Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Should Sarah Palin thank Ruth Bader Ginsburg? (And can CLT help her do so?)

I don't always agree with Dahlia Lithwick, but I do appreciate this short essay on the feminism of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and how her contributions to the law helped make the public and professional careers of women like Sarah Palin more feasible.  Can Palin express appreciation for Ginsburg's achievements without endorsing the entire legacy of those achievements?  Maybe Palin has, in fact; I don't know, but I do know that there is a tendency to demonize categorically entire worldviews and the folks who hold them, whether they be labeled "radical feminists" or "the religious right."  It seems to me that one valuable contribution of Catholic legal theory is its embrace of nuance and complexity; in its refusal to be captured by any particular ideological or partisan political position, CLT should have the capacity to stand back and applaud figures coming from a wide array of perspectives, even while speaking out about where those figures have lost sight of foundational values and/or the fundamental reality of the human person.  In other words, what can make CLT seem frustratingly elusive equips it to reach across today's sharply drawn lines and affirm the good, wherever it is found.   


Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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It's not quite the same thing, but shortly after McCain named Palin as his running-mate back in August 2008, the then Governor of Alaska did make a special point of "honoring the achievements" of Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton, the women who had gone before her in seeking elective office on the national level. Although the crowd's reaction to this acknowledgement at the rally was less than enthusiastic, that's partisan politics. See the link below.


I'm not exactly someone who could be described as a Palin supporter. I'm still a Democrat, though a deeply disaffected one who often finds it impossible to vote for a party so committed to the most virulent manifestation of the culture of death -- the right to kill unborn human beings in the womb. So I do appreciate Palin for showing in deeds as well as words the value of a single human life -- what is more, in her case, the life of a human being that many people would dismiss out of hand as "defective." And because of this, we should value Sarah Palin for the example she provides of how one can be both pro-feminist (even if not a Ginsburg feminist) and pro-life.

Posted by: John Breen | Aug 31, 2010 9:06:22 PM

But is a "Ginsburg feminist" defined solely by the life issue, or does Palin (and I'm using her as a placeholder her -- for all I know she has a more nuanced view on these issues than has been widely assumed) owe at least part of her understanding of feminism, and her ability to live out the implications of that understanding, to Ginsburg? Maybe it's more accurate to say she's a "pro-life Ginsburg feminist" or a "Ginsburg feminist with significant caveats?" I'm just trying to get at the possibility that we tend to draw lines a little too sharply when it comes to worldview and political / ideological legacy.

Posted by: rob vischer | Aug 31, 2010 11:45:44 PM

Regarding "those figures who have lost sight of foundational values and the foundational reality of the Human Person", the valuable contribution by Catholic legal theory can be found when one embraces the self-evident truth that our unalienable Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and our complementary nature as Male and Female, have been endowed to us from God, at the moment each one of us was created equal in the Eyes of God, for our Founding Fathers did not state, unanimously, that all Men were born equal, but rather all Men are created equal, because they knew that we are created before we are born. (which also means that a "Pro-life Ginsburg feminist" would be an oxymoron.)

Posted by: N.D. | Sep 1, 2010 9:05:35 AM

A Ginsburg feminist is someone who believes that a Woman's fundamental Right to Life is unalienable but the fundamental Right to Life of a Child who has been created equal but has not yet come forth from their Mother's womb alive is not and thus a "Pro-life Ginsburg feminist" is an oxymoron.

Posted by: N.D. | Sep 1, 2010 11:10:52 AM