By Erin Matson, NOW Action Vice President
There are a number of questions we should ask when two of nine Supreme Court justices are women. If nominee Elena Kagan is confirmed, she will be the fourth woman justice of 112 total justices in the history of the Supreme Court. It is possible, but unlikely, that a broken calculator would call this proportional — making it understandable that chatter might go beyond views and qualifications when a woman is nominated.
Is she a lesbian?, however, goes too far.
Declaring Ms. Kagan a lesbian, or encouraging the media and/or senators to ask her to identify her sexual orientation, as former Bush speechwriters, FOX News commentators and the American Family Association have started to do, is inappropriate at best and a sort of pornographic McCarthyism at worst.
Powerful women are often dragged down to a sexual level, whether it’s lesbian-baiting as in the case of Solicitor General Kagan, being called a “ball-breaker” or having a face digitally imposed on top of a scantily clad model. Using words (or even Photoshop) to create sex tape-like imagery for women in the public eye is insulting and degrading to all women, period. Such behavior sends a message that women who dare to try to be the “first, “second” or “third” in a field will have to pay a price.
There are many, many important questions that must be asked as Ms. Kagan goes through the nomination process, especially relating to equal opportunity for all people, including fundamental rights to self-determination. We must focus on those questions, and let the suggestion that sexual orientation affects employability serve as a reminder to redouble efforts to pass robust employment non-discrimination guarantees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.