Cyrano de Bergerac, the Supreme Court of the United States, Representation, and Donuts

I was thinking about women on the Supreme Court as I got ready for school one morning in late February. I think this was mostly because I had dreamed about a new appointment that night. 

That dream was probably influenced by one of the books I was currently reading, which talked about the effects of explicit gender bias, and how that without deliberate countermeasures, lead to non-gendered situations having a lingering implicit bias as a result. So I had been thinking a lot about representation, and culture, and society, and the interconnections between them.

In my dream, the appointment took place in what I initially thought was a convention center, because the building was carpeted, but the thing is, it was set up more like a university classroom building, with lecture halls of varying sizes. 

The atmosphere was quiet, but festive; there were little end tables in out-of-the-way spots with treats on them. Donuts, mostly, but the nice ones, iced with sprinkles and double-filled: strawberry cream, and peanut butter and jelly. I walked by a couple and the man was kind of making a face at the woman, who said she’d picked up a PBJ and he was like “for a donut??” and she was convinced it was going to be delicious but then I was past them. 

Also they had little candy dishes with individually-wrapped Sunkist Fruit Gems, which are my favorite candy in the world, and I kept peeking around to make sure that people weren’t noticing my faux pas as I would make a quick-grab for my favorite ones, the raspberry and the white grapefruit, drop a few in my bag and move on. 

As I was making the rounds I ended up in another part of the building, where there was a rehearsal for a production of Cyrano de Bergerac. They were in tech, because they were on stage and using props, though they weren’t in full costume. So the opening must not have been far off. However, people in the halls in that area were still talking about the new appointment.

That was about the point when I woke up. And the whole while I was getting ready for school, I was thinking about new appointments, probably because of this dream. Also, the most recently appointed Supreme Court justice is a woman, Amy Coney Barrett, and I thought of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s remark “when there are nine,” which was her response when an interviewer asked her when there would be, quote, ‘enough’ women on the Supreme Court. 

And I decided that I don’t agree with her. 

Women are different from most other marginalized groups in that they have historically been a majority population. That majority has been small, but statistically significant. And even when you account for nonbinary, fluid, or agender people, who still have not been given the option to identify themselves on the census, women have a greater plurality than any other population subgroup.

But as we go forward, we should be actively seeking diversity, which means that no classification should completely control the Court. This applies not just to gender. Should all the justices be male? No. But there still should be more than one at a time. Should all the justices be white? No. But there still should be more than one at a time. Our justices ought to represent the breadth of experience and identity of our nation, as much as nine individuals (with the appropriate training and skill) can do.

When will there be enough women on the Supreme Court? When the inclusion of a sixth female justice does not produce noteworthy comment based on gender.

We should not be seeking exclusion – and should, in fact, actively be working against it. But it does not exclude the male point of view to have six female justices (who, by the way, should not all be white, cis, straight, or wealthy). 

Additionally, in our own lives and in our communities, we should be working to encourage the men we know to learn to identify with women. If women can learn to identify with men as representatives in a democratic government, and as characters in the stories we share, based on similar experiences or background or just the human condition, men should be able to learn to identify with women in the same way.

And it is that development of empathy and understanding that will lead to a society in which a sixth female justice does not provoke significant comments about her gender.

This blog post is an adaptation of a video I created, available here.

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