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Does it matter that Elena Kagan is a woman?

I know I'm going to offend some people -- mostly women -- with what I'm about to say. But here goes: Did Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, really need to spend a significant chunk of her time this afternoon praising Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as a role model for young women? Really? There weren't more important things to discuss?

Yes, Kagan was the first woman to serve as dean of Harvard Law School. Yes, she broke the glass ceiling to become the first female solicitor general of the United States. So what? Would anyone on the panel have praised a white, male nominee for being a great role model for young men? I seriously doubt it.

What matters to me is that Kagan was by all accounts an exceptional dean -- smart, tough, inclusive -- and that she performed remarkably well as solicitor general, especially given her prior lack of court experience. Shouldn't this be what we're focused on these days -- a person's accomplishments and not their sex?

I know, as Feinstein noted, that women still aren't treated fairly -- let alone equally -- in many circumstances, including pay. But -- as Feinstein also rightly acknowledged -- we have made tremendous progress. Kagan's life is proof of that. I was pleased that little attention was paid to the fact that she is a woman when she was nominated as solicitor general and then to the Supreme Court. I felt much the same way when not much was made of the fact that Obama's nominee for attorney general, Eric Holder, would become the first African American to hold that position. I hoped that this lack of fanfare signaled our evolution as a society and an implicit acceptance that -- of course! -- there are a multitude of highly-qualified men and women of all colors and backgrounds who belong in positions of power and influence.

There was a moment during the Kagan confirmation when gender was appropriately raised. That came during Kagan's brief opening statements when she thanked former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and current Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for personal kindnesses they'd shown her and for their path-breaking achievements. O'Connor and Ginsburg did experience unfathomable discrimination and were denied jobs -- and opportunities for jobs -- because of their gender. They persevered, they over-achieved, and they succeeded -- and in the process paved the way for other women. It was entirely appropriate for the woman who would become the fourth to sit on the court -- and who likely didn't experience similar challenges of such scale -- to thank the two who helped make her dream possible.

By Eva Rodriguez  | June 30, 2010; 1:12 PM ET
Categories:  Rodriguez  | Tags:  Eva Rodriguez  
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Next: Elena Kagan belongs on Team Jacob, not Team Edward


does it really matter what this nominee looks like or whom she decides to sleep with.
that's what you repugs find more relevant than here goes...... her QUALIFICATIONS!
you look ridiculous and oh so 1950s.
jump into the 21st century,repugs
blacks are no longer your slaves and women can be on the supreme court and we also can vote.

Posted by: ninnafaye | June 30, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

The U.S. has a long history of naming justices who have never picked up a gavel. This tired old chestnut about her never having served as a judge is a moot point. Does she know the law? That's all we need to know.

Posted by: SteelCityGal | June 30, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

There are thousands of Judges whether they be male, female, gay, heterosexual, animal lovers, white, black, Asian, Hispanic, Mongolian, Judges of all races creeds etc. that have better experience than she does.

What does she have that they all don’t?
She is a freaking card carrying communist.
Just like your comrade: “Dear Leader”

Posted by: rexreddy | June 30, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

The "woman" question will always come up when a woman is nominated. In Kagan's case, her only clear qualification besides gender is her eagerness to embrace the role of party hack. Even the most experienced and undoubtedly qualified members of the Supreme Court have persistent trouble separating their political, religious, cultural and gender preferences from their reading of the plain English of the Constitution, but Kagan has made a career out such. So, though her admirable ability to bend and twist shows she'd be in the company of her true peers on SCOTUS, she has yet to show she would bring more than her partisan dance moves to this most important of positions.

As a liberal and a democrat who cares more for America than for temporary gain, I sincerely hope her nomination fails, just as the last hack's did under W.

Posted by: SageThrasher | June 30, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Usually, I would agree...but not in this case because of the heavy grilling coming from Southern ol' good boys who still cling to a past that is no longer valid. And I am a gay, white guy. I was offended some by the questioning of such OLD WHITE MEN like Sessons. Prejudice, to me, still exists heavily in the halls of Congress. It's still a good ol' boys club holding on to the long ago past. Look at the Judiciary panel members -- all white, all men except for two women. Not a black or a Latino anywhere to be seen. Justice is still blind, in my view, when it comes to Congress.

Posted by: DRFJR | June 30, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Rodriguez you cowardly hack are you censoring all opposing points of view today? It seems that you are since mine and all of the other dissenting opinions "vanished". Another page out of the Dave Weigel playbook?

Pathetic WaPo Hack

Posted by: screwjob16 | June 30, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

So why didn't you question why Sen Graham asked Gen Kagan where she was on Xmas day? Wasn't that a not so subtle way to make sure everyone knew for sure she was Jewish? Everyone praised Ms Kagan about her cute Jews like to eat Chinese food response, but no one has questioned Sen Graham's motivation in asking this totally non SCOTUS related question at all or even mention that is was clearly meant to signal certain prejudiced elements of the GOP that she was a Jewess and should therefore be suspect. He should be ashamed of himself and his face was red when he asked it. Seems like it was a set up and yet we have not heard a peep about it.

