As Women’s History Month continues, questions of progress, women’s rights, affirmation and social norms remain.Recent headlines involving Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor served as a reminder of these uncertainties.
Justice Sotomayor talked about being tight-lipped involving her dating life.
The decision to remain discreet was a personally and judicially prudent one.
The fact that her caution was viewed as newsworthy not only highlights a celebrity-like fixation with political figures, but also the assumption that the public is entitled to dialogue about what others might do behind closed doors.
The justice revealed discomfort with her confirmation process and was reported to have told a friend, “I think they already know the color of my underwear.”
These revelations alluded to double standards and conformity.
She acknowledged that male judges date frequently with different societal expectations.
“If I did the same thing, my morals would be questioned. So I’m very careful about whom I date and how public it is,” she said.
Careful is an appropriate word for the double Ivy-League educated (Princeton University undergraduate and Yale Law) Puerto Rican woman, who worked her way up from a South Bronx housing project with her mother and brother to a three-decade legal career, before becoming one of the globe’s preeminent decision makers.
Justice Sotomayor’s recent statements continue her legacy of being outspoken and discerning.
As a woman, she is aware of skewed societal standards.
As a woman of color, she remained graceful under fire for her notable and to some right-wingers, infamous “wise Latina” comment prior to being confirmed as a justice.
“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion,” Justice Sotomayor said in speeches.
The presumption of reverse sexism and racism propagated by opportunists and the media showed how her presence could upset a power structure that existed with less diverse voices.
We still live in an ism-infatuated world, but we are also seeing people aspire for and achieve feats that reinforce the power of possibility.
It is possible for women to earn positions of power, alongside men who have historically dominated.
It continues to happen with the presences of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and scores of other trailblazing women.
Society needs women who push boundaries.
We need for these women to have ideological, physical, spiritual and preferential variations.
We also need for these women to be strong enough to oppose a culture that too readily confines who they should be.
These women are allowed to live abundantly and on their own terms, but can also choose to keep some of that grandness to an intimate circle.
With Justice Sotomayor’s recent M.Y.O.B. to the public, one cannot help but appreciate the White House’s characterization of her as “a role model of aspiration, discipline, commitment, intellectual prowess and integrity.”
Less is often more. Wise indeed.