Who Run the World?

Earlier this year, I got together with some badass fellow data ladies (and men) to run a kickass training. As a graduate of Barnard College, I, as a burgeoning female leader, was basically expected to kick ass and take names and run the world, but generally there’s obviously been a gradual increase in female leadership over the course of history, and there are still plenty of glass ceilings to break.

That being said, we live in a pretty cool time to be a lady. The median age of marriage in the United States is at an all-time high, a cultural shift that is reflective of the general increased freedoms afforded to women in this country. Widespread and easily-accessible birth control allows us to prolong childbirth and focus on our careers (#ThanksObama). The proportional increase of women legislators in Congress means that women’s and family issues, such as parental leave and equal pay, are getting meaningful attention.

This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the first major abortion case to come before the Supreme Court since the landmark Planned Parenthood v. Casey. However, in badass lady history, this time there are three women on the court, nearly 50% in the wake of Atonin Scalia’s recent death. As Marie Wilson, the founder of the White House Project, wrote in her book Closing the Leadership Gap, numbers matter:

A single woman leader or a few women in a larger group are tokens; each token has to prove she’s man enough for the job… Until there are enough diverse females in authority so that the chosen few are not expected to speak for an entire race or gender, those few will continue to carry the burden for us all.

Indeed, Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court justice, hailed the addition of current Justice Ruth Bader “Notorious RBG” Ginsberg to the Court as an important advancement: “The minute Justice Ginsberg came to the court, we were nine justices. It wasn’t seven and then ‘the women.’ We became nine.”

This morning, my same badass data lady friends who helped run Bootcamp passed around this story of the three female justices who are now leading the charge in pushing back against a Texas TRAP law that places such undue restrictions on women’s health centers in the name of “protecting women’s health” that all but 10 clinics in Texas would close. 10 clinics to serve 5.4 million women, many of whom would live 200 miles away from the nearest facility.

Yesterday, Justices Ginsberg, Elena Kagan and Sonya Sotomayor ignored time limits and made sure that the female perspective on abortion and women’s health was heard loud and clear. Some favorite excerpts include this summary of the scene by the author:

On one side, you have a group of testy male justices needling a female lawyer for Texas clinics about whether it was even appropriate for them to hear this appeal. On the other, you’ve got four absolutely smoking hot feminists pounding on Texas’ solicitor general for passing abortion regulations that have no plausible health purpose and also seem pretty stupid.

Sonya Sotomayor, pressing the Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller on his argument that burdensome regulations are fine in the name of “safety”:

According to you, the slightest health improvement is enough to impose on hundreds of thousands of women.­­ Even assuming I accept your argument, which I don’t, necessarily, because it’s being challenged, but the slightest benefit is enough to burden the lives of a million women. That’s your point?

Elena Kagan, pointing out the absurdity of the argument that these regulations, which specifically targeted abortion clinics, were done to protect women in the case of medical complications:

You said that as the law is now … Texas is allowed to set much, much higher medical standards, whether it has to do with the personnel or procedures or the facilities themselves, higher medical standards … for abortion facilities than for facilities that do any other kind of medical work, even much more risky medical work? Am I right?…And I guess I just want to know, why would Texas do that?

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, on how New Mexico’s facilities that aren’t forced to meet these ridiculous Texas standards:

“That’s odd that you point to the New Mexico facility. So if your argument is right,then New Mexico is not an available way out for Texas, because Texas says: To protect our women, we need these things. But send them off to New Mexico,and that’s perfectly all right. Well, if that’s all right for the women in the El Paso area, why isn’t it right for the rest of the women in Texas?”

Such wonderful feminist badass-ery. What a great, inspiring way to kick off Women’s History Month!



Slice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.


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