Posted by: maddymappo | June 30, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Is Kagan a woman? Did she prove that or are we going by the reputation he's built up over the years to that effect?


Now, about Ginsburg, I doubt she was discriminated against because she was a woman ~ more likely she'd be kept out of the office due to her far leftwing fanaticism. Those people are so tiresome to be around.

Posted by: muawiyah | June 30, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

it sure makes Obama look good to those gay and lebo groups to have appointed 2 women on the highest court. guarantee she will back Obamas left wing agenda to the max

Posted by: ren51 | June 30, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

maddymappo ~ within the context of the question that's not at all the intent, but I do believe you are getting some motivations mixed up here.

It was the DEMOCRAT party that last use extensive Jew baiting to manipulate an election ~ to wit, the contest between Senator George Allen and James Webb.

The Washington Post itself went out of the way to make sure EVERYONE knew George' mother had been a Jew during WWII!

That brought out the residual KKK vote in Virginia sufficiently to put Webb over the mark to win.

Posted by: muawiyah | June 30, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

DRFJR ~ still, you as a gay man must fully understand what it means to personally know that every single Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee is a homosexual, right?

Or haven't you found that out yet?

Posted by: muawiyah | June 30, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

I don't particularly care for Kagen, but you are absolutely right - it matters not a whit whether she's a woman, a man and I don't particularly care what her orientation is.

Can we as a society elevate ourselves to the point where we truly are gender/racially/orientation/etc. blind? I am certainly ready.

Posted by: West_Seattle | July 1, 2010 1:40 AM | Report abuse

Well said - and a reminder of who really has an interest in dividing the people up. My 15 year old daughter asked why we talk about her being the 3rd woman who will serve..after 1 it gets a little weird.

Posted by: dcjayhawk2 | July 1, 2010 6:16 AM | Report abuse

There is a need to provide everyone with criteria or guidelines which show which role models serve to perpetuate the ultimate national American ends of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and which guidelines will define these ends as well as to what ultimate end THEY serve... if at all possible, eternal ends. Our founding Fathers provably and undeniably had and took such eternal ends into consideration when they mentioned God and/ or Creator in our founding- and other documents. THAT cannot be questioned. And so a role model or leader must be defined by guidelines which show him or her to be at least a defender of a definition of the "pursuit of happiness" as the pursuit of that which has its nature in eternity, "liberty" as that which enables us to promote the distribution and living of such guidelines (such as God's Word in the Bible), and "life" as that which begins at conception and continues on into the hereafter, for the damned or the blessed.

Posted by: kevroblan | July 1, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Of course it matters - more to the grandstanding Republicans full of self importance and puffery - I have never seen anyone as mean spirited truly mean spirited as the Republican Party is - winning at any cost is more important to them than governing and making decisions for the benefit of all the people. Their self interest outweighs everything from local politics to the national stage

Posted by: AnnAZTX | July 1, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Every woman is supposed to claim they were discriminated against and were denied jobs in the past. That is one of their birth rights after all. No males have ever been discriminated against. When ever I applied for a position, and they saw I was a white male they rolled out the red carpet for me and asked me to name my price, despite the fact I did not have friends in high places. Not that women haven't been discriminated against in the past. My grandmother was not allowed to become a blacksmith so while her blacksmith husband enjoyed being swatted by the tails of horses, and having the horses kick him, instead my grandmother was confined to household duties. Same thing, my mother was not allowed to go down into the underground mines and enjoy blasting holes in the earth but had to keep house and visit with the neighbors. And recently I heard women tell how terrible it was girls were being shortchanged in public schools and kept down, which maybe accounts for the fact that 60% of college students are women today. And then I heard how women were getting shortchanged by medical research since the doctors were mostly male, and if the doctors had breasts there would have been found a cure for breast cancer, when the funds devoted to research on a cure for breast cancer far exceeds the funds devoted to research a cure for prostate cancer. Another example of how women were oppressed in the past is that they were not allowed to go down and live in the trenches and hear the bombardment of war first hand. I rented a room with a Norwegian couple when attending the University of Detroit, and the husband told me of how he was treated as a worker in an automobile factory during the depression. but of course since he was a male, this doesn't count as being oppressed, instead women will bemoan how the fellow's wife was oppressed because she couldn't get hired to work on the assembly line. I do recall one woman who graduated as a lawyer at the same time as Justice Oconnor who reported that she had been encouraged by everyone to be a lawyer and had no trouble getting a good job with a prestigious lawfirm. She obviously was unaware that she was not echoing the party line.

Posted by: Prx7Y | July 1, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

It doesn't matter that kagen is a woman but that she is an idiotic Liberal!

Posted by: vince33x | July 1, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

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