If you didn’t know, Judge Amy Coney Barrett has seven children.
If you did know that fact, it is most likely because of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings for her Supreme Court nomination. There were countless references to not only her having children, but also to the breakdown of household responsibilities
My favorite question of the hearing came from Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) who asked “Who does the laundry in your house?”
Take a minute to reflect on your own experience. If you are a man — even a man with seven children — you have likely not confronted prying and sexist questions in an interview. Needless to say, male Supreme Court nominees have not been asked the question of “who does your laundry?".
“What are your qualifications?” and “where do you stand on the issues relevant to our work?” are reasonable questions to ask a candidate for office or nominee to the Supreme Court. The above question is not.
I think the general line of questioning and references to her motherhood sends a bad message to professional women all over America.
The message, more from senate republicans, was that not only are her judicial qualifications significant to her appointment but her household duties are as well.
I would love to go back through confirmation hearings of other conservative nominations like Scalia, Roberts or even as recent as Kavanaugh and Gorsuch. I would bet good money there is little reference to their fatherhood and who was in charge of certain household tasks.
I understand why some republicans are honing in on this unique fact of Barrett being a parent to seven children all under 20. It is unique and relays the family-values message emphasized by many republicans. But the bigger message coming across to the nation is one much more harmful.
What this discussion portrays is that women who want to have careers must also have full control over the household duties as well. Rather than an equal taking on of parenthood and running a home, women who want a career must have that under control first and also manage a full-time career while their partners can focus solely on their careers.
This can also lead to women who chose to pursue their careers over starting a family or women who simply have no desire to have a family that something is missing from their qualifications to be a successful career woman.
All of the time spent on referencing her family and children repeatedly could have been spent discussing legal precedent, her experience as a federal judge and her hope of what to accomplish on the court. Instead, we witnessed sexist expectations of what a successful woman in the legal field should be, someone who keeps her household and career at equal calibers.
We now have even more evidence that no matter how much success you experience in your career, even having a SCOTUS nomination, women will always be asked irrelevant, sexist questions that have nothing to do with the job at hand.
Let’s not miss the irony of this issue either. According to the Trump administration, Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination is supposed to serve as a step forward for women’s rights. It’s equally fair to question and disagree with some of the nominee’s views. What isn’t equally fair is to question how she manages her children alongside her job. That’s no one’s business.
Kaylee Sheppard is a senior majoring in American Studies and Political Science. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
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