducted by her husband in cahoots with a band of wife-killer husbands and replaced with the butter-won’t-melt-in-my-mouth, perfectly poised non-committal woman who participated in the SCOTUS confirmation hearings this week. Nope, we can’t chalk her perfectly scripted responses up to a Stepford Wives situation since there’s a solid record going back decades of her having hewed to the far right of the far right lane. Her performance in the hearings was carefully calibrated to neither betray those apparently deeply held convictions nor to give her opposition enough quotes reflecting what she really thinks to use against you. She was like a greased marble; slippery sheen on an already impossible to snag surface.
Really, she did an outstanding job coming up with legalize word salads to avoid being pinned down in response to virtually every question posed by the Democrats. Apparently, according to ACB, it’s unclear whether voter intimidation is illegal, whether you can pardon yourself, whether Roe v. Wade is a super-precedent, whether you could single-handedly postpone the election, whether she should recuse herself if the election is contested and goes to the Supreme Court for adjudication, and whether she would be inclined to strike down the ACA.
It’s really quite impressive how consistently and unflappably she played her part – almost as if she were programmed for this or spent hours and hours rehearsing how to calmly give non-answers that are only a shade condescending in their perfectly couched respectability.
And, as everyone knows, despite you all having found yourselves the perfect female mouthpiece, the proceedings had next to nothing to do with ACB. She’s a pawn and she’s playing her pawn part just so in the furtherance of White Supremacy and The Patriarchy. I actually don’t like calling another woman a pawn – and I imagine she actually believes the things that have guided her conservative judicial decisions over the years – but when a woman betrays other women and future generations to uphold male privilege and White privilege it’s important to name that.
I suppose though, that saying she’s a pawn isn’t fair as it does suggest that she has no real volition. I guess my instinct to protect her by framing her as a brainwashed prop isn’t a good idea, but what do you call such women? It’s hard to square the clear ambition and drive of the ACBs, the Phyllis Schlaflys, the Anita Bryants, the Ann Coulters and Sarah Palins with their ardent, big-stage, defense of systems that want to go on silencing and squelching the ambition of most women (and all BIPOC women) until the end of days.
In her 2016 Nation article about Schlafly a few days after she died, Katha Pollitt called her and women like her “anti-feminists.” I suppose this is correct, but the juxtaposition of such finely tuned and effective ambition in the service of very old school, very oppressive values seems like it deserves something stronger.
In a Politico article published around the same time by Nicole Hemmer, Betty Friedan is quoted as having said to Schlafly during a 1973 debate “I consider you an Aunt Tom,” signaling her disgust at Schlafly’s betrayal of women.
I wasn’t sure whether the use of “Aunt Tom” was really righteous and found a 2008 NPR conversation between Michel Martin and Professor Patricia Turner that adds an important dimension to the epithet. Dr. Turner explains that the Uncle Tom character depicted in plays and movies is a servile turncoat while Beecher Stowe’s original Uncle Tom character heroically allowed himself to be beaten to death rather than betray the whereabouts of two women who had escaped the rapist slaveholder who terrorized them. It doesn’t take much to figure out why White producers betrayed Beecher Stowe and the real enslaved person, Josiah Henson, she celebrated. Plus, unpacking this history a tiny bit suggests that Friedan’s usage of “Aunt Tom” against Schlafly is problematic so we are again left with a paucity of good terms for women who have benefited tremendously from feminism and do their damnedest to undermine other women’s progress.
Maybe something will come to me another day.
May we be safe from women who betray other women.
May we be willing to call them out and not get mealy mouthed about what they are doing.
May we be strong and forthright in opposing any and all forces that hold any of us back.
May we accept that change is hard.
Sincerely, Tracy Simpson