Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

05 February, 2007

Working girls (Updated!)

Last week, ash regaled us with tales of the social and biological limitations faced by working mothers. Today's WaPo illustrates that professional women face similar challenges at the other end of life's spectrum:
Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor would have preferred to stay on the Supreme Court for several more years, until she was ill and "really in bad shape," but she stepped down because of her ailing husband.

The question needs to be asked: would a male SCOTUS justice have stepped down in order to care for a terminally ill spouse or partner? My guess is no - men do not have the same social expectation for caring that women have, and given the high stakes of a SCOTUS seat, I'm not convinced that any of the men who currently sit on the court would sacrifice it to spend "more time with their family." That's not to say that male SCOTUS justices don't care for their spouses, but I do believe it would weigh far less on their mind to hire someone to provide primary care while they retained their positions on the Court.

At any rate, gendered expectations for caring cost Justice O'Connor a career that she seems to have found fulfilling and gave us the unholy reign of Justice Samuel Alito.

[updated on February 6, 2007 at 4:05 PM]: Dahlia Lithwich has these observations on the gender dynamics of the Court.

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