Women and the Times

Today, Sunday, turned out to be a day where I felt newspaper deprivation acutely, so I remedied it by buying the Sunday NY Times, as I sometimes do — though not since its price in Canada got hiked to a startling sum just under $9, evidently. The Magazine contains an interesting interview with US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (“The Place of Women on the Court” by Emily Bazelon), which prompted one of those chains of associations that can entrain you when you’ve the Times to draw upon. Herewith, the highlights in something of a ramble, starting with the interesting starting question and answer of the Ginsburg interview…

Q: At your confirmation hearings in 1993, you talked about how you hoped to see three or four women on the court. How do you feel about how long it has taken to see simply one more woman nominated?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: My prediction was right for the Supreme Court of Canada. They have Beverley McLachlin as the chief justice, and they have at least three other women. The attrition rate is slow on this court.

ginsburg(Exactly three other women, as it happens. And, yes, the different “attrition rates” in the two courts offer a contrast worth exploring.)

From there, prompted by the stunning, almost Whistlerian, portrait of Ginsburg by Ruven Afanador (click it to see the whole), her lace neckpiece contrasting in every way with the rest of her black attire, I was drawn in to the article on The Uniform Project, “This Year’s Model” by Rob Walker.

matheikenHere was a single “simple” black dress to be worn for 365 days in a row (73 down, ergo… 292 to go; with five copies of the same dress, in fact) — not unlike the wardrobe that faces Justice Ginsburg most every day. But in this case, the project is to tart up the uniform with various accessories and creative tweaks so that each day presents a different look. Sheena Matheiken, the originator of the project and the model, is using it to raise funds to assist the education of children in India — another woman in black doing good. You can follow her progress in photos, either on a daily or monthly basis.

Basic black uniforms also clad baseball umpires, who are compared to justices in “The Deciders: Umpires v. Judges” by Bruce Weber in today’s Week in Review. I didn’t think much of the comparison, most of it forced and not very enlightening, but it got me thinking about whether there are any women umps in major league baseball. And the answer seems to be a mumbling “sort of…” A number of women have attended umpiring school and have worked in the minor leagues (state courts?), and two or three have been privileged to work exhibition games in The Show, but so far as I know, none has ever worked a regular season major league game. One of the frustrated women umpires, Pam Postema, wrote a book about her mistreatment, You’ve Got to Have Balls to Make It in This League, a portion of which is worth quoting:

Almost all of the people in the baseball community don’t want anyone interrupting their little male-dominated way of life. They want big, fat male umpires. They want those macho, tobacco-chewing, sleazy sort of borderline alcoholics. If you fit their idea of what a good umpire is, then you’re fine. And isn’t that the way society is?… It’s hard to accept. And I’ll never understand why it’s easier for a female to become an astronaut or cop or fire fighter or soldier or Supreme Court justice than it is to become a major league umpire.

All of which led me (naturally) back to what used to be called feminism, the current state of which is now unclear. And so, looking again at the Ginsburg interview, I noticed a reference in the note on interviewer Bazelon to a newish blog at Slate called DoubleX (“What Women Really Think”) — not What Women Really Want, note — in which she and a number of other women write about a wide range of topics, including, recently, the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for a seat on the US Supreme Court. (See, e.g., “Introducing the Sotomayor Buzzword Watch“).

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