Sisterhood Is Not Powerful if a Sister’s “Morality” Endangers People’s Lives

amy coney barrett, ruth bader ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s casket is carried into the Supreme Court, as her former law clerks line the steps on Sept. 23. (Victoria Pickering / Flickr)

I’ve been having terrifying, recurring dreams. Nightmares, really. In one, a woman died. Let’s call her Ruth.

Strange—because in waking hours, feminists, lawyers, civil libertarians, politicos, pundits and voters had recently been circulating mandates about a certain Ruth whom we knew well or casually or not at all.

The message was clear: No matter what, this Ruth, a victim of four cancers, had to be alive and kicking, true to her Brooklyn nickname, Kiki, until at least January 20, 2021—Inauguration Day. Ruth’s life must go on beyond the Election Day of November 3, 2020. She had to stay with us at least until the January 20 swearing-in at however small a ceremony. Only after that date would her seat be vacant.

Meantime my nightmares worsened. Trolls appeared, body-snatchers, who would try to replace Ruth with “a most brilliant legal mind,” whose admitted vision for our country is the agenda of a certain real estate hustler and vote scrounger.

No reproductive justice, no racial justice, no meaningful health care.

amy coney barrett, ruth bader ginsburg
Tributes to RBG outside Supreme Court on Sept. 20. (Victoria Pickering / Flickr)

Oh, and originalism—that quaint notion promoted loudly on and off the bench, that a 1787 imperfect Constitution (forgot to mention slavery) must rule despite the real world we are living in.

And take the amendments: If the 2nd Amendment had just said what it meant—that only militias and national guard need guns—it would have spared us a lot of litigation and fatal shootings.

And speaking of oversights, since there were surely a couple of gay men at that Convention, too shy to come out: Who needs another justice who would hold today’s community to a tired old standard of a couple of centuries ago?


Here at Ms., our team is continuing to report through this global health crisis—doing what we can to keep you informed and up-to-date on some of the most underreported issues of this pandemic. We ask that you consider supporting our work to bring you substantive, unique reporting—we can’t do it without you. Support our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.


Call it the pandemic, or the hurtful economy or the contemporary civil war (if not revolution) in the streets, but folks in the D.C. of my nighttime sweats had confused the Constitution with the Bible or conflated the two. If my dream had not been interrupted by a bathroom break, I would swear I had seen the president who, like me, doesn’t go in for religion, outside a church displaying a freshly-borrowed Bible.

What was the message of this dream sequence?

amy coney barrett, ruth bader ginsburg
Vigil outside the Supreme Court for Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 19. (Victoria Pickering / Flickr)

Thank god (no pun intended) I woke up just then, just before somebody else’s morals inched toward becoming laws of the land. Turns out the shining cross displayed by our leader’s latest spokesperson was actually not a dream—but the medium is the message.

My dream time is way down. I can’t sleep because I’m afraid of the dreams. But being awake is even worse.

I keep thinking about all the women—the moms—who have produced adorable geniuses and other ordinary mortals—their choice. Mazel tov!

But some of these women have been the victims of laws that allowed them no choice. Wow! Mandatory pregnancy and a lifetime of involuntary motherhood (see 13th Amendment) as the penalty for having sex. But think of the children; it must really hurt to be an unwanted child.

So sisterhood is not powerful if one sister’s “morality” allows others no abortion for any reason—while she, a mother of seven, can manage midnight feedings and rock judicial robes by day, while the rest of us, not so much (though I admit to being elected a New York State judge while pregnant).

Working mothers everywhere would appreciate “Amy’s Tips on Having it All,” appearing in, let’s say, this very magazine. But, more than that, readers would also like to have choices.

My nightmares continue, competing with real life’s crushing news. A returning ghoul insisted that it’s not about gender or brilliance, but about delivering the goods to a treacherous team in a deadly game. And now, with the president ailing, what matters is not the sick or unemployed or frightened Americans or the virus itself—but promoting the judge to carry his water.

I tried to escape the dreams by indulging in naps but woke up screaming when I saw an utterly serene, yet eager, judge being trafficked; her choice.

I’m going back to sleep now because dreams, even, nightmares do come true. But the reality is even worse.

amy coney barrett, ruth bader ginsburg
Vigil outside the Supreme Court for Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 19. (Victoria Pickering / Flickr)

You may also like:


The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-movingDuring this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.

About

An early feminist lawyer, Emily Jane Goodman served as an elected New York State Supreme Court judge for more than 25 years. Prior to that, she was a judge in the criminal and civil Courts. She has presided over just about every type of case heard in the state courts. Goodman is now practicing in New York. She frequently writes about women and legal affairs.